Washington DC has never been a ‘must-see’ destination on my hip-hop sightseeing tour of North America. I figure The Bronx, Harlem World, Compton, Rucker Park, 5Pointz, and the bodega where a 17-year-old Biggie Smalls delivered his dope freestyle would make the list, but now it seems we have to also add the Smithsonian.
Bill Adler, music journalism and former director of publicity at Def Jam Recordings, has a collection of more than 400 photographs representing two decades of hip-hop history. Since closing his Eyejammie Fine Arts Gallery in New York in 2007, the collection has been filed away, but Adler’s collection now gets to see the light again as part of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC).
Adler is something of a hip-hop historian, producing and writing the authorised Run D.M.C. biography and the VH1 documentary series, And You Don’t Stop 30 Years of Hip Hop. He now brings us his extensive collection of rare vintage hip-hop photographs from both amateurs and famous professional photographers, featuring some of hip-hop’s greats like Nas, Eazy E, Jay Z, Queen Latifah, KRS-One, Run D.M.C. and more.
“The Smithsonian has resources that I could never dream of. They’re going to preserve the photos in a way that I couldn’t. They’ve already digitized these materials,” Adler told Smithsonian Magazine. “Soon enough this stuff will be online and the idea that it’s going to be available to anybody anywhere with an interest in this culture. It’s completely thrilling to me.”
An official date for the online release of the collection is yet to be announced but until then, there have been some previews unveiled below like the photo above which features Jaz-O, Queen Latifah and Jay-Z.
The NMAAHC is an extension of the Smithsonian and sits alongside it on the National Mall in Washington, DC. The museum, including the Vintage Hip Hop Photography exhibit, is set to open this fall. Check out the museum’s promo video below.
Image: Smithsonian (Al Pereira)