If you've spent any kind of time on the Internet, chances are something Shea Serrano has written, drawn or created has made you smile. The 32-year-old South Houston middle-school teacher writes and illustrates for several different outposts -- our sister papers Village Voice and LA Weekly, Grantland, Complex's Four Pins, Myspace -- and over the last year has managed to catch fire online with side passion projects like the hilariously self-explanatory Sex Questions from Seventh Graders and Drake-ing Bad, wherein Serrano draws Drake into scenes from Breaking Bad. [He started right here, thank you very much, and Rocks Off is very proud of Shea indeed -- Ed.]
But the thing Serrano is perhaps most proud of (and what could make him some actual money) is his collaboration with Houston/Port Arthur rapper Bun B of UGK. Bun B's Rap Coloring and Activity Book allows readers to play with images of their favorite rap greats and up-and-comers. Also, games. And word puzzles.
The book's a load of fun, and is sure to please rap nerds and crayon-wielding tykes alike. We hit up Serrano recently to see what makes his beautiful mind tick.
Rocks Off: How did the book come about? Shea Serrano: Bun said he wanted to do a book, something fun and funny and smart because people never really get to see rappers acting that way, which, per him, is how a lot of them are in private. We met up and talked about different ideas.
We'd considered doing this other book -- a hip-hopsurvival guide of sorts -- but never really pushed the idea into a good enough place. We spent maybe a year or so just thinking on it. While coloring with my sons one day, I got bored, so I drew a couple of Houston rap guys. I posted them on Twitter and they got a nice response. I figured that if I could get Bun to agree to do a coloring book, we'd be in a good spot.
He liked the idea immediately, so I downloaded Adobe Illustrator, spent a month or so learning how to get it to do what I wanted it to do, then started making pages. I set up the Tumblr in October. It went viral about a week later. Then in November, Abrams [Books] got in contact with me and expressed interest in turning it into a book. It all happened very fast.
RO: How did you first meet Bun? SS: I write about music for a bunch of different places; if you write about music, you'll eventually end up interviewing Bun. He's that dude.
RO: You guys got the permission of all the rappers featured in the book. Why was that necessary? SS: We just wanted everything to be totally legit. I hated the thought of putting someone in there that didn't want to be included. Bun felt the same way, and Abrams definitely felt that way.
Managing to get everyone's permission is one of my most proud moments. It was always so exciting to get a signed permission back. Like, I mean, can you even imagine Juicy J doing that?
RO: Who is the target audience of the book? Do you think parents will buy it for their kids, or is it more geared as a novelty for rap nerds? Do you care either way? SS: Man, it can go either way. I just want anyone to buy it; I don't care who. It's not built for kids -- it's more for music fans. That said, we set it up so that if you wanted to give it with a kid, it'd mostly be OK. There aren't curse words or strippers or anything like that in there.
More witty coloring-book banter on the next page.