Thursday, July 26, 2007

Hip-hop huh?

Ex-tenant DJ Kool Herc's parties in the building's rec room were hip-hop's Big Bang...

The Bronx address is now eligible for the State and National Register of Historic Places and could even, despite its tender age, squeak by as a National Historic Landmark.

Will Hip-Hop Landmark Be Saved From the Open Market?

Not sure I understand why a guy hosting hip hop parties in the 1970s makes this building eligible for listing on the national register. Over in Queens, many historical buildings have failed to "meet the eligibility criteria," meaning that they were found to not be "associated with events that have made a significant contribution to the broad pattern of our history" or disqualified for some other stupid reason. A Richard Upjohn church, a theater connected to the 1939 World's Fair? These things shouldn't be preserved in their twisted way of thinking.

Hip-Hop Founder Kool Herc Want His Home Declare National LandMark Status be eligible for the National Register, a building normally has to be at least 50 years old. The Sedgwick building falls short of that by 12 years. Exceptions are made for extraordinary cultural significance.

“It is complicated when you try to preserve some other feature of a building besides its architecture,” said Lisa Kersavage, a preservationist at the Municipal Art Society of New York. “But this is a very important cultural touchstone for New York, and awareness should be raised.”

(Of course, Municipal Art Society is thrilled with the Bronx designation.)

Photo from


Anonymous said...

As an old 40s
song lyric pronounces, it's ".....That Old Black Magic...." .

Toss a community or an ethnic group a bit of TOKEN recognition while witholding REAL economic, educational, etc. opportunities and you've maintained the STATUS QUO .....a de-facto underclass !

By all means..... this site deserves to be recognized as a part of AMERICAN musical & performance history along with the older "mainstream" White icons !

Anonymous said...

It's politically correct to recognize things associated with black culture. Middle class white ain't alright.

Anonymous said...

I'm sure there are people in Brooklyn who swear that hip hop started there.

Anonymous said...

That is because our preservation leadership is lousy, always showing up hat in hand writing petitions, and never being expected to show real results.

Replace them already!

Anonymous said...

Among other things many hip-hop songs encourage hatred towards police officers, like the one who was ruthlessly gunned down just recently. Should we really be honoring such hate-mongering music by giving landmark status to a converted laundry room?

Anonymous said...

I'm not trying to say there aren't dozens of sites across Queens and the city that also deserve designation, there are, but to dismiss the city giving the Kool Herc site a nod as solely a politically correct, racially-biased decision is totally baseless and ignorant.
It's widely documented that the hip-hop scene was birthed in the Bronx in the 70s as a reactionary movement to the social and cultural unrest of the time. Kool Herc was an innovater, and further, a father of a cultural institution that has developed into a worldwide phenomenon — one that I might add transcends racial barriers within the youth of this country. So why not hold it up alongside something like the Louis Armstrong House?
I'm also not saying that hip-hop's image is squeaky clean, it isn't by a long shot. Misogyny and violence are prevalent among the scene currently, but it's certainly not saturating. How do you make a blanket statement about an entire music genre like that? What about popular artists like Mos Def and Talib Kweli, who bring a socially conscious and progressive mentality to their work? What about Queens' own Russell Simmons, who among other socially beneficial actions, has single handedly revitalized the poetry scene for a new generation in this country?
You also can't compare hip-hop's beginnings to where it is today. Kool Herc was instrumental in starting something that did more than give African-American youth of the 70s and 80s a creative outlet for their angst and frustration, it gave people hope in a time and a place where all that surrounded them seemed hopeless.
If that's not a basis for saving something, through landmark status or otherwise, I don't know what is.

Anonymous said...

Yeah funny how the NYS Parks Commissioner didn't suggest allowing the building to be torn down and putting a plaque there commemorating the spot. That's what they do for the other sites that aren't deemed "worthy" enough for designation.

Anonymous said...

The Louis Armstrong House, based on its appearance and the fact that it was "altered beyond recognition" should not have been landmarked. But the person connected with it wasn't white, so there you go.

Anonymous said...

The city didn't give the Kool Herc site a nod. The state did.

Anonymous said...

Hey I am into music history, and if this was a club, I'd say why not? But it's a LAUNDRY ROOM. Why is the entire building designated because of one room which probably doesn't look anything like it did in the 1970s?

Anonymous said...

If the covers were on those air conditioners, they would say "Fedders". Isn't it great that we now have a site on the national register that is a Fedders special!

Anonymous said...

Hip-hop was born in the Bronx, but it grew up in Queens; Hollis, Queens. (Brooklyn slept until a decade later)

Not sure why Herc was chosen over Flash or Bambaataa though.

Anonymous said...

They chose a fugly housing project over a Victorian church in Maspeth??

I'm sure that with the millions he has earned through rapping, Kool Herc is laughing in his mansion at the landmarking of the ugly project in which he was raised.

Anonymous said...

Yo yo yo you know what I am sayin...yo

Anonymous said...

So how about landmarking the Queensbridge Housees?

Anonymous said...

I've personally exhibited in Danny Simmons' (Russell's brother) "Rush Arts Gallery" in Chelsea ....and I'M "WHITE" and 60 years old !

If I can keep an open mind.... I invite some of you to do the same !

Sorry folks....Hip Hop is poetry !

You may not like some of its message (and I agree with you on this point) but accepted poets like William Shakespeare etc. didn't exactly hold back on violent imagery either i.e. "Macbeth"!

Yeah I know somebody out there is going to say....'"How dare you compare Shakespeare to Hip Hop?" !

The day that e.e.cummings dispensed with punctuation or Picasso exhibited "Les Damoiselles D' Avignon" the establishment literary and art community was in an uproar !

At the premiere performance of "Le Sacre du Printemps" ("Rites of Spring Ballet"....during which a virgin is depicted dancing herself to death) , Igor Stravinsky was hissed and boo-ed and most of the audience walked out !

Like everything else....there's good Hip Hop and bad Hip Hop.....makers and fakers !

It's all a matter of skill and talent !

Anonymous said...

Hip hop music is unique, powerful, and at times hypnotic. But it is in no way shape or form poetic, and certainly can't be compared to works produced by Shakespeare and Picasso. What defines the works of these great artistic geniuses and others like them is that they delve beneath the surface of things and get at the essence of existence. Hip hop simply doesn't do this. It focuses on everyday concerns, facing everyday people, which is commendable, but simply put it is not art. It just doesn't delve deep enough, unlike jazz. Listen to some licks by Parker or Diz and you'll see what I mean.

Anonymous said...

Its why the midwestern farm kids move to a Queens neighborhood and gush poetic at over a Bangladeshi taxi noodle palace, or a Mexican restaurant catering to 'guest workers.'

Its upper middle class white people slumming. How exotic! How sexy! How it stirs my tepid soul!

Some Polack from Glendale?

Boring. A joke. A frozen smile.

Anonymous said...

"Last anonymous"......

You sound a trifle (excuse me) non accepting and are denying yourself some enjoyment by adopting such surprisingly restrictive attitudes!

I'm not forcing you to like hip hop music !

I have listened to those jazz "licks" you've mentioned along with Palestrina, Bach, Beethoven, Mozart, Rogers & Hammerstein, Sinatra, Cole Porter, Elvis, Little Richard, James Brown,The Beatles (heard them live) etc. !

So let's both stop fencing and showing off our musical and artistic tastes !

I'm merely stating that I'm making room for the acceptance of "GENIUS" in all categories and levels of the arts including Hip Hop.

If you choose not to.....
you're bereft for your omission!

Enjoy your jazz (and mine Parker and Diz are musical "saints") !
I once heard Dave Brubeck performing "Take 5"etc. at Randall's Island in (?) 1960 and began listening to Miles Davis when I was just 15 years old .

WOW ! I love it ALL !!!

Kosmos said...

The last comment was on point.

The combination of Music and Verse, is, literally, healing - speaking here of the best of Hip Hop. Read: The Mozart Effect.

To speak in sweeping generalities is pointless except to exhibit ignorance of the subject matter one is professing to make objective comments about, while, in actuality, only expressing subjective impressions filtered through the painful lack of cogent and intelligent analysis and experience. To say one does not like Hip Hop – perfectly fine – is very different than saying that Hip Hop music is lacking in this or that respect, when it is simply that the person so saying hasn’t listened carefully and widely enough.

How can one say that ALL of Hip Hop is not poetic? Have you listened to all of it? The convention of language, the metered writing, the un-metered writings, the intentional run on sentences, the grammatically deft sentences, the manipulation of imagery and sound, the verbification of nouns, the invention of words, the burlesque in it that is funny and not misogynist, even the burlesque in it that is misogynist, has roots in, yes, the time of Chaucer, Shakespeare; the music itself, syncopated and not, sonically dense (think, as one example, Bomb Squad productions and Public enemy); the progressive social commentary - Talib, Mos, De La Soul, The Last Poets, MC Lyte, Lauryn Hill, The Orishas, Arrested Development - and so many others who don't get radio play in this and almost every other country on the planet; the visual media adoption as further enhancement of sonically interesting (which is often linguistically interesting)... thinking about some of the videos of Missy Elliot - which may not be Luis Buñuel and may be only distantly related and influenced by the spirit of that visual genius but is note worthy in and of itself without the more ostensibly creative sonic and verbal mechanisms utilized in Hip Hop. The adoption of odd musical beat accents (popularly pioneered by James Brown) brought to a high art by the likes of the genius Ornette Coleman, gets expression in Hip Hop too. The entire movement itself - perhaps one of the most viable musical social phenomena in many a decade - is, as a whole (and now I, too, speak impressionistically) "poetic"; and like all interesting movements you have the bad and you have the good, and condemning or casting aspersions on the former by the regrettable and perhaps intentionally programmed experience (think music company influence over what gets marketed and what does not) of the latter, is self-limiting and towing the line of complacency. We are not even speaking of B-Boying and B-Girling and Graffiti and progressive social movements born alongside and out of Hip Hop, and the entire milieu which helped Mid-Wife all of it into the unstoppable momentous expression and the self-preservationist prophylaxis against (that part of the American society which is) repressively suffocating with its materialistic and hypocritically & economically racist policies - internal and external. Aside all of this (and this only scratches the surface) who can resist the Good Nature of so much of it - starting with Rapper's Delight! Hip Hop is simply too broad and too old to be cast aside as not poetic, as not viable, as not creative, as not important.

That a public housing works building, in its claustrophobic dimensions and jail-like institutional fortress-like brick construction wants to be preserved, seems not wrong-headed but precisely on-point, since something as multifaceted and influential and important as Hip Hop in combination with less than (always) ideal social circumstances becomes testament to the sheer indomitability of the human spirit to be creative no matter what those circumstances. Indeed those circumstances - the sum total of the ideal and the not so ideal - is part of what helps make Hip Hop as infectious and worthy of more than just fleeting (I only like to dance to it) respect.

Who would of thunk it that a world force, such as Hip Hop, would have been born in da South Bronx!?!?!?!

Definitions of poetry on the Web:
• literature in metrical form
• any communication resembling poetry in beauty or the evocation of feeling
• Poetry (ancient Greek: ποιεω (poieo) = I create) is an art form in which human language is used for its aesthetic qualities in addition to, or instead of, its notional and semantic content. It consists largely of oral or literary works in which language is used in a manner that is felt by its user and audience to differ from ordinary prose.
• Poetry, published in Chicago, Illinois, is one of the leading monthly poetry journals in the English-speaking world.
• Familiar favorites in verse! Search for a poem by keywords, or search for a poet by going to The Contents Pages and then to the alphabetical listings of poets. There is also extensive cross-referencing within the poems, leading the reader to explore other poems with the same theme. If you prefer to just browse, you can do that as well.
• Traditional poetry is language arranged in lines, with a regular rhythm and often a definite rhyme scheme. Nontraditional poetry does away with regular rhythm and rhyme, although is usually is set up in lines. The richness of its suggestions, the sounds of its words, and the strong feelings evoked by its line are often said to be what distinguish poetry from other forms of literature. Poetry is difficult to define, but most people know when they read it.
• texts in rhythmic form, often employing rhyme and usually shorter and more concentrated in language and ideas than either prose or drama
• a literary expression in which words are used in a concentrated blend of sound and imagery to create an emotional response
• 1. the art of creating poems. Note: One function of poetry is to present images concretely (Holman & Harmon, 1992). 2. literature in metrical form‹verse of "high merit"‹the major forms of which are epic, dramatic, and lyric in poetry. Note: While all poetry is verse, verse such as doggerel is not poetry. 3. the art of recording and transmitting poems. 4. something that has poetic qualities, as prose poetry, the poetry of ballet. See also poem; verse. adj. poetic; poetical.
• A type of literature that is written in meter.
• poetry is basically anything that calls itself a poem. Poems usually use language in a much richer way than prose, often with rhythm, metre, rhyme, imagery and figures of speech. Poems are usually laid out in separate lines, so that the breaks come where the poet chooses rather than where good grammar might put them. When quoting poetry show the line breaks with a forward slash mark ‘/’
• An imaginative response to experience reflecting a keen awareness of language. Its first characteristic is rhythm, marked by regularity far surpassing that of prose. Poetry’s rhyme affords an obvious difference from prose. Because poetry is relatively short, it is likely to be characterized by compactness and intense unity. Poetry insists on the specific and the concrete. See Prose, Meter's%20Classes/literary_terms_glossary.htm
• One of the most popular definitions remains that made by William Wordsworth in the introduction to the second edition of Lyrical Ballads in 1802: 'Poetry is the spontaneous outflow of powerful feelings: it takes its origins from emotion recollected in tranquillity'. I prefer something more playful, like Jeremy Bentham's 'Prose is when all the lines except the last go on to the end. Poetry is when some of them fall short of it'. Even this would ignore sound poetry and other forms. ...

Anonymous said...

Really cool that you're into Diz and Parker, and saw Brubeck live! Having gained my respect I will take your statements about hip hop seriously and do some research on it, along with tracking down some classic recordings in the genre, with help of kosmos' comment.

I don't promise any change of attitude though. Unlike yourself I am rather close-minded in regards to my musical and artistic tastes, more and more so as I grow older, sigh.

PS I did catch one ol' hip hop song on cable the other day that I really dug: NWA's "Straight out of Compton." Even though it encouraged hostility towards cops, I really dug the rappers' sheer, unapologetical fury. Awesome!