BOOK REVIEW: Born In The Bronx

The average Hip-Hopper may not know the pioneers as well as he or she should, but that lack of awareness does not mean our forefathers have not been properly archived. Right, Joe Conzo?  While Busy Bee, Grandmaster Caz and Grand Wizard Theodore were creating an aerie of classic Hip-Hop, Conzo was right there saying, “Cheese!” Conzo was the cat snapping photos when fellaz were grabbing the mic and ciphering, before anybody had the inkling to ask, “Hey, who is documenting all this?”   His photos are now Born In The Bronx: A Visual Record of the Early Days of Hip Hop (Universe), a book edited by Johan Kugelberg cataloguing snapshots, graffiti flyers, and advertisements for park jams and DJ functions at building rec centers. The impressive photo book also includes a thoroughly researched Hip-Hop timeline by Jeff Chang, the posterboy of Hip-Hop historians that dates back before 1973 BH (Before Hip Hop).It’s an ineffable feeling seeing rare photos of early b-boys popping and locking, emcees quartets grabbing the mic in four part harmony, handwritten raps from the early 80’s, and crates of old school vinyl. Thanks to Conzo’s film roll and Chang’s timeline, few can complain about Hip-Hop’s apocryphal origins. Timeline entries like “1973: Cindy Campbell throws a back to school party at Sedgwick  & Cedar; her brother DJ Kool Herc spins records,” leave little room for uncertainty about Hip-Hop’s beginnings. JDL, LA Sunshine, and Jorge “POPMASTER FABEL” Pabon, all give their stamp of approval for the surviving pictures and reminisce on photos from hot spots on Jerome Ave to T Connection to Ecstacy Garage Disco. It’s enough to mess around and overdose on nostalgia.Considering all this hubbub with 1520 Sedgwick Ave. and its struggle to be recognized as a historic landmark, Born in the Bronx could not have come at a better time. Hip-Hop’s veterans do not arrogate Hip-Hop’s creation for themselves; cats like Grand Wizard Theodore who invented scratching are proud of his achievements but also recognize the great achievements of his peers. Born in the Bronx shows that If Hip-Hop is indeed American History, the Bronx is 1600 Pennsylvania Ave and the pioneers need their monuments.  

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