By Athena Dawson | [email protected]
Jamaica Center for Arts and Learning (JCAL) hosted an immersive hip-hop pop-up exhibit at King Manor museum. The exhibit, dubbed “Paths of Rhythm,” features vintage collectibles from Queens-born curators and artists including Geechie Dan, Shenna Vaughn, Luc Stephen, Danny Simmons, Eric Black, Dj Diamond the Artist, and Carolyn “Candy” Johnson. The exhibit opened on November 27th, and welcomed visitors until December 6th.
“Paths of Rhythm” emphasizes the history of hip-hop in Queens. It includes vintage cassette tapes, boom-boxes, magazines and Lee jeans provided by Dan, as well as a graffiti wall and other collectibles that complete the 80’s hip pop aesthetic of the museum.
JCAL’s director of program operations and co-curator of the pop up, Wendy Berot, believes the essence of the museum is 80’s hip-hop nostalgia from Queens.
“Our plan was to recreate a party in the park like they did in the 80’s. Those of us who lived through the 80’s were actually there when hip-hop took another step from the Bronx and spilled out into the other boroughs. That’s why we have the fences here to show things for sale,” she said.
Berot explained how conversations last year about honoring 50 years of hip-hop lead to Councilwoman Nantasha Williams’ proposal of a pop-up museum.
“The idea of the pop-up museum came from her [Williams] because she had visited one in Atlanta. Our next thing was we could do it, but where? And do we have a budget?” Berot said.
The budget for the museum came from Nantasha Williams’ office which allowed JCAL to do “really big things like get all the little artifacts and recreate the scenes,” Berot said.
Geechie Dan’s collectible items were a main focus on bringing all of the moving parts of the exhibit together. He showed off his colorful Lee collection that hung on the fencing, as well as his giant wooden cassette tape, vintage hip-hop magazines and authentic boom boxes. Those were just a few of the items he brought to the exhibit at King Manor.
Dan emphasized how important it is to host the museum in Queens.
“I always felt that Queens heavily contributed to hip-hop on the business aspect of it and we don’t get the accolades in return that we put out from our borough. When we talk about Queens, we are talking about elevating hip-hop to where it is today,” he said.
Throughout his life, Dan’s passion for hip-hop led him to amass a collection of over 1,000 cassette tapes that he feels shaped his lived experiences.
“When I was coming up, Run DMC had just come up on the scene and I was collecting tapes. Majority of these artists were from the Bronx… They were my hip-hop heroes. We emulated what we heard and we gravitated towards that,” he said.
Dan’s passion for hip-hop led him to become the co-chairman for the Hip-Hop Hall of Fame, and create his own hip-hop program playing his tapes on Sirius XM. “Go hard for your passion, go hard for your dreams. It’s not going to be easy, you have to work for it and believe in yourself,” he said.
Dan is hopeful that there will be more hip-hop related museums and exhibits in the future.
“This is nice that we did the first one here, but I’m hoping we can do four or five more [pop-ups], with York College, Laguardia, Queens College and more with JCAL. Let’s see if we can take this to a network.. When I do something I want to take it to another level,” he said.
Editor’s note: A previous version of this article incorrectly referred to Lee jeans as Levi’s, and as DJ Diamond the Artist as DJ Diamond.