Before hip-hop became a musical genre, it was a form of expression — and an escape — for its early creators in the Bronx.
Now some of those elders of the genre want to underscore its Bronx roots by opening a hip-hop museum inside the Kingsbridge Armory, a long-empty fortress that is being redeveloped into a national ice sports center. The museum — to be called the Universal Hip Hop Museum — would utilize interactive technology to provide a comprehensive look at hip-hop, including its historical and cultural roots and the contributions of break dancers and disc jockeys, according to museum organizers.
“Many people have a misconception of what hip-hop is,” said Afrika Bambaataa, who is often called the godfather of hip-hop and will serve as the museum’s chairman. “When they say hip-hop, they only say it’s the rapper, and there’s a whole culture and movement behind it.”
The plan for the museum was announced by a group of hip-hop artists and their supporters at a news conference in front of City Hall on Wednesday after a City Council ceremony inside to honor the achievements of Mr. Bambaataa and other early hip-hop pioneers, including Grandmaster Melle Mel, Grandmaster Caz and Grand Wizard Theodore. The new museum, which is still being developed, is the latest in a line of efforts to honor hip-hop that date back to at least the mid-1990s.
In a separate project, Craig Wilson, co-founder of the National Museum of Hip-Hop, said that he was in negotiations with developers to open his museum in Harlem, though he added that he would consider a proposed location in the Bronx. But citing studies on foot traffic and tourists, he added that “the numbers in Manhattan make more sense financially than in the Bronx.”
Rocky Bucano, the president of the planned Universal Hip Hop Museum, said that their effort was different because it had the backing of Mr. Bambaataa and other artists who have agreed to serve on an advisory committee for the museum and raise money on its behalf. He said that they hoped to open in the armory by 2017. “Since we started the art form,” he said, “we think we should have the most invested in it.”
The redevelopment of the Kingsbridge Armory will include 52,000 square feet of space dedicated to community use, said Councilman Fernando Cabrera, whose district includes the armory.
Mr. Cabrera said that while he supported the idea of a hip-hop museum, the final decision would be made by an advisory board that was still being appointed to oversee the community benefits from the armory. He added that about a dozen community groups have expressed interest in using space at the armory, including a youth basketball program.
Grandmaster Melle Mel said that a hip-hop museum could draw tourists to the Bronx and become a destination like Yankee Stadium. “If you just keep it on the music level it cheapens it,” he said. “To embrace it as an art form, that’s what makes it a museum.”
krs one speaks on the great hip-hop museum debate