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 inner-city teacher from Houston, Texas, writes and illustrates for several different outposts—our sister papers Houston Press 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 Sex Questions from Seventh Graders and Drake-ing Bad. But the thing he’s 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 imagesof 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 to seewhat makes his beautiful mind tick.
How did the book come about? 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-hop survival 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 like coloring pages. 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.
How did you first meet Bun? 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.
You guys got the permission of all the rappers featured in the book. Why was that necessary? 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?
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? 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.
What do you plan to do with the billions this thing makes you? I’m going to buy some solid diamond shoes and then skate right the fuck down the hallway of the high school I went to and shout, “In your face, bitches!”
Several of your creations have become wildly popular online. How have you managed to, as Kanye might say, pop a wheelie on the zeitgeist and made things that resonate with so many people? Yeah, Drake-ing Bad [wherein Serrano draws Drake into scenes from Breaking Bad] and Sex Questions from Seventh Graders and the Rap Coloring Book all went viral faster than I was anticipating. I’m pretty proud of that. Really, I just want to do things that are neat and fun and interesting. If an idea is vacillating between being genius or extra stupid, then that’s kind of exactly the sort of thing that goes viral.
It should be noted, though, that super-villain Barry Schwartz actually came up with Drake-ing Bad. He hit me up one day and said he wanted to do it, but that he didn’t know how to draw. We chatted a bit about it and came up with a format, and I liked the idea so I set up the Tumblr and drew the pictures and whatnot. He let me do whatever I wanted, so I was a little nervous that I’d screw it up. He looked at it and said it was exactly how he saw it in his mind’s eye. I asked him if “mind’s eye” was just a different way to say “butthole.” It wasn’t. Malibooyah. Here we are.
‘Bun B’s Rap Coloring and Activity Book’ is available now from Abrams Books.