What do Grandmaster Flash, Mike Tyson, Cee-lo, Nicki Minaj, Prince, President Barack Obama, and Eminem have in common? They each represent some aspect of hip-hop culture, whether it is through politics, sports, entertainment, or music.
The Grammy Museum in Los Angeles is celebrating the culture and lifestyle inspired by hip-hop music in a groundbreaking exhibit named after and based on the release of the first ever hip-hop anthology, "Hip-Hop: A Cultural Odyssey."
The project is one of the first major museum exhibitions to explore four decades of Hip-Hop music in America -- and its impact on the world. Items on display in the exhibit, which opened this week and runs through May 4th, include original, handwritten song lyrics from Tupac Shakur, Grandmaster Flash's turntables, a hip-hop sneaker gallery from the private collection of recording artist Everlast, and the leather jacket and pants worn by Run-DMC during the group's "Walk This Way" Grammy performance with Aerosmith. The exhibit also boasts video and interactive content. The 16 pound, 420-page coffee table attraction was also debuted on Tuesday, in conjunction with the exhibit.
Jordan Sommers, president of Aria Multimedia Entertainment and editor of "Hip-Hop: A Cultural Odyssey," has been a fan of hip-hop his whole life, and wanted to create a piece of history that would not only entertain and educate people, but also spotlight a genre that could arguably be one of the most influential American musical styles of all time.
"I have been a fan and participant in the culture over the last 20-plus years, and watched it evolve and grow from humble beginnings to the globally dominant pop culture that it is today. And I noticed no one had done a definitive tome on hip-hop culture that was the size and scope that it needed to be," Sommers said.
Born in the predominantly black South Bronx area of New York City in the 1970s, the hip-hop sound grew and developed until it quickly became the dominant cultural movement throughout urban communities in the 1980s.
Since then, hip-hop has grown beyond urban communities to become a multi-million dollar industry. Though it has often been surrounded by controversy, hip-hop is ultimately a cultural network that has brought people together from all walks of life, broken down racial barriers, and influenced fashion, language, art movies and even politics.
The luxurious leather-bound piece of history, which is selling for $300, overflows with hundreds of rare photos and 70 essays that cover as many as 30 unique aspects of the culture. The book also profiles 40 "game changing" icons and artists that have contributed to the genre -- from pioneer Afrika Bambaataa, to rappers Kurtis Blow and Big Daddy Kane, and a relatively new MC, Nicki Minaj.
"When my partner, Jeff Wald, and I contacted the Grammy Museum and pitched the idea of doing an exhibit in connection with the book, they loved the idea; they too thought it was long overdue yet the perfect time," Sommers said.
This year marks the 22nd Anniversary of the first Grammy awarded to a rap act -- DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Price for "Parents Just Don't Understand" -- at a time when the mainstream was still leery of the once controversial art form. Since, the awards have evolved in respect to hip-hop, which is evident in this year's nominees Rihanna, Eminem, Jay-Z and Kanye West.
The scope of hip-hop's current reach can be seen in many of the songs that "crossover" into other Grammy categories that appeal to people who would never consider themselves a hip-hop fan.
"20 years ago hip-hop was still on the outside, or underground, however you want to label it," Sommers said. "20 years later, hip-hop has created its own space, its own room, and it's the mainstream that's banging down their door to be a part of it."
"This book means that anyone can accomplish anything they set their mind to," said Sommers. "I think that specifically with hip hip culture, the story of pioneers inspires people. They created an art-form. Like jazz and blues, most of American pop culture has come from the African-American community. They created this culture that's now a billion dollar business -- an inspiring evolution."
Hip-Hop: A Cultural Odyssey is available at www.hiphopculturebook.com