Hip Hop 50

Queens Public Library Partners With Libraries, Museums And Archives Across The Country To Celebrate 50 Years Of Hip Hop

Highlights Include a Conversation with Rapper and Public Enemy Frontman Chuck D, Symposium on Hip Hop Style and Fashion, and Panel Discussion on the Genre’s Impact on Global Culture

QUEENS, NY_ Queens Public Library (QPL) today announced it has partnered with more than 30 organizations around the country - including libraries, museums, colleges, universities, and archives - to commemorate the 50th anniversary of hip hop and to recognize its global artistic and cultural impact since its birth in the Bronx on August 11, 1973, when graffiti artist and b-girl Cindy Campbell threw a back-to school-party and had her brother DJ Kool Herc play music in the recreation room of an apartment building at 1520 Sedgwick Avenue.

As part of the six-month celebration -- titled “Collections of Culture: 50 Years of Hip Hop Inside Libraries, Museums and Archives” and funded through a $267,760 grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) -- participating institutions will host dozens of in-person and virtual programs – including panel discussions, author talks, educational forums, and workshops – examining the genre’s history and influence on American culture and the contributions of its musicians, DJs, dancers, MCs, graffiti artists, stylists, directors, photographers, entrepreneurs and educators. 

The core group of 15 participating institutions includes New York City’s three public library systems (Queens Public Library, Brooklyn Public Library and The New York Public Library, which covers the Bronx, Manhattan and Staten Island), the Universal Hip Hop Museum in the Bronx, NY, the Black Caucus of the American Library Association, Las Vegas-Clark County Library District in Las Vegas, NV, LA County Library in Los Angeles, CA, the Free Library of Philadelphia in Philadelphia, PA, Oak Park Public Library in Oak Park, IL, Great Plains Black History Museum in Omaha, NE, Trap Music Museum in Atlanta, GA, The Auburn Avenue Research Library on African American Culture and History in Atlanta, GA, Museum of Graffiti in Miami, FL, Black Beauty Archives in New York City, and Black Women Writers Project (online).

Sixteen additional partners will also offer programming as part of the initiative: Archive Alive (online), Black Bottom Archives in Detroit, MI, Black Fashion Archive (online), Georgia State University Library in Atlanta, GA, HTX Hip-Hop Museum in Houston, TX, Mixtape Museum (online), Mount Vernon Public Library in Mt. Vernon, NY, Museum at Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City, Museum of Pop Culture (MoPOP) in Seattle, WA, Paul Robeson House & Museum in Philadelphia, PA, Roosevelt Public Library in Roosevelt, NY, SCREWED UP HQ in Houston, TX, VTDITC: Hip Hop Studies at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, VA, William & Mary Hip Hop Collection in Williamsburg, VA, Wyandanch Public Library in Wyandanch, NY, and National Museum of African American Music in Nashville, TN.

The partnerships between libraries, museums and archives will create broader networks of support, increase inclusivity and expand access to each institution’s collections, outreach and expertise in cultural and information sharing.

The initiative will culminate in a two-day summit from August 3-4, in Queens, New York, which aims to further explore the history of hip hop and its expansion into different sectors of society, including higher education, marketing/advertising, other genres of music, social justice, civil rights, and economics.

QPL spearheaded the multi-organizational collaboration given the role of Queens in hip hop history and culture. The borough produced a number of successful hip hop groups and rappers, like Salt-N-Pepa, Run-DMC, A Tribe Called Quest, Nas, LL Cool J, 50 Cent, Mobb Deep, Ja Rule and Nicki Minaj.

In recognition of the important role Queens communities have played in hip hop's ascension from a local art form to an international phenomenon, QPL established a hip hop program in 2015, when it hired its first-ever hip hop coordinator - Ralph McDaniels, also known as “Uncle Ralph.” McDaniels started the long-running music television show “Video Music Box” and is widely considered one of the gatekeepers of the culture. In his current role, McDaniels creates programming to raise the public’s awareness of hip hop, and its five core elements: MCing, DJing, graffiti, breakdancing, and knowledge. 

QPL also preserves hip hop’s legacy in Queens through its collection of artifacts such as photographs, periodicals, audio tapes, video tapes, writings, news articles, flyers, and oral histories from people involved with the genre from its origins until now. 

For the multi-organizational 50th anniversary celebration of hip hop, QPL, with the assistance of The Gates Preserve, a multimedia hip hop archiving and preservation firm, will help each institution create programming, and curate a digital archive of the programs, which in the future will serve as learning tools about hip hop for educators. The recordings will be catalogued in QPL’s Digital Hip Hop Archive. 

“QPL’s hip hop program has drawn people of all ages and backgrounds to our spaces and has created a unique community connected by a love for music and knowledge,” said QPL President and CEO Dennis M. Walcott. “We are thrilled to share our experience with libraries, museums and other educational institutions across the country to celebrate hip hop’s 50th anniversary, and we are grateful to the Institute of Museum and Library Services and to our partners for their tremendous support in making sure that hip hop remains part of our culture for generations to come.” 

“Hip Hop has been used as a learning tool for many years,” said QPL Hip Hop Coordinator Ralph McDaniels. “We are humbled by the IMLS grant and the response we have received from our partners and collaborators, and excited that communities around the country will come together to deepen their understanding of hip hop as it turns 50.”

“Never in the history of libraries, museums and archives have over 30+ institutions come together to lead a charge of this magnitude. We are honored to support this extraordinary feat,” said The Gates Preserve founder Syreeta Gates.

A calendar of events is available on a platform (https://hiphop50.queenslibrary.org/) designed by Virtual Experience Design Agency (VEDA). Those who register will have access to a built-in custom news feed about the various programs, notifying users about newly added events and updates. Users can also bookmark the events they want to attend.

Additional programs will be added to the schedule throughout the duration of the initiative. 

Highlights include the following events and programs:

- On Friday, Feb. 24, from 10 AM to 5 PM (EST), the Museum at FIT (Fred P. Pomerantz Art and Design Center; 300 7th Avenue), will host a day-long fashion symposium “Fresh, Fly, and Fabulous: Fifty Years of Hip Hop Style,” led by Elena Romero and Elizabeth Way, the co-curators of the exhibition by that same title, on view through April 23, 2023. The symposium draws on the expert voices of hip hop style from journalists, designers, and stylists to curators, professors, and archivists who explore topics that center hip hop fashion as a force that has shaped American culture for five decades. Talks and panels focus on the role of jewelry, custom design, media, collecting, and designer brands in amplifying hip hop's impact on fashion and society. 

- On Saturday, Feb. 25, from 11 AM to 4 PM (EST), The New York Public Library and SNAPS NYC will host The Culture Panels at the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Library (455 Fifth Avenue, Manhattan) in celebration of Culture Weekend NY. The event will feature various panels with over 25 leading music industry professionals from a range of backgrounds like SiriusXM, Forbes, Kickstarter and Hot97. They will speak about their work in the music industry, including Mental Health and Wellness, Music Programming, DJ Etiquette, The Business of Music, and more.

- On Saturday, Feb. 25, from 1 to 2 PM (PST), LA County Library will present “The Compton Cowboys: A Legacy of African Americans in Equine and Western Heritage” with Randy Savvy, an activist, rapper and the founder of the Compton Cowboys, a group of childhood friends from the Richland Farms, a semi-rural enclave in Compton, who use horseback riding and equestrian culture to improve their community. Savvy will discuss the rich legacy of African Americans in equine and western heritage and their influence on music, entertainment, and fashion. The event will take place at Compton Library (240 W Compton Blvd, Compton, CA 90220).

- QPL will kick off its celebrations with a conversation hosted by Hip Hop Coordinator Ralph McDaniels with Chuck D, a rapper and producer, best known as the frontman of Public Enemy, on Monday, Feb. 27, from 5 to 6:30 PM (EST) at Central Library (89-11 Merrick Boulevard). They will discuss the history of hip hop and Chuck D’s new PBS docuseries, “Fight the Power: How Hip Hop Changed the World,” which focuses on hip hop’s political impact over the last 50 years.

- On Tuesday, Feb. 28, Brooklyn Public Library will celebrate 50 years of hip hop at its Eastern Parkway branch (1044 Eastern Pkwy, Brooklyn, NY 11213), with a listening party featuring a turntable and vinyl records. There will also be a discussion, trivia and snacks. 

- On Wednesday, March 15, from 12 to 1:30 PM (EST), VTDITC: Hip Hop Studies at Virginia Tech, will present “Mental Health & Hip Hop,” a conversation with Dr. Apryl Alexander, who deconstructs popular myths around mental illness both inside and outside of the Black community. The event will take place at the Black Cultural Center in 126 Squires Student Center (290 College Ave., Blacksburg, VA 24061).

- On Thursday, Apr. 20, at 6 PM (EST), the Black Caucus of the American Library Association (BCALA), will host “The History of Hip Hop and Its Impact on Global Culture,” a virtual panel about the 50th anniversary of hip hop and its impact on global culture via songs, videos, books, movies and clothing. 

Programming at all organizations will run through August 2023.

“My first experience with Hip Hop was hearing the Sugarhill Gang and their first big single ‘Rappers Delight.’ I was mesmerized by the song and worked hard to memorize the lyrics. Many decades later Hip Hop’s pull has not wavered on me. With Queen Latifah’s ‘U.N.I.T.Y.,’ Salt-N-Pepa’s ‘Push It,’ McLyte’s ‘Cha Cha Cha’ and Coolio’s (RIP) ‘Gangsta's Paradise,’ Hip Hop has impacted global culture and we are better for it. Happy Birthday Hip Hop! 50 looks great on you!,” said Nichelle M. Hayes, President of the Black Caucus of the American Library Association (BCALA).

“Some of the most notable beauty trends and innovations were born out of Hip-Hop culture. Artists like Lil Kim, Queen Latifah, Mary J. Blige, Missy Elliott, Salt-N-Pepa and so many more have paved the way for beauty brand collaborations and brand ownership like FENTY. Our programming this year will highlight the beauty practitioners who created iconic looks on our favorite artists who’ve graced magazine covers, stages, music videos, fashion runways and more. The opportunity to celebrate this rich history with QPL is not only a privilege but an honor,” said Camille Lawerence, Founder and Principal Archivist at Black Beauty Archives.

“Black Women Writers Project signed on to join Queens Public Library for the Hip Hop 50 campaign to help shine a light on the contributions that Black women music and culture writers have made to the culture. QPL's commitment to celebrating the richness of hip hop culture is evident in the wide array of collaborators involved in this project and we are thrilled to partner on programming that celebrates the brilliance and genius of Black women writers,” said Keondra Bills Freemyn, Founder of the Black Women Writers Project.

“I fell in love with Hip Hop as a teenager in the 1980s because of the music, dance, and graffiti. Once I started participating I was hooked and became a lifer. I’ve been an advocate ever since and the QPL program allows me to reconnect with my Hip Hop roots and amplify the work that we are doing to a much wider audience. Community is key and this campaign is all about it,” said Alan Ket, Co-Founder and Curator of Museum of Graffiti.

“It was hip hop’s global generation of cultural workers who gave me all sorts of clues and reminders of legacies of Black resistance through their beats and rhymes. Our museum directly uplifts Paul Robeson who utilized his bold presence and voice to forward the arts as a tool for social transformation, setting a blueprint for artists to engage in the powerful currents of global social movements. We’re excited to spend Hip-Hop’s 50th Anniversary alongside so many institutions who recognize a duty to, as Nas once said, carry on tradition,” said Christopher R. Rogers, Program Director at the Paul Robeson House & Museum.

“It was critical that the Mixtape Museum take part in QPL’s Hip Hop 50 initiative. Bringing these organizations together with a collective intention to archive Hip Hop is a powerful statement and milestone in our history. Hip Hop 50 is a call to action and moral commitment to rep Hip Hop past, present, and future,” said Regan Sommer McCoy, Founder and Chief Curator of The Mixtape Museum.

“As pillars of our communities, libraries and museums bring people together by providing important programs, services, and collections. These institutions are trusted spaces where people can learn, explore and grow,” said IMLS Director Crosby Kemper. “IMLS is proud to support their initiatives through our grants as they educate and enhance their communities.”



About Queens Public Library

Queens Public Library (QPL) transforms lives by cultivating personal and intellectual growth and by building strong communities. It is one of the largest and busiest public library systems in the United States, dedicated to serving the most ethnically and culturally diverse area in the country. 

An independent, non-profit organization founded in 1896, Queens Public Library offers free access to a collection of more than 5.4 million books and other materials in 200 languages, technology, and digital resources. Prior to the pandemic, the Library hosted more than 87,500 educational, cultural, and civic programs annually and welcomed 11.4 million visitors through its doors.   

Nearly every Queens resident lives within a mile of QPL’s 66 locations, including branch libraries, a Central Library, seven adult learning centers, a technology center located in the nation’s largest public housing complex, two teen centers, two bookmobiles, and a book bicycle. For more information, visit www.queenslibrary.org


About the Institute of Museum and Library Services

The Institute of Museum and Library Services is the primary source of federal support for the nation's libraries and museums. We advance, support, and empower America’s museums, libraries, and related organizations through grantmaking, research, and policy development. Our vision is a nation where museums and libraries work together to transform the lives of individuals and communities. To learn more, visit www.imls.gov and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.


About The Gates Preserve

The Gates Preserve (TGP) is a multimedia company committed to archiving, preserving and repurposing hip hop such that it lasts forever. To learn more, visit www.thegatespreserve.com and follow us on Instagram.