50 years ago, DJ Kool Herc hosted a party in the Bronx that’s gone down in history as the birth place of hip hop. Since that day, the genre has been unstoppable, going on to influence all areas of popular culture, from music, film and fashion, to the world of modern art.
To celebrate this anniversary, at Enter Gallery this week we’re hailing all things hip hop with a collection of limited edition art inspired by the genre. Our collection includes two exclusive new pieces from RYCA, Hipfuckinhop and Sources of Hip Hop – an artwork which portrays the fundamental ingredients of hip hop, and its five pillars – MCing, DJing, graffiti, breakdancing and beatboxing.
In today’s blog, we’re diving a little deeper and exploring a selection of works that feature in this specially-curated collection.
Let's start with RYCA, an artist whose love of hip hop permeates his oeuvre. His hip hop homages include limited edition prints, traditional signs and sculptures of some of hip hop’s biggest legends, including Tupac and Biggie Smalls.
Earlier this year at his Words Are Weapons typography show at Enter Gallery, there were a number of pieces in the show immortalising the lyrics of hip hop stars, including Wu-tang Clan, MF Doom and Kendrick Lamar.
Tape Deck Art
Tony Dennis aka Tape Deck Art is a contemporary artist who channels his passion for music into making hand-painted 3D pin badges based on vintage designs.
In recent years, we’ve seen Tape Deck represent the hip hop world, with giant badges created for the likes of Run DMC and Beastie Boys and also badge sets that bring together the greats.
In Paid in Full 1979-89, which is named after Eric B and Rakim’s iconic 1987 album, Tape Deck lauds hip hop legends that define the genre, from Big Daddy Kane and Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, to Ice T and NWA.
Another set perfect for hip hop heads is his New York, Hip Hop Badge Set, which recreates badges from some of the biggest names coming out of the East Coast: Beastie Boys, De La Soul, Public Enemy and Run DMC.
Michael Ochs began his career managing his brother – well-known folk singer, Phil Ochs. This led to roles heading PR departments for some of the biggest record companies in the US, including Columbia Records and ABC, and writing gigs for the likes of Melody Maker and Variety.
This experience within the entertainment industry gave Ochs unprecedented access to the icons that we see in his extensive photographic archive, with him capturing everyone from Marilyn Monroe and Elvis, to Salvador Dali and Malcolm X.
Ochs was also around to photograph hip hop’s stratospheric rise. His archive includes a who’s-who of the biggest names in hip hop, from LL Cool J, Ice Cube and Doug E. Fresh, to this snap of Ad-Rock from the Beastie Boys spraying the crowd at the Hollywood Palladium in 1987. Ochs was also invited to snap behind-the-scenes photos on the sets of music videos for the likes of Public Enemy and Run DMC.
Ghetto Sounds by Dirty Hans is the dream piece for anyone who lives and breathes hip hop. As well as obvious nods to the genre, what makes Hans' work so special is his unique knack for including more cryptic clues that reveal themselves over time.
This fun piece pays homage to hip hop and the street culture that surrounds it, with nods to its leading voices, fashion, sports teams, and the art that it has inspired.
Hip hop was born in historically marginalised communities, so of course, one aspect it is formed on is a sense of empowerment and visibility. This leads us to graffiti, an art form born from the desire to carve out an identity, communicate a political message, or simply to say, ‘I am here and this is what I think’.
Whether it was live painting on stage, backdrops for music videos, or album artwork, everywhere that hip hop has gone, graffiti has always been along for the ride.
Internationally-renowned for his mind-bending street art, in Weapon of Choice, Fanakapan teams up with Nuno Viegas to pay homage to the spray can. This life-like recreation of a crushed spray can conveys just how powerful a tool graffiti is for communicating what matters to you.
We can’t talk about graffiti without mentioning Brighton’s most prolific graffiti artist, Aroe.
Aroe first picked up a spray can at just 13, inspired by hip hop, and in particular Malcolm McLaren’s Buffalo Gals video, which features graffiti, scratching and breakdancing.
Since then, Aroe has been a member of world-famous crew, MSK, and co-founded Heavy Artillery, the UKs most notorious graffiti crew.
Listen to any hip hop record and you can see that hip hop is all about identity and ways to express that identity. The hip hop community believe that people can take control of their lives through self-knowledge and self-expression, which is perfectly demonstrated by legendary MC – KRS-One, whose initials stand for ‘Knowledge Reigns Supreme’.
This piece by Brighton-artist, Mike Edwards, aptly-named Two Turntables and a Microphone, succinctly sums up the hip hop community’s way of thinking. As Edwards explains:
“It doesn't matter what tools are used for that expression, whether it's a painting, a book, or literally two turntables and a microphone on a street corner, that channel to express ourselves always needs to be open.”
Another Enter Gallery artist who was drawn to graffiti when he discovered hip hop culture is Mr Cenz – an artist known for futuristic, photorealistic pieces that celebrate universal beauty and unity.
It’s Like A Jungle not only celebrates The Message – one of hip hop’s seminal tracks by Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, but it combines graffiti with an evocative sense of the feeling you get when you connect to a track.
Any hip hop star worth their mustard has a fashion collaboration under their belt, and no collaboration is more desirable than Air Jordans.
The Air Jordan 1’s, Michael Jordan’s signature shoe, depicted here by Jack Stocker, were released in 1985 just as hip hop was rising to prominence.
Ever since, Nike have been turning to the rap world to help them design new Jordans, leading to popular collaborations with the likes of Eminem, Drake, Travis Scott and Chance the Rapper.
Furthermore, the Jordan brand recently announced they are commemorating the 50th anniversary of hip hop with an exclusive auction of Air Jordans dedicated to The Notorious B.I.G.