Sings that currently read “Welcome to the Bronx,” and list the names of Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. could use some spicing up, and 76th Assembly District state committeeman Ronald Savage has an idea to make the signs a tribute to the artists who first created Hip Hop music in the 1970s and early 1980s, in places like the Sedgwick Avenue area and the Bronx River Houses.
Joining together with some of the pioneers of Hip Hop music, an art form that is undeniably Bronx-born but is now a billion-dollar industry, Savage hopes to make the seven or so signs that welcome people to the borough on highways and streets a tribute to pioneers of what he said was originally party music, including artists like DJ Kool Herc and the Herculords, Afrika Bambaataa and the Zulu Nation, Grand Master Flash, Grand Wizard Theodore, L. Brothers, Brothers Disco, Funky 4, Cold Crush Brothers, Soul Sonic Force, Busy Bee, and Cosmic Force.
“It would be great to actually see the signs saying ‘The Bronx: The Birthplace of Hip Hop’ to generate business here in the Bronx, and get people interested in knowing more about the roots of rap,” Savage said. “It is a shame that the pioneers of Hip Hop do not get the recognition that they deserve, and I think that a great way to recognize them pioneers would be these signs on the highway that welcome people to the home of Hip Hop.”
There is a stigma that has become associated with rap music because of gangsta rap, gangsta rap may be based in real experiences, Savage said, but the original rap music was actually party music, and Savage knows this first hand because he was an assistant to rap artists as a young man during the “second generation of hip hop,” in roughly the early 1980s.
“I started out as a ‘record boy’, passing records to the DJs and putting them back into the crates when I was 11 or 12-years-old,” Savage, who was later himself a DJ, recalled.
Believing himself to be the first Hip Hopper elected to office, Savage is calling on elected officials to change the signage in honor of hip hop pioneers, and said he would like to see Governor Andrew Cuomo proclaim the borough the true home of the music now heard on iPods and stereos worldwide.
One of the original founders of the Cold Crush Brothers, DJ Tony Tone, who conducts walking tours of some of the landmarks of Hip Hop in the borough where the original concerts and jams were held, and is also working with Cornell University in cataloging artifacts related to the music’s origins, said that signage honoring the founders of the music would be a fitting tribute.
“It would be like Jesus coming home,” Tony Tone said. “They didn’t accept Jesus in his own home town, but like our music, he was well know in other places. We want to represent our home and our home to represent us, and now that hip hop is world-wide, why not?” Borough President Diaz’s office did not comment on the request.