Provided they're not making us wish them bodily harm (kidding), Rocks Off is proud of each and every one of our writers. But sometimes one of them up and does something that makes us give them an extra pat on the head and a biscuit to go along with it. Like right now.
The writer in question is our own Shea Serrano, who has tirelessly covered rap, hip-hop and about every other kind of music that can be found in the 713 and 832 area codes (sometimes 409, 979 and 512 too) since 2008, and now writes for L.A. Weekly, Grantland, MTV.com and a bunch of other fancy places in addition to lil' ol' Rocks Off.
Last week Serrano put up a Tumblr called -- strangely enough -- rapcoloringbook.tumblr.com. In summary, it is exactly that, black-and-white pictures of rappers that are meant to be colored, drawn by Serrano, officially titled "Bun B's Jumbo Coloring and Rap Activity Tumblr" and "curated" by the Gulf Coast hip-hop eminence himself.
Obviously we couldn't let this go by unremarked, so we sent Serrano a bunch of questions to find out exactly what the hell was going on, which usually happens in a much different context. Ha ha.
Rocks Off: The idea for a rap coloring book originally had something to do with your sons, correct?
Shea Serrano: Affirmative. The boys and I were working in some coloring books back around February or March. And, I mean, I love spending time with them, but that was boring as shit.
So I made us some better coloring books, ones that were cartoons of some of our favorite local rappers; guys like Slim Thug and Paul Wall and Hoodstar Chantz and Trae and Authentic Snoopy and Propain and Delo and guys like that. It was way more interesting for me, and the exact same for them, so I guess that's good enough.
RO: And what does the mother of these sons think about all of this?
SS: This was back before the boys started kindergarten, so I suspect she was just glad to have nine or ten minutes where she wasn't answering a question or cooking a meal.
RO: I would imagine that some parents could be uncomfortable with their kids coloring the likes of Dr. Dre and Tupac. What would you say to those people?
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SS: I'd say they're right. This isn't for kids, it's for rap fans. There are a few curse words in there, and some of the pages have some less-than-wholesome images included. I probably wouldn't recommend it to anyone that wasn't at least a teenager.
Unless it's for a kid that's not yours, in which case you should definitely give it to them.
RO: On the other hand, why do you think rappers' lives and lyrics might make good teaching tools?
SS: Well, there are a ton of reasons to appreciate rappers. Like, personally, the guys who write stories, the ones who are able to create some sort of atmospheric, that's the most amazing thing in the world to me. Also, the guys who make me want to fight everyone, those guys are great too. I guess as long as they can make you feel something, they're doing it right.
Still, even if nothing else, even if you can't appreciate the music or the message or its galvanizing communal effect (which seems utterly ridiculous, btw), you can appreciate their rock-steady resourcefulness. I mean, if I go to Taco Bell and they're all out of Dr. Pepper, my whole day is just shot to fuck. I can't recover mentally.
But some of these guys, they've been given less than the bare scraps in life, and they manage to materialize a meaningful, important, potent existence. That's never not impressive.
RO: What lessons do you think they have to offer young children?
SS: I guess that you should probably always just swang real wide, would be the main thing.
RO: In your experience, are rappers you're acquainted with more likely to color inside or outside the lines?
SS: I guess that's a case by case thing. I figure someone like Devin the Dude might color something nicely, but it seems strange to try and picture Z-Ro sitting at a kitchen table with a box of crayons open coloring a picture of Drake.
RO: How did Bun B get involved in this project, and what is his exact role?
We spoke one day because I was interviewing [him] about some new song. The next day, he called and left a message saying he had some interest in doing some sort of book and wanted to know if I wanted to be involved, a question tantamount to LeBron James asking if you want to go to the gym and shoot around for a bit.
We met up for lunch and talked about things. I'd assumed he wanted to do, like, a History of UGK-type book or something. When we got together though, he said he wanted to do something funny. We didn't really settle on an idea then, we just traded text messages back and forth before eventually deciding on the coloring book. Neither of us wanted to rush anything. Once we decided what we wanted to do however, things moved quickly. I think we're alike in that regard.
For the project, I'm in charge of coming up with the pictures and drawing them and he's in charge of being an award-winning rap icon. If I have an idea for something I think might be a little dicey or maybe too silly, I'll send him a message to be sure. He hasn't said no to anything yet, which is surprising because I've offered him some stuff I thought he'd shoot down pretty quickly.
We have a good working relationship, I think. But he's still Bun B and I'm still a wormy little guy who's maybe most well known for making jokes about penises, so it can still all be a little intimidating.
RO: What other rap-related publishing projects are you working on?
SS: Rap stuff? This is it.
RO: How many of these (pages) have you done, and how many do you expect to do?
SS: I have about 20 or 30 in the reserve. I'll do them until we're not interested in doing them anymore, probably.
RO: One more follow up: Do you expect to make any money off this, or is that even possible?
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SS: I imagine it's possible, sure. And I'm never against someone giving me dollars for doing something I enjoy.