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Joe Conzo and Janette Beckman Born in the Bronx: A Visual Record of the Early Days of Hip Hop

PowerHouse Arena
37 Main Street, Brooklyn, 718-666-3049
November 3 - November 11, 2007
Web Site

Hip-hop’s premier photographers have united to celebrate the early days the culture as it first defined itself on the streets of the South Bronx in the 70s and then taking to the recording studios in the 80s. Documenting the culture as it defined itself on it’s own terms, Janette Beckman and Joe Conzo capture the masterminds whose artistic influence and unquestionable legacy have influenced the world over.

In honor of the 34th Zulu Nation Anniversary, powerHouse Books, Rizzoli/Universe, and Wax Poetics invite you to celebrate the launch of The Breaks: Stylin’ and Profilin’ 1982-1990 by Janette Beckman and Born in the Bronx: A Visual Record of the Early Days of Hip Hop by Johan Kugelberg and Joe Conzo with an exhibition at The powerHouse Arena.

About The Breaks by Janette Beckman: In the fall of 1982, celebrated photographer of the British music scene Janette Beckman moved to New York City, where she found hip hop on the edge of explosion. After a decade underground, the DJs, MCs, b-boys, fly girls, and graff writers were finally getting their due from the downtown crowd. While trains were covered in graffiti and boom boxes were blasting on the corners, DJs were up in the clubs while the dancers rocked the floor. Artists were getting signed and local legends were born. And while others called hip hop a fad, Beckman knew better.

Her photographs, collected in The Breaks: Stylin’ and Profilin’ 1982–1990, transport us back to a time before music videos, marketing departments, and uber-stylists took control. The queen of the 80s album cover, Beckman shot the icons of the era: Africa Bambaataa, Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, Fearless Four, the World Famous Supreme Team, Lovebug Starsky, Salt’n’Pepa, Run-DMC, Stetsasonic, UTFO, Roxanne Shante, Sweet T, Jazzy Joyce, Slick Rick, Boogie Down Productions, Eric B. and Rakim, EPMD, NWA, Ice-T, 2 Live Crew, Tone Loc, Gang Starr, Ultramagnetic MCs, Rob Base and DJ EZ Rock, Special Ed, Leaders of the New School, Jungle Brothers, Beastie Boys, Rick Rubin, and countless others. The era was as original as it was innocent, and Beckman’s images remind us of a culture that brought forth The Message before it got Paid in Full.

About the photographer: Londoner Janette Beckman began her career at the dawn of punk rock, working for The Face and Melody Maker. Her portraits celebrating the music and attitude of bands like The Clash, The Sex Pistols, The Jam, The Specials, The Police, The Ramones, and the punk, mod, skinhead, 2-tone, and rockabilly culture in the UK are collected in Made in the UK: The Music of Attitude 1977–1983 (powerHouse Books, 2005). Beckman’s work has appeared in Esquire, Rolling Stone and Glamour, to name a few. She lives and works in New York.

For more information about The Breaks, please contact Sara Rosen, Tel: 212-604-9074×105, email: [email protected]

About Born in the Bronx, Edited by Johan Kugelberg with photographs by Joe Conzo: Hip hop first became a part of the mainstream music industry in the early 1980s, when major record labels released albums from such accessible groups as Run DMC and the Sugarhill Gang. But the true origins of one of the most powerful pop-cultural influences of the 20th century are in the spontaneous, progressive musical cultures that grew out of tough neighborhoods in the Bronx of the 1970s. Born in the Bronx: A Visual Record of the Early Days of Hip Hop is a striking anthology of the baby steps of hip hop that not only captures the emergence of a burgeoning culture but also the fashion and character of the surrounding community.

From rare photographs of rappers and DJs to records, flyers, and other ephemera, writer and curator Johan Kugelberg has pulled together the scattered remains of a movement that never has its eye on posterity. The book includes the improvisational artwork of previously unpublished street flyers of the era, Polaroids buried for decades in basements across the Bronx, and testimonials from influential figures such as LA Sunshine, Grandmaster Caz, and Grandwizzard Theodore, flyer artwork by Buddy Esquire, a hip hop timeline by Jeff Chang, a foreword by Afrika Bambaataa.

Through the work of pioneering photographer Joe Conzo—the man The New York Times calls “the chronicler who took hips hop’s baby pictures”—Born in the Bronx presents a unique cross-section of an explosive and experimental time in music history.

About the author, photographer, and contributors: Johan Kugelberg is a writer and the curator of the exhibition of Joe Conzo’s photographs Born in the Bronx: A Visual Record of Rap. Joe Conzo grew up in the Bronx and is considered hip-hop’s first photographer. His work has appeared on VH1, in the New York Times, VIBE, and Esquire, and in numerous books and exhibits. Afrika Bambaataa is one of the founding fathers of hip hop culture and the creator of the Zulu Nation. Jeff Chang is the bestselling author of the award-winning Can’t Stop Won’t Stop: a History of the Hip-Hop Generation. Buddy Esquire is responsible for some of the most arresting poster designs of the era.
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