The 'Only in New York' Podcast Goes to the Bronx

The 'Only in New York' Podcast Goes to the Bronx
The fifth episode of Culture Trip’s Only in New York podcast delves into the history of hip-hop with a trip to its birthplace, the Bronx. Hush Tours founder Debra Harris leads the way, while a few icons of the genre drop by to help tell the story.

The Bronx is the birthplace of hip-hop. This isn’t just a fact; it’s a city-ordained proclamation. Famed hip-hop artists and Bronx residents Rayza and Johnny Famous take listeners through the history of hip-hop in the Boogie Down – everything from 1520 Sedgwick Avenue, the official birthplace of hip-hop, to Casa Amadeo, New York’s oldest record shop.

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Episode transcript:

Jillian Anthony: This is Only in New York by Culture Trip.

Alex Shebar: Culture Trip is the go-to platform for travel where you can go to get informed, planned, and book awesome experiences and places you want to stay all over the world.

Rayza: Yeah. I am Rayza. Only in New York, there is that energy, man, that I love. There is no sitting still because as soon as you sit still, you falling off of what you do. You either moving forward and getting better at what you do, or you falling off. There is no sitting in the middle, there is no getting complacent. Only in New York.

JA: New York City is the greatest city in the world. That is just a fact.

AS: We are New Yorkers, and we will fight you on this.

JA: We have got 8m people and 62m visitors a year who love our world-famous entertainment.

AS: So many dining options you could not get through them in a lifetime.

JA: The breathtaking skyline.

AS: And of course, the terrible weather.

JA: The world-reviled subway system.

AS: Rats the size of your face.

JA: But it is all worth it because the city surprises you every New York minute.

AS: Okay, do want to know the best things to do in each of the city’s five boroughs?

JA: Guess what? You are in the right place.

AS: I am Alex Shebar.

JA: And I am Jillian Anthony. This is Only in New York by Culture Trip.

AS: Hey, let us take a trip to the Bronx. So, what is the Bronx known for? Well, the Bronx has so much to offer. There is Yankee Stadium. You can go see a Yankee’s game. There is the Wildlife Conservatory, which was formerly known as the Bronx Zoo. And there is the final home of Edgar Allan Poe, a great poet. But it is also the birthplace of one of the most important and culturally relevant art forms of our entire time. The Bronx is the birthplace of hip-hop.

Debra Harris: My name is Debra Harris. I am the founder of Hush Tours. And only in New York can you take a subway ride for under three dollars that you could physically take from one end of the city to the other without even switching the train. So you can go from the Bronx, northern, all the way to Coney Island. And that is only in New York.

AS: Okay. So die-hard Elvis fans, they have got Graceland. Country music lovers have Nashville. And rock-and-roll buffs love the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. But what is there for hip-hop? Well, until Debra Harris came along, not a lot. This is why she created Hush Tours. A guided experience that educates and immerses people in the history of hip-hop throughout the Bronx, led by the people who know it best: the pioneers and hip-hop artists themselves. Jillian and I sat down with founder Debra Harris to talk about her company, as well as two of her tour guides and hip-hop artists, Johnny Famous and Rayza.

AS: Why don’t we start with Hush Tours? Where did it come from? What do you guys do? Who are you?

DH: Hush Tours is a sightseeing tour company that focuses on celebrating New York City as the birthplace of hip-hop.

AS: Where did the idea come from?

DH: I grew up in the Bronx back in, you know, the early days when hip-hop was starting. And then I moved around the city for quite a while. Then I moved to a high-tourist neighborhood. So, when I notice that, like, hip-hop was growing, it was so, you know, Lauryn Hill had won seven Grammys that year. And then, I just started paying attention to what would a young person do when they come to visit New York City? And I was reading articles and what young teenagers were doing. They were tearing up hotel rooms like they were just spending tacos. You cannot get into a club . . .

AS: Sure.

DH: . . . if you are under 21. So then I just said, “You know what? Maybe a tour like this would be good.” But then, I also thought it existed already.

AS: But it did not.

DH: But it did not.

AS: No, no. Because — and even today, there are not that many out there. You still are very unique in what you do.

DH: Yeah. Thank you for that. Yeah. You know, it is almost like a given, to me — to all of us who participate in the culture of hip-hop, as well as, you know, all of the guys and everybody who is an artist that contribute, from dances to emcees to clothing designers to writers. You know it is just — it is a given that when you come here, you need to experience this. That this is the birthplace of hip-hop.

R: It started in the Bronx, and that is what the roots are from. And it is always important to know your roots, you know. What Debra Harris has done, ah, with Hush Tours is amazing. She has over a million writers so, you know, that have come through to the Bronx. Learn the roots of the culture from, you know, actual pioneers like, you know, Grandmaster Caz. We have had Grandmaster Flash, you know, do the tour. We have had Roxanne the Real Shante, Crash Crew, Reggie Reg, you know my guy right here Johnny Famous, you know when in Brooklyn. So, you know, it is definitely the place to be.

Rapper Grandmaster Caz conducts a hip-hop tour with a stop at the Graffiti Wall of Fame on East 106 St. in East Harlem © Frances M. Roberts / Alamy Stock Photo

AS: That is awesome. When these pioneers come through, are they — do they, like, get into it? Or they kind of like, “I was there, I already know all this stuff.”

JA: Wait, are they leading the tours?

Johnny Famous: They get into it because they are — it is about them.

AS: Yeah.

JF: It is like them writing a movie about themselves. It is not like they are pretending. They got to Kool Herc, you know what I mean? To every individual that comes to — it is like a tattoo on their arm.

AS: That is awesome.

R: We inspired Luhrmann… Baz. He said I am Rolling Stone, that you know, one of the things that inspired him to make “The Get Down” was Hush Tours.

AS: Really?

R: Yeah.

AS: Oh, that is so cool.

R: He had them all come out, uh, take the tour as well.

DH: Yeah. It is a way for me, I think, to, like, relive my youth. Because when hip-hop was starting, I could not go. I was too young. And I wanted to go, so I felt the energy. Like when hip-hop before videos and you know, everything. You would just try to save your money to either buy the music once it was recorded or go to a party. And I could not really do either one of those. So for me, this is just me recreating a party in this birthplace of New York for people who are visiting here from all over the world and locals.

AS: That is great. Do you have any great stories from, you know, growing up there? Has anything sort of sparked a mind that you are just like, “That was such a great moment in kind of this birth of this, ah, this new genre.”

DH: Well, I do remember like there was a club called – it was the P-A-L, it was short for Police Athletic League. So, that was one of the first indoor venues where hip-hop was allowed in. So you like, Flash would be the DJ there. So finally – and I only live like right up the hill because the Bronx has nothing but hills. So, I lived right up the hill. My father finally let me go. And I was the first one there. And I was the first one to leave [laughs]. Because I had to be home by like 10 o’clock and it was –

JA: How old were you?

DH: I think I was about either 12 or 13.

JA: Oh, it is young.

AS: It is young.

DH: Yeah, I was really young. And because the lady that lived in my building, she worked there. So she was like, “No, let her go.”

AS: Aww, she is there out for you?

DH: So, it was like one of those days. Yeah. So, it is like a play date [laughs]. But it was cut real short.

AS: I love that.

JA: But then, you were growing up still the next few years while things were growing, right?

DH: Yes.

JA: So, do you remember any really special parties or anything you went to?

DH: Well, you know, the thing about the early days of hip-hop when it was happening in the Bronx and all throughout New York City, there would be jams in a park. So, even if you could not go inside, you know, there was different energy of the parties and the jams that would be held outdoors. So, anyone who lived in the city at a certain time in the history of New York experienced that in the late 70s or early 80s.

AS: That is cool.

JA: And that is still a tradition today, right? You know, having big parties outside, bringing out your music, and everybody hanging out. I mean, I am in Brooklyn. I see a lot of that in Brooklyn.

DH: It was like a different kind of energy now; like Johnny said, “You need a permit.” So, it is a little more like neat and tidy, we are back in the days, it was just real, like love and freestyle.

R: If you were gonna help bring the music down you — it was a party [laughs]. Yeah. It has no laptops with the Cerrado. So each records crates, so you had to have a few friends to help you carry all that. We didn’t really care as long as you do know the girl up the block was coming [laughs] or it was for the chicks to come around? So if you shouted your name, they really shout your name. You had to be behind the rope. Behind the rope with a deed. That was like super — that was three times the VIP right now in the club. Just to stand behind a rope. [crosstalks] That is outside. It was like, “Oh, you down?” If you knew how to rap, it was only maybe a sprinkle of people in your whole neighborhood that could dance real good. All right. So, you would like a mutant like, you know what I mean?

[laughs]

R: So, other than that you were a helper. If you want to be down with the security, helper, you just were making a party pop. So, you didn’t really care. So again, I shout out was like somebody giving you a trophy.

AS: How long have you been doing this?

R: Music, I will be 53 this month on the 26th. So, I would say since I was maybe like 13 or 14.

AS: Wow.

R: All my — In my neighborhood looking up to guys like, you know, Cool B, this is before the guys changed their names to the five percenters and all that, and just helping and I loved it. I loved the rap part, the dance and I was like, “Wow,” just — I did not think of like it could get me out the neighborhood, you know what I mean? Because I lived in Housing Development, and it worked. I did a lot of stuff. You know to be the best and to get the chicks.

[laughs]

AS: Got to know your motivations, man. That is a —

R: Yeah, and I think it worked. It took me around the world a few times.

AS: That is great.

DH: I think he is leaving out a big part or portion of, you know —

R: You are about to say something about you. So, we will . . . [crosstalks]

JA: Go ahead.

JF: Well, if you do not know. Well, I will introduce myself as Johnny Famous. Most people around the world, I would say, know me as Scoob Lover. I am one third or whatever you want to call it or Big Daddy Kane, famous rapper.

AS: Sure.

JF: You know what I mean? So, I am one of the dances Scoob Lover or Scrap Lover. So, we toured around.

JA: Oh, wow.

JF: Did the famous cuts in the eyebrow. I came up with dance routines. So, Scoob Lover and Scrap Lover and DJ Mr. C. So, to go records out of it over 30 years and you know, songs.

R: Hey, I forgot to tell you that he started that freestyle with Biggie, “Where Brooklyn at? Where Brooklyn at?” Everybody knows that line.

JF: Yeah, Biggie Smalls.

R: That has traveled around the world. Listen to the original freestyle, my guy kicked it over. You killed that, man.

JF: I have been blessed.

JA: We hope you are loving the Only in New York podcast as much as we are. Head to theculture trip.com/onlyinnewyork to find every episode on our website. That is theculturetrip.com/onlyinnewyork. We would not want you to miss a single episode as we explore the five boroughs of New York City. So, please make sure you subscribe and follow us along on this journey. And while you are there, we would love to hear what you think about the podcast. Leave us a review. And five stars is a great way to show the love.

JF: I am Johnny Famous, and only in New York can you hang out, club hop, meet great people, great energy come together with a lot of DJs and producers and eat great food all night long and never closes. Only in New York.

AS: So, talk about 1520 Sedgwick Avenue. If you went there now, what do you see? And give a little bit of history if you can of what that place is.

DH: Okay. So, 1520 was a residence where Kool Herc lived, back in the days. So, he is responsible and is documented as the father of hip-hop culture. So, he gave a party at 1520, which is in his building, which is not really unusual for, you know, buildings that have community centers and a little recreation room. So, he gave a party there. Everybody wanted to show up that could, that lived in that area. But now, it has also been documented and put on the books as the birthplace of hip-hop and renamed the Hip Hop Boulevard by Mayor Bill de Blasio. So, the council, you know, the politicians got involved and, you know, tried to put a stamp and document that this is where it started.

AS: Yes, because in 2007, it was named by New York State as the official birthplace of hip-hop.

A community center on the ground floor of apartment building 1520 Sedgwick Avenue in the Bronx is recognized as the official birthplace of hip-hop © Peter Kramer / Getty Images

DH: Right.

AS: How does it feel to have the state recognize that?

DH: I mean, it feels great, you know, we have been going there for 17 years. So, you know, we have contributed to those efforts. Even if, you know, we do not get — It is not tied directly to Hush Tours. However, us putting it on the map has made tremendous waves for the city as a whole to start looking around and making decisions of renaming streets for different, you know, people who have contributed to the city.

R: Oh, Hush Tours is experienced, and that is what makes this so beautiful. Because if you just go to the birthplace of hip-hop, then you just went to the birthplace of hip-hop. You know, but Hush Tours has like a whole system, ah, with the guys that they use the information that we give to create a package with over a million people who have learned that. And that is what makes it so deep. That is what makes it so dope. I feel like this experience is a part of hip-hop and it has kind of been sold into the culture. It is like when you saw your name into something, you saw your name into the culture. Hush Tours did that.

AS: Yep.

R: Hush Tours is an MC in its own right, a breakdancer, a graffiti artist, the DJ, all of that and is important, you know, how you provide information, how you give information, you know, that is what is most important. Because it is one thing to be somewhere. But it is another thing to have the whole package along with it, you know? And that is what Hush Tours provide.

AS: Oh, cool.

AS: Getting the itch to travel? Plan your next getaway with Culture Trip. Use the Culture Trip app to find places you like, save them to a wish list, and add as you go. You are just a few clicks away from adventure.

AS: And since we are talking hip-hop, you are also going to hear from American music journalist and critic and legendary publicist Bill Adler. Since the 1980s, Mr. Adler has promoted hip-hop as a publicist, biographer, record label executive, documentary filmmaker, museum consultant, art galleries curator, and archivist. What a legend. He was also director of publicity at Def Jam recordings for several years and helped Run-DMC write and produce their song “Christmas in Hollis.”

Bill Adler: Hi, I am Bill Adler. I have been hip-hop head going back only to 1979 or so when I first started to listen to rap records. Because that was the year that they first really started to emerge. I wrote about Kurtis Blow for the Daily News in New York in 1980 when they had a national hit “The Brakes.” And then starting in 1984, I began working with Russell Simmons and Rick Rubin of Def Jam Recordings as the Director of Publicity, and I did that for six years. And so one way or another, I have been paying attention for a long time. When I started working at Def Jam and Rush Artist Management, we managed Run-DMC. And for people who do not know, Run was born Joseph Simmons, and it happens to be the younger brother of Russell Simmons. So, his older brother managed him. And I worked as their publicist starting in ’84 and then in ’87, by which time they had accomplished a whole hell of a lot. I wrote a book about them called Tougher Than Leather.

BA: The Bronx makes a strong case for being the birthplace of hip-hop. And I would never dismantle it. I mean, when what they have in their favor and truthfully who they have in their favor is Kool Herc and Afrika Bambaataa. And Herc was the host of, the DJ of what people take to be the first hip-hop event. And I should know the exact date. It is in the fall of the year 1973, and you know partisans of the Bronx as the birthplace of hip-hop will name that date as the date, the birthday of hip-hop. And then, likewise, Bambaataa who probably did not start DJ-ing parties until, you know, ’74, ’75. He is a Bronx guy. And he is crucial in what you might call kind of the globalization of hip-hop. And one of the things that he did that was so remarkable is that he is the guy who applied this term hip-hop to a growing culture produced by youth from the outer boroughs of New York. He is the guy who said, “Rapping and DJ-ing and break dancing and graffiti were all expressions of the same youth culture, and we are going to call it hip-hop.”

Bill Adler, Brian Miller, DJ Scratch, DJ Base and Big Jeff of Universal Zulu Nation as 205th Street in Hollis is re-named Run DMC JMJ Way © WENN Rights Ltd / Alamy Stock Photo

JA: We would love to hear your thoughts about the podcast. Find us at @CultureTrip on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook, and tell us your thoughts.

AS: All right. So, what are the locations of my missing? What a great in the Bronx that is just like, “Hey, if you are going to check this out, this is something you should go see that has either great historical value or it is just really interesting.”

DH: Yeah. Well, one of the things that you could go see, you know, because when hip-hop was started in the Bronx, a lot of the venues were parks. So, there is a host of parks that you could visit like Echo Park, which is on Tremont and Webster. If you go there, it may not mean much to you. But, when you do your research and then, you know, you compare, then you will kind of be able to understand that it was relevant for that time. Um . . . another place you could check out is the Andrew Freeman home, which is on the Grand Concourse. They lean a lot towards having art residence. But it is also historical landmarks not solely because of his hip-hop connection. But, in addition to Andrew Freeman himself, you know what he contributed. He was one of the wealthiest people in New York at a certain time. And he created this home. So that other people who had found monetary success but kind of lost it along the way would have a place to live and, like, a retirement home.

AS: All right. So, what are some secrets or facts about the Bronx that most people do not know? You got anything good to share?

JA: You know, a lot of tourists at least might just go to Arthur Avenue or the Bronx Zoo, right? So like, where else would you tell them to go?

DH: While people also go to the Botanical Gardens, you know, when we first started, that was our direct competitor. And it still is a Yankee game, old Yankee Stadium and a new one. Yeah, the Botanical Garden and Little Italy. So since then, you know, they – oh, I know where they can go, the South Side. Jimmy’s is a club up there that they have a lot of live performances. I think on Thursday nights – top-end performances, you know, artists that are like, may have something in rotation within the last what, seven to 10 years.

JA: Hip-hop performances?

DH: Hip-hop, R&B . . .

AS: Cool.

DH: Yes, it is a good spot. It is a nice spot. That is right off of Fordham Road and Sedgwick Avenue.

AS: But, you guys, on your tour, are there any interesting facts you drop that make people go, “Oh, yeah; I did not know that; that’s cool”?

R: I am going to say Jimmy’s is a good diner and restaurant. And the Bronx is excellent. The food is fire. I just checked that out Styles P. I got a juice bar. And the Bronx is you should check out. His fire what he is doing for the community.

JA: What is a juice bar?

JF: The juice bars where you go for, like, healthy drinks.

[laughs]

JA: Oh nice.

AS: Yeah, like an actual juice bar.

JF: So, it’s dope, it’s a good look for the Bronx. Oh, yeah.

DH: Yeah, it is not that many options for healthy eating and drinking, you know juicing up there. So, that is a good one. And he is tied directly to hip-hop. Because he is one of the members of the Lox.

AS: Oh, very cool. Is that common, like do you feel like there is a lot of people in there who, you know, do X? And then, also, they have this great history of hip-hop. It feels like it is come up a couple of times now.

DH: Yes [laughs]. So, I think you know because people, the generation now, you know, people are entrepreneurs. So, you cannot just rely on one thing like, you know, like all parents may have you worked 40 years. Do you retire? Now, you just cannot do that. And I do not think the mentality of all generation is even thinking that way. And even when we may have thought we were thinking that way, we were still hustling and trying to do multitasks. And if you could tie revenue to it, it is even better.

AS: Might as well, because I went to the Bronx and I have gone to just, like, great, like, local spots or just place to eat. And there are always amazing photos on the wall like the owner back, you know, performing or with these famous icons. And I am like, it feels like everybody here is connected, and that is awesome.

JA: We were talking about the specific address. Where was it?

DH: 1520?

JA: Yeah, and you are talking about Kool Herc, right? So, what was it like one party, or was that where he always used to hang out and throw everything or what happened?

DJ Kool Herc, looking through his records while DJing in 2000 © PYMCA / Universal Images Group via Getty Images

DH: He lived in the building. So, the first documented party that kind of put hip-hop on a map was by the advice of his sister. And it was like a back-to-school little thing that they were doing. However, it became something much more.

AS: Yeah, I can see the flyer.

DH: Yeah.

AS: I am telling you so they could get a real picture. Tell him how much it costs to get in.

DH: If I am not mistaken, it was like 50 cent or [laughs] something like that.

AS: They can be in like 20. Was it free for the girls?

DH: Well, it is back in the days that was still the thing. So, sometimes I do not know if that has changed like, are ladies still free? I do not really go out to clubs anymore.

JA: Yeah, before like 11 [laughs].

DH: Yeah, the sign of the times was the admission price, which was definitely under a dollar. You know, I do not know if it was 50 for guys and free for women or girls or 25 cents. But yeah, that was really what put the stamp on it. The way Herc played music, you know, not just that he was there playing music. But the way he played music and the songs that he selected to play.

JA: And also, like, I guess and I think, like, most people could afford that, right? So, it was like a party for everybody, hopefully?

DH: No, it is not. Some people could not know. Not everybody could go. Because, if the room was like this size, right?

R: What she’s saying is like affordable wise?

DH: Yeah, some people.

JA: I mean there are some people –

R: Yeah, a lot of stuff.

DH: Yeah, if you took like certain ages, you know, maybe he will not buy some candy. But then, if you go buy candy, you were not thinking about going to her party. So, I guess it was affordable.

R: You got to flyer to get into it, right? Like well –

JA: What was on the flyer? What does it say?

DH: It was like an early graffiti style, like a little image, and it was in pencil and where it was going to be and what it was and how much it cost. So, it is still flyers today. Even though that is like almost a dying breed, people do not print anymore. But it is the same vein.

AS: Yeah.

DH: You know, now, it is just may… I think the date has to be on there.

AS: On August 11, I think.

DH: Yeah, of 1973, right? [laughs] That is hip-hop’s birthday.

AS: Now, when there are always these iconic moments. Whatever it happens to be, you always meet people who are like, I was there. And you are like, you definitely were not there. Do you come across that often? It was almost like I was definitely at that, man.

DH: No, the only person that I hate it from was dead. And I was Herc.

AS: Okay.

DH: And his sister [laughs].

AS: Nobody says —

DH: There is no one.

JA: They might not believe you.

AS: Well, that is it. And we know —

DH: There will be people who said that they wanted to be there.

AS: Ah, okay.

DH: They wish they were there. And then, when they are with us, they are there now. [laughs] So, you know what I mean? You were not there then, but hey, they are there now.

AS: Yeah, I love that.

DH: You know the Bronx back in the days. It was like, oh man. It was beautiful, but it was terrifying at the same time. It was a beautiful, terrifying experience growing up in the Bronx. But you did not know it at the time. Because you just, you know, you did not know.

AS: Just living there.

DH: You are not thinking about politics when you are a teenager or a young child. You just thinking about, you know, what is important to you. But now, as an adult and you look back [laughs], New York City should be ashamed of itself.

JA: How do you feel like it is changed from then until now?

DH: Oh, the whole city has changed now. There is, like, I wish I could walk by an abandoned building. I would try to buy, father God. [laughs] Yes, you know, so . . .

AS: Yes, so what are the pounds like nothing. If you know, especially you are a tourist and never been — what is it like?

DH: Ah . . . I only can share with you the feedback that I received from people who are visiting it now. And they are pleasantly surprised. Because they still have an image in their brain that you know is kind of beat down or maybe still like as abandoned as it was back in the days. So, it is growing and it is improving. There is still work to be done.

AS: Fair enough.

Abandoned, burnt-out tenement blocks in South Bronx, New York City, in the summer of 1977 – a totally different sight to the modern-day Bronx © Alain Le Garsmeur Bronx / Alamy Stock Photo

JA: How do you feel like hip-hop has changed the Bronx itself? It is such a big influence now on the whole world. But how has it changed in the borough?

DH: It is growing. It is changing. [laughs] There’s still work to be done.

[laughs]

AS: And what do you mean — you guys are there and, you know, you are very different kind of age. Do you see any kind of difference of, like, somebody’s little older and seen a change versus someone who’s, you know, kind of experiencing it now?

JF: Oh, I think a Bronx is a beautiful man. The people are like she said that pleasantly surprised when they come to the Bronx is its good people. It has good vibes that it is the birthplace of hip-hop. No matter where you go in the world. You cannot take that from the Bronx. You cannot – I mean you can go to Germany. Shout out to Germany. You go to Italy. Shout outs to Italy. You are going to London. Shout outs to London. You cannot take from the Bronx that it is the place where hip-hop started and was created. The culture of hip-hop is language. Hip-hop is a culture. Hip-hop is a system. Hip-hop can identify with so many different cultures. And it is not you — not like I said. And it is not even a person. But it is everyone. It is in everyone. If you can find it. Do you know what I am saying? We can see real hip-hop in one second. You know, I could look at something to note. It is hip-hop and that is do being around, you know, the culture being around a Bronx being around people like Hush Tours and all that type of stuff. But, it is as I said, the culture is so powerful and it all started right there in the Bronx could be a little scary. But sometimes, they have fun in life. You got to get rid of that fear and go somewhere. Get up, do something, and if you press them with and take a walk, you know what I mean? Because you know, everything is good. Things are going to change. You know everything is going to change with time. But in the same sense, like I said, that energy is still there. And sometimes that energy can be aggressive. It might scare people. Some people might hear the Bronx is scary. But that energy is hip-hop itself. I was never built off being sore for.

JF: Then, I met like hip-hop came from streets the Bronx, you know what I mean? So, go to the Bronx and you can feel it yourself. You can see it yourself. Just do not get scared. [laughs] You see, it is a little left-field because it is not where you from but at the end of the day, that is everywhere. I can go somewhere else right now. You should want to identify with their rules and respect. What you know is that culture, that place that you are going because it is just out of – is this thing of respect. Do you know what I mean? No matter where you go. Whether it is the Bronx? Whether it is Cali, Brooklyn, you want to kind of respect how people move and not really just be there standing out like a sore thumb and just doing whatever you want will you know within someone’s coaching, someone’s place of living, and well-being, and you are just visiting but on the outside of that, I mean, you gotta go. You gotta feel it and come with Hush Tours. Because like I said, it is a package. [laughs] It is a packaged experience not being that it is a party. I feel like you do not get what I am saying?

AS: No, I believe you.

JF: It’s a packaged experience where if you just go to the birthplace of hip-hop by yourself, that’s cool. But if you come with us, you get everything you need to learn about it. We ride you to specific spots in places and locations. And you also come with the people who actually lived that lifestyle as a part of it. So, it is like I mean, it is the best way to do it. But it all started in the Bronx.

JA: So well put.

AS: I love that. That was great.

DH: Even if you are not into it, but you have children or grandchildren, it is important for you to try to get to understand it or at least know a little bit about it. Because you cannot – if you are trying to connect with young people, especially of your own bloodline and your own DNA, you need to understand what they are into. And you will be surprised the connection is not as far removed as people may think.

AS: Yeah.

DH: You know, because hip-hop has borrowed from so many different genres of music that it is in there, somewhere. And they may know the original version of it. But then somebody else has re-mastered it or remixed it. And made it something relevant for today.

JA: Yeah and vice versa, hip-hop is influencing so many other music genres today, right? Probably everything we’re listening to.

DH: Like now, they have kind of like swayed toward taking hip-hop and making it pop. But, we know you know, we see it, we hear it, we understand. But it is the most popular music right now. You know, I remember when we first started Hush Tours, Country music was here and Hip-Hop was you know, trying to catch up, you know, and they caught up now. If they know, I think it goes back and forth between both.

AS: Sure, tastes change.

DH: You know, and also, you know, like all customer base of tourists that come to New York period. Whatever they are doing the tour with us or just you know, independent travelers. You know, there are so many times you go to Times Square, but you want to come back to New York. So, if you come back to New York, the chances are you are going to venture outside of Midtown. And when you venture out, you are going to go to the Bronx, Brooklyn, Harlem. Now, even Staten Island is trying to get up in there with them all.

AS: They absolutely are. We on this podcast recommend you leave Manhattan and go somewhere else.

DH: So do we, I concur.

JA: Especially do not just go to Times Square.

DH: Oh damn. They want to put all their money in Times Square for nothing. Many people want to stay there, which ties back to what you are saying. So, depending on you know, like we are advanced here. But, some people still rely on guidebooks. So, the guidebooks are going to kind of deter or encourage people to do certain things.

AS: Yep.

There are lots of things to see and do in the Bronx, from visiting the Yankee Stadium and the Bronx Zoo to seeing some Banksy on the street © Frances Roberts / Alamy Stock Photo

DH: And until that changes, you know, we are going to be competing with Times Square no matter what you are doing.

AS: Well, that is why people like you exist, to get them off those guidebooks and into — things that scare them a little bit. More like that is interesting. It is absolutely true.

DH: And now everybody has 911 on it. If everyone has a phone, so you had a 911. [laughs] Even if you didn’t pay your bill —

AS: So, all right. So, you listener of this lovely podcast, you are coming to New York and you just have this fear in your heart that the Bronx is dangerous or not for you. What can you guys say to them that would change their minds or at least make them feel like this is somewhere I have to go?

DH: Well, if you have to — if you take — if you do not want to take the public New York City transit, you could take the Metro-North up there, you know, so that is a little safer, more like suburban style of travel. But as far as safety, that is more of a political and that is more of like the engine of New York City. That is not what we, you know, we are not experts in that. We are not going to encourage people to do something that they do not want to do. Because first and foremost, you need to feel safe wherever you are.

AS: Sure, absolutely.

DH: And if you do not feel safe, then maybe you should not go.

JA: It has not been scary since the 80s. Really. I mean, you know, like of course things happen. The cities are very different. But you know, it is a super safe city overall.

AS: It is watching too many movies, and this comes from somebody who watches way too many movies.

JA: So, it is not, you know – if you think New York City is a scary place, you do not know that much about New York.

AS: And spend a lot of time exploring.

DH: And with the amount of people that live in New York, there is going to be an element of the crime.

JA: Yeah, of course.

DH: You know, that is never going to stop. I do not care who is running what. And where and how. But fear most times is an internal thing.

JA: Totally.

DH: You know, it is an internal thing that has to be addressed within.

AS: Yeah, there is a difference between danger and fear. Because danger does exist. But if you are going to in this situation that is not actually dangerous and you just convincing yourself it is scary, then that is really on you. Be safe. A hundred percent be safe. But take risks. Be adventurous. We love exploring New York. This is what we do.

DH: And one tidbit is whether you are in New York or Times Square, take the earpods out while you’re walking or crossing. Of course it is busy. And now with bikers, pedestrians and cars.

AS: Yeah. Love that.

DH: Pay attention. [laughs]

AS: For safety and experience, for both.

JA: Yeah, exactly.

R: I think part of the appeal of hip-hop as it emerged from the Bronx and the other outer boroughs is that it was kind of street-level. It wasn’t elite. It was not elevated. The breakdancers were spinning around on the sidewalk. You cannot get any more street-level than that. You know the earliest park jams were taking place in public parks, not elite nightclubs. And I think the down-to-earthiness of hip-hop as it emerged from the Bronx was very much part of its appeal. It was not elite. It was not glossy. On the other hand, it was gritty, and it was fun, and it was funky. And people were ready for it. And not just, you know, in Manhattan, but all over the world as it turns out.

Grandmaster Caz and his grandson, Isiah Watson, 5, lead a Hush hip-hop bus and walking tour across the Bronx, NY © Yana Paskova/For The Washington Post via Getty Images

AS: I thought this interview was absolutely fantastic. I did not know anything. I knew the Bronx had started somewhere in hip-hop. I had seen The Get Down on Netflix, which, you know, obviously plays fast and loose with the rules. But to learn from the people who were there and to see it through the eyes of people who truly love this part of New York was wonderful in a way that you just don’t get unless you talk with the people who have been there, who live there, who understand it. Other things I love to do in the Bronx: I love the Bronx Botanical Gardens. I think they are one of the most beautiful spots in the entire city. I spend way too much time and probably way too much money in Little Italy, eating some of the best Italian food in the entire city. Do not hate me for this. I will always be a little bit of a Red Sox fan at heart. [laughs] I know, but I was born in Boston. So, it holds a little bit of my heart but not all of it. Because New York has come to be my second home. So, I have no issues going to a Yankees game and enjoying everything the Bronx offers that way. So, that is about it. Hope you enjoyed this audio tour of the Bronx and until next time. I will see you around New York.

JA: For even more to do in Manhattan, head to theculturetrip.com. We have got insider guides, great tips and surprising finds all over the borough. Cannot wait to hear more Only in New York? Great news. There is another episode coming your way. Come along with us to explore another amazing borough of New York City. See you then.

AS: The Culture Trip podcasts presented by Culture Trip copyright 2020 produced by Mouth Media Network. Read more about New York at theculturetrip.com and follow us on Instagram and Facebook at @culturetrip. Thanks for listening and happy travels.

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