Wednesday, March 01, 2006
At the Smithsonian, Hip-Hop Is History
Museum Launches Collection of Genre
By David Segal. Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, March 1, 2006
Ice and a handful of other urban legends packed a conference room full of television cameras and reporters Tuesday at a Midtown Manhattan hotel to unveil a Smithsonian initiative for Washington's National Museum of American History, "Hip-Hop Won't Stop: The Beat, the Rhymes, the Life." The goal is to gather artifacts donated by rappers, dancers, DJs and record executives and amass a definitive collection, one that captures hip-hop's 30-year journey from inner-city subculture to international phenomenon.
Museum officials predict it will take three to five years before they warehouse enough material for a full-scale exhibit, but they say some of these pieces will be on view by summer, and they're certainly off to a colorful start. At the press conference, a parade of luminaries took turns at the microphone, starting with entrepreneur Russell Simmons and ending about an hour later with a break dancer named Crazy Legs.
Bambaataa was easily the most generous of all the donors, at least so far. He handed over more than 20 items, including two custom-made jackets with the logo of rap collective Zulu Nation on the back, a Zulu warrior beaded necklace, a USA/Africa necklace, nine "Don't Stop Planet Rock" posters and a red fez with the "Proud Nuwaubian" logo.
Fab 5 Freddy, DJ from "Yo! MTV Raps," delivered what was arguably the choicest gift: a vintage boombox. It was brought in like a priceless bauble by a woman wearing white gloves. Simmons appeared to be the most stinting of the donors. He gave the museum a Phat Farm sign -- the name of the clothing company he created -- and a 1985 advertisement for the record label he co-founded, Def Jam. Not exactly the family Rodin. Maybe that's a reflection of Simmons's ambivalence about this whole project. During his remarks, he seemed worried that moving hip-hop from the streets to the national display case might actually do some harm. To the music, that is.
"My first thoughts were [darn], the party's over," he told the audience. "The idea of hip-hop is that it's from the underbelly, it's from people who've been locked out and not recognized."
Edited version of article from the Washington Post
• Smithsonian website