Review by Frank Plowright
It’s early 1980s Brooklyn, and hip-hop is just beginning to spread beyond New York and its status as novelty music. At 13 Wax is already converted, laying down rhymes to impress potential girlfriend Pirate Polly, while pal Cooky P supplies the beats. Wax may have some doubts as to whether he’s good enough, but those don’t apply to the aliens who hone in on his signals, abduct his block and transport him to Discopia. Along for the ride are his Uncle Rashaad, and his little sister The D. The peace-loving Wax’s rhymes and beats crossed space to Discopia because he inadvertently answered a challenge, and before he can return home, there are going to be plenty more as his card is marked by evil robot Choo Choo, and his five henchmen. Wax is going to have to go through them all to return home, but along the way he’ll become a master of sci-fu and the greatest DJ in the universe. He’s up for it.
Yehudi Mercado writes some great old school raps, and ensures an infectious quality for his melting pot enthusiasm, throwing together the fads of the early 1980s into one appealing mixer. In addition to burgeoning hip-hop we have giant robots, kung-fu, primitive video game formats and plenty more signifying the era. He really nails the period, with the now dopey names and rhyming challenges that didn’t lead to loss of life. The mood is a real winner when matched with joyful and lively animated cartooning. It’s vibrantly coloured and Mercado features inventive visual gimmicks for every new talent that Wax picks up. It deliberately references the stages and look of old console games, and you only have to flick the pages to see the talent.
A pretty intense burst of creative energy characterises the opening chapters, but Mercado doesn’t rest on his laurels, and keeps throwing in more and more interesting developments, many of them nicely foreshadowed. He’s great at including an offhand comment that later has meaning. Another really pleasing aspect is the good-nature infusing Kick it Off, with no gratuitous nastiness (apart from the occasional bully) and the drama coming from the rap threats. To top everything off, Mercado supplies a finely chosen mix tape tracklist of early hip-hop for your delight.
Sci-Fu has started by dropping the bomb, so long may it continue.