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Smithsonian to collect hip-hop relics in NY

Pioneering artists to give items to National Museum of American History
/ Source: The Associated Press

MC Lyte’s diary has been donated to the Smithsonian Institution, as well as a turntable, vinyl records and other memorabilia from her fellow hip-hop pioneers, for a collection that will trace the history of the Bronx-born music genre.

The contributions, which also include artifacts from Afrika Bambaataa and Grandmaster Flash, were displayed at a Manhattan news conference Tuesday.

Ice-T and six other hip-hop stars looked on as the artifacts — some of which collected dust for decades in boxes and attics — were turned over to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History, for a project called “Hip-Hop Won’t Stop: The Beat, The Rhymes, The Life.”

“Now, any time someone asks me about my music, I will be able to say...” — go to the museum, said Ice-T, finishing his comment with expletives.

“It’s here to stay, and it’s part of American culture just like jazz is part of American history,” Valeska Hilbig, a National Museum spokeswoman, declared Monday.

The collected objects trace the evolution of hip-hop from its origins in the Bronx in the 1970s to its current global reach. The project is expected to cost as much as $2 million and take up to five years to complete.

Museum officials have yet to raise the money, which will come from private donors. The funds will pay for artifacts, as well as to record oral histories, hold consultations with advisory groups and mount an exhibit telling hip-hop’s story.

The exhibition grew out of conversations between Brent D. Glass, the national museum’s director, and his childhood friend Mark Shimmel, of Mark Shimmel Music, museum curator Marvette Perez said.

Besides records, boom boxes, microphones and turntables, Perez requested hip-hop’s early artists to offer photographs, posters, handwritten lyrics, clothing and costumes, videos and interviews and business and personal letters.

Hip-hop impresario Russell Simmons called the Smithsonian’s recognition a “great statement for hip-hop.”

“It’s not a signal to the end of hip-hop,” said Simmons, co-founder of the Def Jam label. “We know it will be a lasting fixture. And it should be. All over the world hip-hop is expression of young people’s struggles, their frustrations and opinions.”

The Smithsonian isn’t the only museum with an interest in hip-hop culture. In the fall of 2000, the Brooklyn Museum of Art put on “Hip-Hop Nation: Roots, Rhymes & Rage.” In June the museum plans to showcase an exhibition of graffiti art, spokesman Adam Husted said.

The Museum of the City of New York plans to hold “Black Style Now” in September on hip-hop’s impact on fashion and black fashion designers. And the Experience Music Project, an interactive music museum in Seattle, has featured exhibitions on hip-hop, Perez said.