It is said that the music genre of Hip-Hop was born the night of August 11, 1973, when a young DJ named Kool Herc organized a party in the recreation room of a housing development at 1520 Sedgwick Avenue (New York Magazine story). 36-years have passed since that seminal moment in music history and African-American culture, and various efforts along the way have tried to capture Hip-Hop’s momentous contribution in the form of a museum. No one has gotten as far as the current organizers of the movement to create the National Museum of Hip-Hop. (Facebook | Twitter).
For the past five years, the museum’s organizers have been painstakingly planning a physical, interactive museum and cultural center to cement Hip-Hop’s rightful place in history. From meetings with Hip-Hop’s early pioneers to New York City’s office of Economic Development, the NMoH team are working through the process to make the museum a reality.
Prior efforts to create a Hip-Hop institution have been dogged by lack of funds, political issues, or the absence of a qualified team to pull it all together. Many of the pioneers of Hip-Hop had been unable or unwilling to agree to participate for one reason or another. Some of the early stars of Hip-Hop, who never enjoyed the financial success of today’s rap superstars, understandably want to make sure they are compensated for their participation. On the business side, label executives see the possible financial upside of a commercial enterprise, advocate for a Hip-Hop Hall of Fame, where they can clearly monetize Hip-Hop through a flagship restaurant, merchandise and other commercial activities.
On the political side, there’s heated discussion about where the museum should be located. In the Bronx, the birthplace of Hip-Hop? Brooklyn, where Jay-Z and Biggie emanated from? Or, Queens where Run D.M.C. were born? And, Staten Island is always a long shot, because of ease of access. All signs are pointing to Manhattan for now. Hip-Hop is a global phenomenon. Although the museum would certainly benefit any borough, the political and financial realities of a Manhattan location, with possible smaller borough-based satellites makes sense economically. Tourism will be an important driver and the museum’s success depends on being accessible to visitors from around the world.
To kick off fund raising for construction of the museum and drive awareness for the museum’s cultural programs and community-based initiatives, the organizers are planning a black-tie event, slated for February 9th at M2 UltraLounge on Manhattan’s West Side. Chuck D and KRS-One will host the star-studded event. Confirmed guests include Big Daddy Kane, the Cold Crush Brothers, members of the Rock Steady Crew, MC Lyte, Rakim, DJ Red Alert, Ralph McDaniels, The Roots, and Redman. The events co-chairs include, Bill Adler, Dr. Ben Chavis, Andre Harrell, Afrika Bambaataa, Terry Stewart and Jim Fricke.
“The timing is perfect for the development of a museum that will preserve the great culture of Hip-Hop, a museum that will serve as not only a beacon for Hip-Hop’s achievements but also as a hub for community enlistment,” said NMoH President Craig Wilson.
The project’s Advisory Board includes Def Jam Records co-founder Russell Simmons; political activist Dr. Ben Chavis; Uptown Records founder Andre Harrell; Leyla Turkkan, C.E.O. and President of PR/Marketing firm The Catalyst Group; Hip-Hop curator, journalist and publicist Bill Adler; Bob Santelli, executive director of the Grammy Museum; and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fameâ€™s President and C.E.O. Terry Stewart.
For more information on the National Museum of Hip, please sign up on their Facebook page located at http://www.facebook.com/hiphopmuseum or follow their announcements through @NMoH on Twitter. NHoH’s proper web site is coming soon at http://www.hiphopmuseum.org.
(Updated: 4/30/11 – Disclosure: Netmix founder, Tony Zeoli, is was acting Director of Interactive and has since transitioned to adviser to the National Museum of Hip-Hop.)