The Universal Hip-Hop Museum

Bronx, NY. Written by Bolivar T. Caceres.

“Hip-Hop rises on the banks of the Harlem River.”

When now Hip-Hop legend Kool Herc and his cohorts launched the jazz-influenced sounds off Hip-Hop, it was a way to escape their tumultuous lives and penurious living conditions, to bring color through dance, music, and art to their insipid landscape. In the 70s, the Bronx, New York, was a tumbledown mess with no one to care for it or its people. The streets looked war-ridden, like war ghettos. The people were hungry for life, putting graffiti on rambling trains, break dancing on cardboard, and breathing new life into abandoned buildings with live parties. But the people didn’t fathom a whole culture and movement would spawn from their simple ambitions. They didn’t fathom that the color they wished to spread upon their New York City landscape would spread upon the world. But it did, and it’s not letting up!

The evolution of the Hip-Hop movement coincides with the changes the Bronx and its people endured to transform a dilapidated bleak home into a treasure trove of culture. On Thursday, May 20, 2021, “Mayor Bill de Blasio and Bronx Borough President” with Hip-Hop legends, “Grandmaster Flash, Slick Rick, LL Cool J, Chuck D., Nas, and Fat Joe” shoveled ground on the banks of the Harlem River in the South Bronx, where a “22-story building” will stand.

In this monument to the Bronx and its cultural influences, the Universal Hip-Hop Museum will occupy the “ground floor.” The remaining 50 E. 150th street floors will “accommodate 1,045 apartment units, 542 of which will be dedicated to affordable housing.” In addition, the $349 million project, subsidized by “the City of New York, L+M Development, Type A Projects, and Bronxworks,” would “include 2.8 acres of public space, with access to a playground, BBQ areas, and an esplanade along the shoreline.”

While at the ceremony, as Norwood News Journalist Jose A. Giralt relates it, Fat Joe reminisced of his harsh past and that of the Bronx: “Hip-hop music came out of oppression. It came out of people suffering. It came out of the Bronx looking like Vietnam. The buildings were blown up, and the people had to make something of nothing.” From all of that oppression and suffering, the Bronx is only more beautiful today. It’s the home to dedicated and hard-working people, and their favorite team, the New York Yankees. It’s the home of learning institutions like Lehman College, The Bronx Art Museum, The Bronx Zoo, The New York Botanical Garden. And as a symbol of the rise of Hip-Hop, the rise of the Bronx, the Universal Hip-Hop Museum will rise and support more of New York’s people. But this is not the end for Hip-Hop. This is only a milestone in its long history that our children will one day study in Music Class.

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Photo 1, NYTimes: Hip-hop legends, Fat Joe, LL Cool J, and Break ground at the site of the new The Universal Hip-Hop Museum
Photo 2, Rolling Stone, Mock illustration of the facade of 50 E. 150 Street, in the Bronx New York.
Reference: “Politicians, Hip-Hop Legends break ground on new Museum,” Norwood News, PG 9, May 27-June 9, written by Jose A. Giralt.

Bolivar T. Caceres is a Bronx-based artist and writer. His poems appear on ShortEdition and Ariel Chart. He is also the author of the chapbook Outside My Garret Window, published in 2020. He currently writes for the quarterly film blog Film Studies 401 and the news blog New York Positivity. Connect with him on social media @BolivarTCaceres and at www.BtcArt.co.

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