The year hip-hop turns 50, a librarian at Riverdale/Kingsbridge Academy brought back the Bronx beat to honor Black History month.
“We wanted to make sure that we were at the forefront here in the school, being up on that 50th anniversary — August 11, 1973 hip-hop will be 50 years old,” said Julia Loving, RKA librarian and media specialist.
If you want to know anything about hip-hop, most people in the Bronx believe Loving is the person to go to, because she knows just about everything growing up in the 1970s and ’80s. She can easily remember the dance moves where she “hurt her neck” and when she wanted to go to the jams.
“I remember seeing old school flyers, waiting for the 41 bus near Glen Hill Road in White Plains Road because that’s where they would have hip-hop jams,” Loving said.
These jams were in the park, recreation rooms, someone’s building or apartment. Even schools like Morris High School used to have hip-hop jams.
However, Loving made RKA’s library stand out. Twelve Black Student Union & Allies Club students were responsible for creating the hip-hop exhibit.
For about three weeks, about one dozen tri-fold presentation boards, school flyers and records representing different eras and elements of hip-hop were displayed.
Students worked on the project once a week from October. In January, they worked “hard on it,” Loving told The Riverdale Press.
A record player that is in excellent condition served as a prop that Loving called “my collections” and “stuff” with two 33-rpm record albums including Sugar Hill Gang’s, “Rapper’s Delight” and Funk Four + 1’s “It’s the Joint,” which went gold in the late 1970s and early 1980s
Students could dress up in hip-hop fashion as well if they wanted and pose for a photo in front of a backdrop. There was even a card box on the floor for break dancing.
“I feel like we’re living out our history, because it pretty much all started in the South Bronx,” said student Emanuel Opoku.
Mitchell Jefferson, student president of the Black Student Union & Allies Club, said he knew the basic knowledge and history of hip-hop. But he learned new things, too.
“This art form is coming from the South Bronx,” Loving said.
“The buildings are burning — that’s a decade of fire, schools were in shambles with the lack of teachers, resources and music programs due to a city-wide crisis.”
“When you think of it, you think about the, the trauma, but you also think about how these kids — from the 70s — decided to come up with something that would become healing and joyful, they were resilient.”
The city-wide financial and cultural crisis directly impacted New York City redlining in neighborhoods and disinvestment in Black and Brown communities, where most landlords tried to collect fire insurance after their buildings burned down.
DJ Kool Herc was only 18 when he was credited for bringing hip-hop to the Bronx. But Loving doesn’t want to leave out Grandmaster Flash with his friend Grand Wizard Theodore, who blue-printed hip-hop by creating scratching techniques while DJing.
And there was Afrika Bambaataa, who was the visionary who helped the Bronx’s youth away from “gang life.”
“They persevered in a way, and kept doing their thing — here we are 50 years later and we realized how much it actually has helped us and hip-hop was actually really good for New York,” said Xavier Gomes, who worked on the 1990s portion of the history project with fellow students Myles Cameron and Armani Caceres.
Early hip-hop artists were prone to discrimination and disrespect by the music industry early on.
“I remember when hip hop wouldn’t be played on the radio,” Loving said. “They separated ‘MTV raps’ from MTV.”
As the Bronx resonated with hip-hop, music critics were confident it wouldn’t last. Loving explained that Grandmaster Flash said 50 years ago people thought hip-hop would be a sailing ship.
Gene Simmons of the rock group “KISS” did not believe it would survive either.
Jefferson researched how hip-hop in the media can be portrayed and adversely affect how people view Black culture.
Loving helped him find particular articles about rapper KRS-One.
After hip-hop gained popularity, violence and incidents occurred. There was an anti-rap backlash from the media. That’s when KRS-One created “Stop the violence movement.”
As hip-hop continued, it was done with elements. Loving explained that there are four basic elements. Graffiti, breakdancing, DJing and MCing. However, three more were added to the list: self-knowledge of history, entrepreneurship and fashion.
“What I really learned most about black passion and hip-hop was that it’s kind of timeless.” Jefferson said explaining hip-hop fashion.
Sportswear fashion emerged in the hip-hop scene on such brands as Adidas. As did oversized T-shirts Timberland boots and denim.
Today vinyl records are rising in popularity, and it’s not because of Baby Boomers who are nostalgic. Although the albums can be pricey, the comeback for today’s younger generation may have to do with sound quality.
Break-dancing emerged from hip-hop culture in the 1970s — yet it is still alive and thriving. It evolved from block parties in the Bronx, where it turned into competitions. Now considered a sport called breaking by the International Olympic Committee, it will be part of the 2024 summer games in Paris. It made its Olympic debut at the Youth Olympic Games in Buenos Aires in 2018.
RKA student Hailey Alvarado created a project on 2000 to 2010 rap music that focused on the best hip-hop album. She wound up printing out photos for a collage.
“I learned that there were a lot of people just other than Eminem,” Alvarado said.
Eminem is one of her favorite rappers, as she is named after his daughter, Hailie Mathers.
“I just think hip hop is something that’s continually being engineered into something new, hip hop isn’t a monolith,” said Jefferson. “There’s different worlds of hip-hop.”