Monday, March 23, 2009

'H To The O Double-L-I-S'

From the NY Times:

Hollis, an enclave of 23,000 people in eastern Queens, not far from Jamaica, is a largely African-American neighborhood with a more recent population of West Indian immigrants and a paradoxical character.

The community has a suburban feel and is home to working- and middle-class families who live in snug one- and two-family Colonials with small front lawns. Yet Hollis has long been troubled by drugs and gun violence, which belie the neighborhood’s tranquil appearance and which became especially severe during the crack epidemic of the late ’80s.

Run-DMC and Russell Simmons are local heroes in a community where a strong sense of small-town pride endures among those who have made good. A notable symbol of this pride is the Hollis Hip Hop Museum, a shrine to the neighborhood’s musical past that opened in February inside Hollis Famous Burgers, a restaurant at Hollis Avenue and 203rd Street.

Run-DMC was the first rap group to have a platinum record, the first to have a video on MTV and the first to appear on the cover of Rolling Stone. But the rappers were far from the only performers in Hollis in the early ’80s. In good weather, local parks and street corners were routinely transformed into performance spaces, with D.J.’s plugging in their turntables and M.C.’s rhyming over the beats before a crowd of revelers.

Such scenes no longer play out in Hollis. The new generation of local rappers are more likely to take their music to YouTube or MySpace, and many residents speak wistfully about the neighborhood’s bygone musical heyday and lament a lost sense of community.

9 comments:

Lino said...

"Such scenes no longer play out in Hollis. The new generation of local rappers are more likely to take their music to YouTube or MySpace"

"Music" is a matter perspective in the case of rap.

Those street scenes of playgrounds and lots being turned into "performance spaces" by tapping into street lights for power -disappeared -way- before Youtube or Myspace.

By the time thugs such a "Suge" Knight and Kenneth "Supreme" McGriff had taken over the rap genre and used it to create their own murderous fiefdoms..it had simply become too dangerous to hold these unsecured events.

Eleven year ago, a friend opened a small restaurant in St Albans, he thought it would be a good idea to have a jukebox, in normal neighborhoods that might be true..here it was potentially deadly.

The machine had bee stocked with rap/hip-hop but shortly after it was installed he was visited by thugs who complained that he had "music" from the wrong "crew" and it would be a good idea to remove it..or else.

It had something to do with the east-west coast rap wars that these morons were engaged in. Adult bodies (with weapons) but children's minds.

He removed the jukebox, broke his lease and got out of there.

I wonder if the "shrine" will mention incidents like this...doubt it.

Anonymous said...

I remember when Hollis was white and suburban. I doubt that the pioneering African American families who enduring bigotry, abuse and financial sacrifice to make a good home for their families wanted to be pursued by the same thugs they tried to leave behind.

God bless all hard-working, decent people of all backgrounds, and may the thugs, Bernie Madoffs, bullies, and swindlers go to h@ll and burn there.

Wade Nichols said...

“I’m trying to get kids to understand, this is like Motown,” Orville Hall, the restaurant’s owner,

That's an unfortunate choice for a comparison, Hollis to Motown (Detroit), but ironically appropriate. Detroit is not exactly a city high on anyone's list of places to live, and neither is Hollis.

Let's see - I have a choice this weekend of going to the Metropolitan Museum of Art and having an enjoyable experience, or I can go to the Hollis Hip Hop Museum, and have people stare at me, give me threatening looks, and most likely say nasty things and harass me. Gee, that's a difficult choice!

“This is one of the most music influential neighborhoods in the country.”

Apart from Run DMC, who else? More influential than say, Memphis or New Orleans? I seriously doubt it!

Rock Wangslot said...

... or I can go to the Hollis Hip Hop Museum, and have people stare at me, give me threatening looks, and most likely say nasty things and harass me.

Your fear of (and prejudices about) the Big Mean World outside your comfortable lily cocoon will only limit the range of your experiences. That's okay. Nobody's hurt and nobody really cares.

Anonymous said...

"many residents speak wistfully about the neighborhood’s bygone musical heyday and lament a lost sense of community."


So these people miss the drugs and running gun violence that went hand in hand with the emergence of hip hop?

Sometimes people deserve the awful lot that life gives them.

AFN_Weasel said...

"Yet Hollis has long been troubled by drugs and gun violence, which belie the neighborhood’s tranquil appearance and which became especially severe during the crack epidemic of the late ’80s."

I don't know what you mean by "troubled." It sounds very racist to me. African-Americans enjoy doing drugs, being violent, listening to crappy music, killing each other over trivial nonsense, having crack babies at age 12 and collecting welfare. It's all part of keeping it real. Who are you to criticize their rich culture?

Anonymous said...

I grew up nearby in Queens Village and remember seeing Run DMC driving around and seeing them in stores around town. The were nice when I did meet them even though I was a white kid with long hair and a Pink Floyd shirt on. Later when I was in a band a met Jay Master J in a music studio in Queens. He was cool to us and talked music for a while even though I was playing Rock N Roll. I still think it was cool that all that music comes from Queens at least back then they were not rapping about shooting people. It was just kids making music. Its a shame that the neighborhood got so bad in the late 80's and 90's but I do hope things can get better

Anonymous said...

I don't know what you mean by "troubled." It sounds very racist to me. African-Americans enjoy doing drugs, being violent, listening to crappy music, killing each other over trivial nonsense, having crack babies at age 12 and collecting welfare. It's all part of keeping it real. Who are you to criticize their rich culture?

Welcome Home to Queens Crap!

PrytiBrownIs said...

Re: Wade Nichols
You obvioulsy speak from a point of view that knows nothing about the culture. Run DMC yes, but as well as Russel Simmons, you have LL Cool J, Ja Rule, the Gotti Brothers of Murder Inc. and alot of local artists that have not made it to YOUR tv screen or radio but are icons to those of us that grew up with them living and breathing the culture.