12-06-2016  6:15 am      •     

Russell Simmons

NEW YORK—For nearly three decades, hip-hop relics such as vinyl records, turntables, microphones and boom boxes have collected dust in boxes and attics.


On Tuesday, pioneering artists Afrika Bambaataa, DJ Kool Herc, Grandmaster Flash, Ice-T, Fab 5 Freddy and others turned them over to National Museum of American History officials.


The museum, part of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., is announcing its plans to embark on a collecting initiative, "Hip Hop Won't Stop: the Beat, the Rhymes, the Life."


"It's here to stay, and it's part of American culture just like jazz is part of American history," said Valeska Hilbig, a National Museum spokesperson.


The project will collect objects that trace hip hop's origins in the Bronx in the 1970s to its current global reach.
Ice-T, the only West Coast rapper at the announcement, handed over a framed poster for his 1991 single "New Jack Hustler" and two versions of his 1993 CD "Home Invasion," the first of which his record label never released because of creative differences. He released it himself.


"Hip hop didn't need to be validated," Ice-T said after the announcement. "Hip hop never asked for acceptance. But we got it, and that's a wonderful thing."


Afrika Bambaataa, a DJ who in 1982 organized the first European hip-hop tour, donated his jacket bearing Black nationalist Marcus Garvey's name and image, a red fez and a poster of the Source magazine's 50th issue cover, which he graced with Flash and Herc.


Herc, who blasted the "hooliganism" in hip hop today, said he planned to donate an amplifier, a Technics SL-1100 turntable from the early 1970s and speakers.


Def Jam Records co-founder Russell Simmons gave away a wooden advertisement for Phat Farm, the clothing company he started.


The collection is expected to cost as much as $2 million and take up to five years to complete. Museum officials have yet to raise the money, which will come from private donors. They plan to use the funds to pay for artifacts, record oral histories, hold consultations with advisory groups and mount an exhibit telling hip-hop's story.


The idea for an exhibition grew out of conversations between Brent D. Glass, the national museum's director, and his childhood friend Mark Shimmel, of Mark Shimmel Music, museum curator Marvette Perez said.


Besides records, boom boxes, mics and turntables, Perez requested photographs, posters, handwritten lyrics, clothing and costumes, videos and interviews and business and personal letters from hip hop's early artists.


Simmons called the Smithsonian's recognition a "great statement for hip hop."


"It's not a signal to the end of hip hop," said Simmons. "We know it will be a lasting fixture. And it should be. All over the world hip hop is an expression of young people's struggles, their frustrations and opinions."


Simmons' brother, Joseph "Rev. Run" Simmons, a member of the seminal rap group Run-DMC, also appeared at the announcement.


The Smithsonian isn't the only museum with an interest in hip-hop culture. In the fall of 2000, the Brooklyn Museum of Art put on "Hip-Hop Nation: Roots, Rhymes & Rage." In June the museum plans to showcase an exhibition of graffiti art, spokesperson Adam Husted said.


The Museum of the City of New York plans to hold "Black Style Now" in September on hip hop's impact on fashion and Black fashion designers. And the Experience Music Project, an interactive music museum in Seattle, has featured exhibitions on hip hop, Perez said.


— The Associated Press

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