The birthplace of hip hop will soon be the home of a hip hop museum.
On May 20, local hip hop artists, elected officials, hip hop fanatics all gathered along the Harlem River waterfront to celebrate the official groundbreaking for the Universal Hip Hop Museum. The groundbreaking signified the beginning of construction for the Universal Hip Hop Museum’s permanent home at 610 Exterior Street, in the very borough where hip hop was created.
Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr. began his speech by reciting the first four lines of the hip hop ballad ’South Bronx’ by Boogie Down Productions, a group which consisted of rapper KRS-One and the late DJ Scott LaRock.
“Many people tell me this style is terrific, it is kinda different, but let’s get specific, KRS-One specializes in music, I’ll only use this type of style when I choose it!”
“The Bronx started hip hop – and it’s only appropriate that the Universal Hip Hop Museum will call the Bronx its home.
Diaz continued, describing how hip hop generated millionaires while becoming the most popular music genre on the planet – taking over fashion, cinematography, jewelry and even sports, while also bridging the racial divide between different cultures.
“You see Hip Hop everywhere,” Diaz added. “Once it is completed, the Universal Hip Hop Museum will be a destination for people all over the world, because hip hop is global.”
“This journey began 10 years ago – when none of us (UHHM) knew where we were going,” said Universal Hip Hop Museum Executive Director Rocky Bucano. “The curation of this museum will preserve the five elements of hip hop – MCing (rapping), DJing, breakdancing, graffiti and knowledge.”
“When I began listening to hip hop, it was the first time that young black men sounded empowered,” said LL Cool J. “Before that, I would usually see black kids with their heads down being put into a police car.”
Earlier this month, it was announced that LL Cool J, among others, will soon be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
“Hip hop made me dream – and showed me that anything is possible,” he said. “What Rocky (Bucano) and everybody at the Universal Hip Hop Museum have accomplished is incredible – and it’s proof that with tenacity, hard work, commitment and focus, you can make it happen.”
“This is a time that was destined to be,” Nas said. “There should be a museum for hip hop, and it should be in the Bronx.”
“The BX is the birthplace of hip hop – and with this museum we are keeping hip hop alive,” said Fat Joe, who grew up in the nearby Forest Projects.
“When I was a kid, I would write rhymes on the kitchen table – and my parents didn’t really understand it. But all these years later, hip hop has made me very successful and my parents are proud of me now.”
Fat Joe also spoke about when he left home at age 14 and stayed at a nearby hotel, which was infested with drugs and crime.
“I was a tough kid and I wasn’t scared of a lot of things, but I was scared when I was living at this hotel,” he said. “The only thing that made me feel comfortable at night was listening to my Slick Rick tape. And I did that every night.”
Other notable artists in attendance included Slick Rick, Dave East, Treach from Naughty By Nature, Parrish Smith from EPMD and Chuck D from Public Enemy.
Also at the event was Grandmaster Flash, a hip hop pioneer who acted as the DJ for the group Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five. The group’s most popular single, ‘The Message’ described the life of crime, poverty and drugs in the south Bronx during the late 1970s and early 1980s.
Even Mayor Bill de Blasio came up to the podium and threw up the “X” with his arms to signify his support for the museum.
The museum, which is scheduled to open in 2024, is part of the Bronx Point project, a mixed-use development site of 530,000 square feet on the Harlem River waterfront that will also include residential units, retail space and educational facilities.
Along with the L+M Development Partners and Type A Projects, other organizations involved with the project include Community Board 4, Bronxworks, NYC Parks, the NYC Economic Development Corporation, the NYC Housing Development Corporation and NYS Empire State Development.
Assemblyman Carl Heastie, who donated $2 million toward the project, thanked the iconic hip hop artists in attendance for their contributions to the genre of hip hop.
Thank you LL (Cool J) for “Rockin’ The Bells”, thank you Nas for “Illmatic”, thank you Slick Rick for “Lodi Dodi” and thank you Fat Joe for taking us ‘All The Way Up!’