The Bronx will be recognized for its role in the creation of Hip-Hop, in a "Place Of Invention" exhibit at the Smithsonian.
The Bronx has been an important fixture in the creation of hip-hop since the early beginnings of the genre. The New York borough is finally getting some recognition in the role it played in birthing the genre, as it will be honored at the Smithsonian as a "Place Of Invention" in regards to its pioneering status in rap.
The Bronx will be honored alongside other "hot spots" of innovation such as Hollywood and Silicon Valley, in the exhibit which will take place at the Smithsonian’s Lemelson Center in Washington, D.C. “The Bronx (in the 1970s) is an interesting contrast to Silicon Valley, which is kind of the stereotypical example,” said Laurel Fritzsch, the curator of the Bronx portion of the exhibit. “Inventors in the Bronx had a lot of hands-on skills and were able to apply that in ways that led to the creation of these innovative sound systems.”
Fritzsch spoke of the influence of early Bronx DJs on later music technology. With Grandmaster Flash constructing his own mixer with spare parts, and DJ Kool Herc using Jamaican sound systems that helped define the distinct sounds DJs would use for years to come. “Modern mixers and a lot of the speakers and sound systems came out of what (early DJs) created,” he revealed.
Along with boomboxes, vinyl, hip hop flyers and videos, the exhibit will feature music systems powered by streetlamps, a method early DJs used, hotwiring the fixtures to power their DJ equipment.
“I think it’s really cool that they’re doing something like this,” said Grand Wizzard Theodore, who is known for the invention of scratching. “People need to know the history behind it all.”
The DJ expressed that scratching, and other elements of the beginnings of hip hop have not had enough exposure, especially to younger generations.
“Scratching plays such a major part in DJing,” he said. “It gives you the chance to express yourself, the chance to get into mixing. It’s just so important no matter the genre of music you’re into.”
Fordham University’s Mark Naison also had praise for the exhibit, offering kind words for the Bronx pioneers.
“There was all this inventing going on at the time so it makes perfect sense that they’re honoring the Bronx,” said Naison, professor of African American Studies and History. “It’s a wonderful thing they’re doing.”