Book of the Month

Book of the Month – Sentences The Life Of Mf Grimm Tp

What did the
iFanboy
community think?

21
Pulls
Avg Rating: 4.6
iFanboy Community Pick of the Week Percentage: 0.5%
 
Users who pulled this comic:


Size: pages
Price: 14.99

Life happens.

That might just be a pithy saying, a cliché to sell t-shirts and country music, but it also happens to be true.  And it’s the central theme of Sentences.

When they are young, everyone has big plans for their life.  Grand schemes, and pie in the sky ideas about what their future holds.  If you had asked me when I was a kid I would have told you that by 31 I’d be in my tenth season with the Yankees.  Somehow, that didn’t work out… I’m still not quite sure why.  But when you’re young life is full of big possibilities and cold, hard reality hardly ever factors into the fantasy.

There are a lucky few, though, whose big plans are realized and whose dreams are fulfilled.  Whether by dint of their natural talent and ability, blind luck, hard work and perseverance, or some mish-mashed combination of them all, these lucky few succeed beyond their wildest dreams.

And then there are some for whom life happens.

Percy Carey writes of such a life in his auto-biography, Sentences: The Life of MF Grimm.

I had seen this graphic novel around and was intrigued.  Sentences received a lot of mainstream press attention – the initial hardcover release was named to Time Magazine’s Top 10 Graphic Novels of 2007 list – and a highly acclaimed autobiography by a first time comic book writer published by Vertigo will always land on my radar.

Percy Carey was a talented kid growing up in New York City in the late 1970s/early 1980s.  A bit of an actor, he appeared in commercials and as a featured kid on Sesame Street.  He was also finding himself inexorably drawn to the still just burgeoning world of hip hop.  Percy quickly found that he had a real talent as an MC and a future full of fame and fortune filled his head. And he just may have had the talent to make his dreams a reality.

Only one problem: life, and Percy himself, kept getting in the way.

Percy was a hot head with a temper who was a magnet for trouble.  His mother taught him to always stand up for people when they needed help and with that lesson in mind, he stepped into the middle of an attempted sexual assault at a party, and was rewarded for his bravery by getting shot by the assailants.  It wouldn’t be the first time he’d catch a bullet.

From then on, Percy’s life and his dreams of hip hop stardom would be inextricably linked with crime and tragedy and death.

Not being someone who is all that into hip hop, I was surprised at how instantly engaged I was with Sentences, and with Percy’s story.  Admittedly, that was partially because (as I was surprised to find as I read this book) he and I lived about four blocks from each other in New York City.  Hell, I lived right across the street from the studio where they shot Sesame Street; from our window we used to watch the limos drop the big time guest stars off.  And as someone who lived in that same neighborhood that the first part of the story takes place in, I can attest to the authenticity of the book.  New York City of the early 1980s bares very little resemblance to the New York City of 2008, but reading the first part of this book I was transported right back. 

There is a reason why Percy Carey (or MF Grimm as he was known) was such a well regarded MC and someone with such a promising future in music ahead of him, he knows how to tell a story and make it relatable and compelling for anyone, not just people with the same experiences.  This is not just a book for hip hop fans, though I'm sure it would hold a deeper meaning for those who are, as in the background of Percy's life the hip hop phenomenon is being birthed and many of its high profile players show up in this book.

Percy’s story is ultimately measured by tragedy.  Things do not go as planned.  Just about every time something good is about to happen, or he is on the verge of catching a break or signing a record contract, or just finally crawling out his old world, life happens to Percy.  To be clear, much of the tragedy that befalls Percy is a result of his temper, his lifestyle, and the choices he has made.  That is the tragedy of Percy’s story.  Most of the time he knows that he is sabotaging himself, but all too often, as is the case with most of us, he doesn’t learn his lessons until it’s far too late.  For me that usually results in a bad break-up or a friendship that needs mending.  For Percy, the stakes were higher and his lessons usually came with dead friends, a prison sentence, or a future in a wheelchair.

The art from Ronald Wimberly is as strong as the writing is and is as big a factor as anything else in making this book great.  The style is at heart cartoony, but there are subtle shifts to his art depending on the scene.  The most noticeable change in style happens when the story shifts into action mode: the art becomes more exaggerated as if to suggest that when fists or bullets start flying, everything changes and spins out of control.  Or maybe it signifies that memories of such traumatic events are often altered and exaggerated.  Whatever the reason, the instances of exaggeration were a very interesting visual choice that at first I found odd, but then once I understood what I took to be the meaning behind the shift in style I found it to be very smart and engaging way to visualize trauma.

Some of you might be reading this and thinking that you don’t care about hip hop so why should you read this book.  Why should you care about one more story about a guy whose violent lifestyle led to violent ends?  You should read it because Percy Carey’s story is compelling.  It is a reminder that we are all the victims of our own choices and decisions, and that no matter how well laid out we think our life is, things will always happen to knock us off track.

What we do after we get knocked off track, that's the measure of who we are.

Conor Kilpatrick
conor@ifanboy.com

Pick up Sentences: The Life of MF Grimm at In Stock Trades or Amazon!

Comments

  1. "It is a reminder that we are all the victims of our own choices and decisions, and that no matter how well laid out we think our life is, things will always happen to knock us off track. What we do after we get knocked off track, that’s the measure of who we are."

    Excellent review Conor! that last line in particular.

  2. I vaguely remember hearing about this book when it was first released, and I have to admit to thinking that I wouldn’t be interested in because of the subject matter, like Conor said.  But maybe I’ll change my mind about this…the IST discount always makes the decision a lot easier…

  3. Didn’t expect to see this book as your pick, mainly because (as you wrote in your review) you aren’t into Hip-Hop. Just read it a month ago, and was stunned how good it actually was. And as a Hip-Hop fan I got to see the golden age of Hip-Hop. I only can agree with SixGun, great review!

  4. I have 3 months trying to get a non comic book reader to read this book.

  5. *collects and throws away banners for Joker HC*

    Great review, I can really tell this was a special book. It sounds like a great biography that anyone outside the comic industry can enjoy. Hopefully my store will get this in the near future. 

  6. A compelling review, and and a very unexpected pick from Conor.

  7. Wow, I’m a Gimmm fan and I didn’t even know this existed.

    "Tick Tick" is still one of my favorite songs ever…

  8. I’m a hip hop fan but i’m only vaguely aware of Grimm. That awareness is mostly from his former association with MF DOOM so i wasn’t sure if i’d care to read this. Just seeing this as book of the month though made me sure I wanted to buy it and if that hadn’t this review totally would’ve. Definitely getting this in my next AMAZON order……

    @EBO – I love "Tick Tick." When you listen to something that none of your buddies listen to you sometimes forget that anyone but you listens to it

  9. i took this out from the library and really enjoyed it. you’re right it’s an honest, engaging story with beautiful art. good pick.

  10. As a longtime fan of MF Grimm’s, through his close affiliation with MF Doom and his time as GM Grimm, I can tell you that his story truly is inspirational. I’m surprised to see this as the pick, but it’s a testament to just how powerful a story this is. 

  11. I wanted to know a little more about the dude after reading this write up, because I’ve come across his name a few times, mostly through Doom’s catalogue like some of the other guys here. Now, I know Wikipedia isn’t rock solid, but his page blew my mind, as well as the minds of a few friends I had read it to. Really excited about checking this book out.

    Does anyone else who’s posted here know what the MF stands for in MF Grimm? I know Doom is Metal Fingers, but I’ve been listening to some of Grimm’s stuff and haven’t heard any references yet. If his Wiki is right, it’s an interesting correlation that his childhood neighbor was Morgan Freeman. Silly I know, but are there really any rules when it comes to hip hop?

  12. i read this the other day when a friend reccommended it to me at my LCS. WOW was this good. loved the art and the storyline. good pick Conor.

  13. @quentin – i remember i googled MF Grimm and i found a really long discussion on, I believe, the Comic Geek Speak website. i think they mentioned what the MF stood for but i can’t recall it. If I find that i’ll post it

    p.s. i think DOOM’s "MF" stands for both Metal Fingers and Metal Face

  14. thanks playa

  15. Hip hop & comics — my two favourite things (besides beer & boobs). I really wanna read this. Nice review Conor.

  16. I picked this up for my high school library as an alternative to buying more books about graffiti (don’t want my kids getting more ideas on how to ugly-fy our school), and I loved it! So not preachy, very real, and compelling. Good style, too. I think my kids are gonna dig it, too.

  17. I heard Mr.Carey on Fresh-Air last year talking about this book. it was cool cuz Terry Gross kept referring to the book as a comics memoir or illustrated memoir and not a graphic novel.

    I hate when people who don’t read comics use the term graphic novel. its pretentious and mostly used to make the word comic or just comics art in general seem like a lesser art form. well, you don’t hear Art Spiegelman or R. Crumb call them selfs "Graphic Novelists" they call them selfs cartoonists and they draw comics. plus, graphic novel sounds like porn, and in Crumbs case it sometimes is:)

  18. As it’s a term popularized by Will Eisner, I have no problem with anyone using it to describe graphic novels.  Comics don’t have the luxury of getting up in arms about positive labels.

  19. man… thanks for the review and the pick, Conor… i met MF Grimm at 2007 NY comic con and he was telling me about this book. i was interested — we spoke about hip-hop.  then he decided to give me 2 of his albums.  i remember i told myself i will def. buy his book when it comes out, but i keep forgetting and yes i am an a$$.

    but now u’ve provided me the chance to rectify that mistake. 

  20. @conor: I don’t hate the term. i just feel that its starting to get a certain superiority over the word comics now that its used so often. you don’t hear people calling "Peanuts" or "Little Nemo" graphic novels, and those works are highly respected. but you do often hear people call the monthly batman comics graphic novels. both are were/are serialized stories, but only the first two can still be called comics and get respect.

    works that are published as a whole story, like Sentences, get more respect because of the graphic novel label, and thats great. it just seems that the people with little to no respect for the medium are trying to make graphic novels and comics two deferent things, when they’re one in the same.

    in the end i just wish comic wasn’t such a dirty word.       

  21. sorry. dint mean to derailed:)

    Its a good pick conor.

    hes lead a very interesting life. ill try to pick up the book if i have any spare cash or maybe the library will have it  

  22. Y’know for anyone interested, Grimm does a weekly comics post for the Complex.com blog.  I’m surprised he hasn’t interviewed the iFanboy guys yet.

  23. Thank you for bringing this book to my attention. My brother was into comics (early 90s Marvel stuff, which I inherited) before moving his attention to hip-hop, and I’ve been looking for something to bridge the gap for some time. I just ordered a copy off InStockTrades, and he’ll be getting it for Christmas. After I read it first, of course.

    Thanks again.

  24. great pick.the relationship between rap and comics has been going on since at least 1979.

    RAPPERS DELIGHT (1979):

    i said by the way baby what’s your name
    said i go by the name of lois lane
    and you could be my boyfiend you surely can
    just let me quit my boyfriend
    called superman
    i said he’s a fairy i do suppoose
    flyin through the air in pantyhose

    he may be very sexy or even cute
    but he looks like a sucker in a blue and red suit

    i said you need a man who’s got finesse
    and his whole name across his chest
    he may be able to fly all through the night
    but can he rock a party til the early light
    he cant satisfy you with his little worm
    but i can bust you out with my super sperm

     

  25. I also recently checked this out from my local library, and it was darn good.  I was impressed with the art in the scenes with fantastic violence, just as Conor mentioned.

    To be honest, though, I had to fight off hating Grimm as I read.  I know that the draw (no pun intended) of these kind of stories is that the main character (or real-life person in this case) doesn’t always do the right thing, but I found myself thinking, "Quit being an idiot!" time and time again.

    Definitely a well-spun tale, however.  I shared the basics of it with my seventh-grade students (they’re reading biographies right now), and they wanted to run out and read it.  Thankfully, the local library in their community doesn’t stock it.  Phew!

  26. @BigE – I never really wanted to hate him. A lot of times he made the wrong decision but he’d admit it many times and let you know what his thought process was. We on the outside looking in can see it’s a mistake but when you’re in the middle of all of it it’s really hard to keep things in perspective.

    Read this last night and it was Really good…it was interesting hearing all the names he dropped like Lord Finesse and Large Professor. I was left curious though in regards to his relationship with DOOM. I know in real life they had their issues and he never even eludes to their being any problems with him in the book. I suppose he has a mutual respect for him and didn’t want to make any of their problems too public.

    The one thing in the book that really didn’t sit well with me was when he said that the fifth element of Hip Hop was Gangs and that without Gangs, Hip Hop wouldn’t exhist. Maybe I’m a naive little white boy but I just can’t believe that an entire music genre that was started, as he said, at block parties with DJs and B-Boys wouldn’t have exhisted if Gangs didn’t get involved with it.

  27. @TopGun – I think he probably has a better perspective on what helped start hip hop.  Gangs were PERVASIVE in NYC at that time.

  28. like i said…..naive little white boy……i feel so disillusioned. If you need me i’ll be in the bathroom crying….

  29. I read this shortly after it came out.  For a first-time book, I think it was a great read. I felt like some parts moved way too quickly though.  The very beginning with him as a little kid and the end when he struggles with his disability are what still stick with me the most.  It raises a lot of tough—and interesting—-questions, but I don’t think they were dealt with as fully as they could have been. The art, though, is fantastic.