Queens Public Library launches six-month celebration for 50 years of hip-hop

Public Enemy founder Chuck D will join McDaniels to discuss his new PBS docuseries on hip-hop at the Central Library in Jamaica. (Courtesy of QPL)

The pantheon of legendary hip-hop and rap royalty from Queens includes Run-DMC, A Tribe Called Quest, Nas, LL Cool J, 50 Cent, Ja Rule, Mobb Depp and Niki Minaj, among others.

On Friday, Queens Public Library announced a partnership with more than 30 organizations nationwide – including libraries, museums, colleges, universities, and archives – to commemorate the 50th anniversary of hip-hop. The goal is to recognize hip-hop’s global artistic and cultural impact since its birth.

(Photo courtesy of QPL)

In the Bronx on August 11, 1973, 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– and hip-hop was born.

As part of the six-month celebration titled “Collections of Culture: 50 Years of Hip Hop Inside Libraries, Museums and Archives,” participating institutions will host dozens of in-person and virtual programs. Funded through a $267,760 grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), programs will include panel discussions, author talks, educational forums, and workshops examining the genre’s history and influence on American culture.

There will also be a focus on the varying contributors to the hip-hop movement, such as musicians, DJs, dancers, MCs, graffiti artists, stylists, directors, photographers, entrepreneurs, and educators.

“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 our partners for their tremendous support in making sure that hip hop remains part of our culture for generations to come.”

In recognition of the vital role of Queens communities in hip-hop’s ascension from a local art form to an international phenomenon, QPL established a hip-hop program in 2015 when hiring its first-ever hip-hop coordinator– Ralph McDaniels, also known as “Uncle Ralph.”

Queens Public Library hip hop coordinator Ralph McDaniels is considered one of the culture’s gatekeepers. (Photo courtesy of QPL)

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.

“Hip-hop has been a learning tool for many years,” McDaniels said. “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.”

QPL also preserves hip-hop’s legacy in Queens through its collection of photographs, periodicals, audio tapes, videotapes, 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. The recordings will be cataloged in QPL’s Digital Hip Hop Archive.

“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.

The celebration kicks off Monday when hip-hop pioneer and Grammy Award winner Chuck D joins McDaniel to explore the history of hip-hop and the genre’s success on the first floor of Central Library, located at 89-11 Merrick Blvd. in Jamaica from 5 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.

The Public Enemy founder will discuss his new PBS docuseries, “Fight the Power: How Hip Hop Changed the World,” which examines the relationship between hip-hop and the political history of the U.S., tracing the genre from its start as an underground movement to its emergence as one of the most influential music categories in the world.

For more information on the events scheduled, visit the QPL website here.