Rap music tends to take itself a little too seriously. Even with plenty of playful personas in the genre, most parties involved are not necessarily allowed to show off their fun side. This fall, Houston rap legend Bun B, who stands as a flag bearer for the rap community as both a respected musician and a tastemaker, will bring a little bit of that fun back to the rap world. Together with music writer and illustrator Shea Serrano, Bun B will produce a rap coloring and activity book featuring images of famous rappers.
“Bun B’s Rap Jumbo Coloring And Rap Activity Book” will contain 42 pages of line drawings, connect-the-dots, rap lyric ad-libs and paper cutouts. Serrano, who established a friendship with Bun B after interviewing him on a number of occasions, came up with the idea after doing a similar project for his young sons using Texas rappers. The actual book will showcase images of 45 different nationally recognized rappers, including Drake, T.I., Rick Ross and Queen Latifah.
Rather than bring the idea directly to publishers, the two started a Tumblr last October to use as a marketing tool. “I knew I wanted to pitch it as a book,” Serrano said. “I thought it would be easier to do if people saw it and saw some of the pictures, so I started the Tumblr.” Bun B’s Jumbo Coloring And Rap Activity Tumblr includes free, printable PDFs posted weekly. Among the page’s most popular posts are an ad-libs activity using the lyrics to Ice Cube’s “It Was A Good Day” and a drawing that instructs readers to fill in Drake’s eyebrows. With the help of Bun’s 700,000 Twitter followers and 400,000 Facebook likes, the Tumblr went viral very quickly. Within a month, the book companies came calling.
While Serrano handles all the illustrations, Bun B serves as the book’s curator. “He just lends some credibility (to the book),” Serrano said. “I’m not black, and I didn’t want people to think, ‘Oh, he’s just making fun of black people.’” It also doesn’t hurt that many of the rappers to be featured in the book are his friends. Bun is essentially the liaison to hip-hop’s finest, having collaborated with everyone from Jay-Z and Lil Wayne to upstarts like Kirko Bangz and Machine Gun Kelly. “Everybody loves him, so it sort of worked out,” Serrano said.
Bun is also a perfect representative for the book, considering his comfort with the music. In recent years, the rapper has acted as a guest on comedy podcasts and has even partaken in rap-based comedy sketches. “He wanted to do a project to show people that rappers, in private, were a funny group of people,” Serrano said. “They just had to be so serious all the time. He wanted to do something silly to sort of juxtapose with that seriousness they had.” He understands how to view hip-hop in a comic light and is able to do so with a sense of insider wisdom without intentionally offending anyone.
The book isn’t actually catered to children, though. “It’s for adults,” Serrano said. “Kids shouldn’t listen to rap music and definitely shouldn’t listen to the rappers that we (include). There was, however, a conscious effort made to keep the book, unlike the Tumblr, which occasionally incorporates some raunchier themes, completely clean — there is no cursing or middle fingers — so that it is not inappropriate for children. “If it lands in a kid’s lap, then cool; he’s going to like it,” Serrano said. “But we’re kind of making this for rap fans.”
Ol’ Dirty Bastard preached that Wu-Tang is for the children. Bun B and Shea Serrano’s rap coloring book is for the cool kid who understands that reference and maybe even his parents and really anyone feeling nostalgic enough to break out his or her old box of crayons. Rap music deserves the chance to be fun from time to time, and with this book, everyone is allowed to participate.
You can find their Tumblr at: