(New York) The texts of rapper Jay-Z are displayed on the art deco facades of the great library in Brooklyn; Yankee Stadium is preparing to host a concert event with the pioneers of the genre: the cradle of hip-hop, New York is celebrating the 50th anniversary of a trend born in its ghettos and which has become dominant.
Inside the library, a vast and laudatory exhibition retraces the emblematic career of the child of Brooklyn, who built his legend like a modern fairy tale: former dealer of the Marcy Projects, the housing estate where he grew up, Shawn Corey Carter – alias Jay-Z – became in the 1990s and 2000s one of the greatest American rappers, then a billionaire businessman at the head of an entertainment empire, Roc Nation, who designed the retrospective.
“I haven’t really visited many exhibitions. So seeing that, for my favorite rapper, is pretty mind-blowing,” relishes Jamarly Thomas — “or Jay-T,” he smiles — a 31-year-old warehouse worker from the Bronx.
In his lifetime
“For a lot of young African-Americans who come, he (Jay-Z, editor’s note) can show them that they can become bigger,” adds Jamarly.
Brooklyn-born Amanda Brown, 28, appreciates that Jay-Z “gets all that accolades” while she’s alive.
The rapper, who forms with Beyoncé one of the most famous couples in popular culture, has multiplied the successes – Hard Knock Life (Ghetto Anthem), Izzo (HOVA) – and crossed the borders of rap with the ode to New York Empire State of Mind.
He also placed during his career 14 of his albums at the top of the American reference classification Billboard 200 (only the Beatles did better, with 19).
Free, the exhibition The Book of HOV (one of Jay-Z’s nicknames) opened on Friday, and long lines formed all weekend long to visit or register at the library to collect one of thirteen never-before-seen Brooklyn Library patron card designs, stamped with the artist’s album covers.
In the Bronx
The tribute to the rapper precedes the inauguration, on August 2, of another immersive retrospective on the history of hip-hop at the Hall of Lights, the New York branch of the Culturespaces network.
Graffiti or breakdance sessions in libraries, “block parties”, concerts… many other initiatives are flourishing to celebrate the 50th anniversary of a movement born in the Bronx to escape poverty and discrimination against African-Americans and Hispanics, and become a phenomenon brewing billions of dollars, which inspires music, but also sport and fashion.
“Celebrating 50 years is extraordinary. Because all of that had no value. When we started, nobody wanted to hire a DJ, an MC or breakdancers “, underlines Ralph McDaniels, hip-hop coordinator for the libraries of the district of Queens, and whose television program Video Music Box was a staple of the local rap scene in the 1980s and 1990s, which shone the spotlight on future stars like Jay-Z, Nas, LL Cool J or The Notorious BIG, killed in 1997.
The anniversary is set for August 11, 1973. On that day, on the ground floor of a public housing building at 1520 Sedgwick Avenue, in the Bronx, a DJ of Jamaican origin, Clive Campbell, alias DJ Kool Herc, innovates: by spinning the same disc on two turntables, he isolates the sequences of rhythms and percussion and makes them last in the speakers, prefiguring the ” break beat », an essential component of hip-hop music.
Fifty years later, on August 11, 2023, DJ Kool Herc will share the poster for a megaconcert at Yankee Stadium, where other veterans like Grandmaster Caz, Kurtis Blow, The Sugarhill Gang, pioneer Roxanne Shante, but also Lil Kim, Ice Cube, Snoop Dogg and Run DMC are announced.
A sign of its influence, hip-hop even feeds auctions. Since Tuesday, we can afford at Sotheby’s a ring set with rubies and diamonds worn by Tupac Shakur, icon of the Californian “West Coast” – but born in Harlem – and murdered in 1996. Estimate of the jewel: 200,000 to 300,000 dollars.