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Saturday, February 6, 2016

Birth of hip hop to be honored with new museum at armory

By Shant Shahrigian
Marisol Díaz/The Riverdale Press
Hip Hop pioneer Melvin Glover, known as Grandmaster Meli Mel, right, speaks about the roots of hip hop next to Curtis Brown, known as Grandmaster Caz, and Councilman Fernando Cabrera on City Hall’s steps.
Marisol Díaz/The Riverdale Press
Joe Conzo, right, who photographed the birth of hip hop, stands next to Jazzy J, part of the Zulu Nation and the rest of the hip hop founders as they receive the city Proclamation.

After months of controversy over efforts to redevelop the Kingsbridge Armory into a massive ice sports arena, one of the key players in the discussions announced a novel use for part of the facility’s large community space last week. Councilman Fernando Cabrera trumpeted a major effort to locate a hip hop museum at the 29 W. Kingsbridge Road site at a spirited City Hall event surrounded by south Bronx pioneers of the genre.

“We’re talking about a place where we’re going to have millions of people,” Mr. Cabrera said on the steps of City Hall on March 12. “We will have tourism go up in the Bronx, economic development, jobs that will be created — and to showcase the child that was born in the Bronx… this wonderful culture called hip hop.”

After giving a dozen south Bronx natives credited with creating the genre honorary proclamations in City Hall’s Council Chambers, Mr. Cabrera let them do the talking.

Some of the artists — from Kevin Donovan, the vocalist and producer known as Afrika Bambaataa, to Theodore Livingston, the DJ known as Grand Wizard Theodore who is credited with making “scratching” a performance technique — enthused about the hip hop museum in rhythmic statements that often bordered on freestyle lyrics.

“We need this hip hop museum to wake up the masses of the people, not just in the Americas, but all over the earth,” Afrika Bambaataa said in his powerful tenor. “People have lost sight of what hip hop is. Most people, when they say hip hop, they just think of a rapper or rap music, but forget about all the elements that deal with hip hop as a culture.”

Rocky Bucano, a major organizer for the museum who received a proclamation for his efforts to promote hip hop, said the museum will focus on dancing, graffiti and other elements of hip hop culture along with the music.

Mr. Cabrera’s chief of staff said in a phone interview that several internationally known stars of the genre have indicated their support of the museum, but added their names would be unveiled as the project gains steam.

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