Hip-Hop Museum Preserves Rap Music History in D.C.
THE AFRO — Forty years ago the music world was caught off guard by a genre’ that would change the industry forever.
By Mark F. Gray
Forty years ago, near the end of the Jimmy Carter administration, when the Baltimore Orioles were making a run to the World Series, the music world was caught off guard by a genre’ that would change the industry forever. When the Sugar Hill Gang sampled a hook from Chic’s disco hit Good Times and created lyrics that flowed over the beats to create the iconic hit single Rappers Delight, Hip-Hop music was born.
Jeremy Beaver, owner of Listen Vision Studios in Northwest D.C., has been captivated his entire life by the evolution of what was initially known as rap music. His passion for the music and its cultural impact led to opening a studio across the street from Howard University’s business school on Georgia Ave. Northwest, in a three story brownstone providing artists with a place to record and produce music giving them a chance to break into the business.
Beaver has moved his “Vision” to the next level by creating the Hip-Hop Museum Pop Up Experience which debuts Jan. 18 and runs through Feb. 18 at the Culture House in Southwest, D.C. The interactive experience is expected to give fans an opportunity to understand how the music of urban culture has impacted the world.
“Hip-Hop has moved from the streets of the Bronx in the 1970s to every household in the world 40 years later, and that’s a fascinating phenomenon,” said Beaver. “By creating the Hip-Hop Museum D.C. collection, we hope to contribute to the preservation of Hip-Hop history and culture.”
The month long celebration of Hip-Hop begins with live performances by the Sugarhill Gang, Melle Mel, and Grandmaster Caz, accompanied by D.C.’s legendary go-go band Trouble Funk, who were all signed to Sugarhill Records in the early 1980s. Beaver says this performance will correct a 40-year oversight in Hip-Hop history.
Sugarhill Gang member Big Bank Hank (who died in 2014) used Caz’s lyrics on “Rapper’s Delight,” but Caz was never acknowledged nor paid. When the song was released Caz was the lead member of the Cold Crush Brothers and considered one of the then-underground genre’s most talented lyricists. The debate over rapper’s using “ghostwriters” continues in recent battles between Drake and Meek Mill and Nicki Minaj and Cardi B.
“Caz was one of the original combination of rappers and DJs who was an inspiration to the artists who followed him,” Beaver said. “He’s never gotten credit for the most significant breakthrough commercially successful record to hit billboard’s top 100.”
Opening night also features a live streaming talk show hosted by D.C. native and founder of Source Magazine and the Source Music Awards Dave Mays. Source magazine has long been considered the industry standard publication for Hip-Hop culture. Mays is scheduled to interview the performers and selected guests about the significance of Rapper’s Delight and how it changed the landscape of the music industry 40 years ago.
“It’s important that we recognize and learn more about Hip-Hop’s rich history at a time when the genre has become not only the most popular music on the planet, but a multi-billion dollar global cultural and entertainment force,” said Mays.
Beaver has more than 500 vintage items that comprise the exhibit. The artifacts include boxing gloves from the music video “Mama Said Knock You Out” signed by LL Cool J, a brick from Eminem’s childhood home on 8 Mile Road in Michigan, the leather vest worn by Grandmaster Caz in the classic 1982 Hip-Hop film Wild Style, and what Beaver claims is the world’s largest collection of Hip-Hop sneakers and autographed vinyl record albums and singles.
This article originally appeared in The Afro.