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The Museum of the City of New York Showcases NYC's Hip-Hop Revolution
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The Museum of the City of New York Showcases NYC's Hip-Hop Revolution

Picture of Janna Berenson
Updated: 12 December 2015
While New Orleans is responsible for jazz, Tennessee for country music, and the Deep South for blues, New York is the home of Hip-Hop. The Museum of the City of New York puts on an exhibition of the work of three photographers who document this global pop culture movement.
Hip-Hop Revolution | Courtesy of The Museum of the City of New York
Hip-Hop Revolution | Courtesy of The Museum of the City of New York

As one of the most popular and global genres of music, fashion, and culture today, hip-hop’s roots are actually grounded in New York. The Museum of the City of New York exhibit showcases the works of Janette Beckman, Joe Conzo, and Martha Cooper: three photographers who have witnessed and followed the evolution of hip-hop from its historic early days to the worldwide phenomenon it is today.

The Museum of the City of New York brings together these three dynamic photographers of the hip-hop scene for the first time. Each artist shows the movement as it quickly grew and made its way into an expansive commercial industry. As a follow-up to the City Museum’s highly acclaimed 2014 City as Canvas exhibition on graffiti, Hip-Hop Revolution acts an “incredibly vibrant example of how the world has been shaped by what started in New York,” according to Susan Henshaw Jones, Ronay Menschel Director of the Museum of the City of New York. The music and culture of this community really come to life in this exhibit.

JDL at Skatin’ Palace | © Joe Conzo/ Image courtesy of The Museum of the City of New York
JDL at Skatin’ Palace | © Joe Conzo/ Image courtesy of The Museum of the City of New York

The photos in the exhibit date to the years between 1977 and 1990, the period that acted as the groundwork for hip-hop to flourish. With over 100 photos all together, each of these photographers showcase a full and comprehensive history of this culture. Janette Beckman was an experienced music photographer in Britain, shooting the punk rock scene for magazines and record company. Most notably she shot three Police albums before being drawn to the developing hip-hop scene in New York, leading to her move to the Big Apple in 1982. Responsible for iconic portraits of Run DMC, Salt’n’Pepa, and LL Cool J, Beckman helped create the public faces of hip-hop.

As a teenager in high school, Joe Conzo started photographing early hip-hop in the Bronx. The New York Times called Conzo “the man who took hip-hop’s baby pictures.” Conzo is known for taking pictures of legendary groups such as Cold Crush Brothers and showcasing the primary hip-hop scene where it started: on the streets, in high school gyms, and at nightclubs.

An anthropologist and Thailand Peace Corps volunteer, documentary photographer Martha Cooper fell in love with the street culture in the 1970s in New York. Since pursuing this career path, Cooper has become one of the most significant photographers of both the graffiti and hip-hop scenes. Displayed in the gallery, Cooper shot the first known photos of break dancing after seeing B-Boys dancing in the subway in 1980.

Little Crazy Legs strikes an impromptu pose during Wild Style shoot | © Martha Cooper/Image courtesy of The Museum of the City of New York
Little Crazy Legs strikes an impromptu pose during Wild Style shoot | © Martha Cooper/Image courtesy of The Museum of the City of New York

Each photographer showcases his or her experiences during these pivotal years. DJ’s, MC’s, B-Boys, B-Girls, and dancers were innovating and practicing new forms self-expression and creativity. The wide variety of early hip-hop figures represented form a broad class of people who lead a movement that is undeniably traced back to New York City.

Other than the incredible photos that are featured, the exhibition includes listening stations highlighting the music of the performers documented. Additionally, flyers, newspaper clippings, and other paper artifacts about early hip-hop performances are on display. Hip-Hop Revolution will take you back in time to the early hip-hop era when fashion, heart, style, creativity, and passion were all that mattered to feel complete.

Hip-Hop Revolution is on display until September 27, 2015. Visit the exhibit at The Museum of the City of New York 1220 Fifth Avenue, New York, NY, USA, +1 212-534-1672.