New York City is an absolute mecca for a wide variety of worldwide cultures and communities… art, fashion, music, business and anything else you can dream of will be alive and kicking on a street somewhere within the big city… as Alicia Keys says – “if I can make it here, I can make it anywhere.”
One culture that was born on the streets of New York City itself, however, is Hip Hop. The four cornerstones of the hip hop culture (MCing, DJing, Bboying and Graffiti Art) first came together at a party thrown by DJ Kool Herc on 1520 Sedgewick Avenue in The Bronx… making this, the home of hip hop. From there, the culture spread far and wide, across the world!! Hip hop has, since, formed an artistic outlet for youngsters (or otherwise), often born and raised in more poverty-stricken areas (such as the NY “ghettos”), to release their frustrations and/or personal disputes in a more creative manner… as opposed to violently competing using the more traditional, and destructive, ‘street gang’ methods.
Aside from the numerous regular sight-seeing activities available to explore in New York City, one of my main goals, whilst in NYC, was to find some notable “hip hop” locations… perhaps a dance battle/class, or a famed graffiti wall within the city. A failed internet search led me to a graffiti wall that has since been knocked down… until I found Hush Hip Hop Tours – a tour, largely based in Harlem and South Bronx, led by notorious pioneers/celebrities within hip hop culture, such as legendary MC’s “Grandmaster Caz” and “Kurtis Blow”.
This morning was the morning of “said” tour… and, as it was one of my main priorities for this trip (aside from the marathon, obviously), I was about as excited as these guys waiting for daddy to arrive home. The tour started out, in true “hood” style, with an argument over a parking ticket with one of the NYC parking attendants!!
N.B. I, originally, booked our tour for the Saturday afternoon, just after we got into NYC – but on Friday, we received an e-mail stating that the tour we booked would not go ahead due to low sales, so, we were offered either; a different tour, a different date (today), or a full refund. I’m mentioning this just because I want people to be aware that this could happen – so, if this tour is as high on your “NYC sightseeing” list as it was on mine, I’d advise you book an earlier date on your trip so it can be rescheduled before you leave if needs be!!
After the parking ticket had been rectified, we set off towards Harlem and The Bronx for the first stop of the tour… all the time, being questioned and educated on hip hop culture by our tour guide, Grandmaster Caz. After establishing the four elements of hip hop, and learning about the “street style” of those involved in the culture, we pulled up outside a school playground in Harlem. The playground is a graffiti hotspot in NYC, and we were able to see some of the professional work produced by some of New York’s best graffiti artists.
We paused for a moment in the same area for Caz to show us how the old school DJs used to hook up their amplifiers to the public lampposts to start block parties!! Across the street, we stopped at a basketball court – readily prepared with some lino and a portable sound system. Here, bboy Mouse, of Dynamic Rockers crew, was waiting to give us a demo and introduction to breaking. After the initial demo, we were called out to try to learn some basic breakdance moves… this was the moment I was waiting for – so, the first time I followed Mouse’s routine as he did it, the second I finished of with a bboy stance, and the third time I finished with a freeze!! This was, apparently, all the encouragement Caz needed to pull me out n ask for a “freestyle” from me!! Having not done any breaking in about 3-4years, I felt a little nervous, but did it anyway – and was surprised to learn that I could still do most of my old moves!! 😀
Next stop, we jumped back on the tour bus and head towards the Apollo Theatre… boasting a rich history of performers, such as James Brown, Louis Armstrong, Lauryn Hill, the Jackson 5 and Aretha Franklin – the venue also launched the careers of the likes of Ella Fitzgerald, Luther Vandross, Ne-yo and Mariah Carey, amongst many others!!
After getting a few pictures (and a quick toilet stop), we jumped back on the bus and crossed the bridge into the Bronx. Our first stop, over this side, was the Yankee Stadium, followed by a quick drive by 1520 Sedgewick Avenue – the location of what is known as the very first hip hop party! On the bus, we were surrounded by a full audio-visual display of hip hop culture, as Caz talked us through the importance of this particular address in the progression of hip hop within NYC. The bus continued to a new graffiti spot and then onto the “Bronx Walk of Fame” – where Caz showed us the most visited lamppost in all of NYC… his own (since he has numerous tour groups to bring here)!! 😛
We finished the tour on Malcolm X Boulevard for some “soul food” in Manna’s restaurant back in Harlem, before hopping back on the bus towards our original start point. On the way back, we had a “freestyle” sesh on the bus, where, if you wished, you could do a little improvised rap… one of the couples on the bus were a fantastic duo, but no one else on the bus dared to give it a go!!
Unfortunately, as the tour was running a little late and we had flights to catch, we had to hop off the bus a little early in order to get the metro back to our hotel, pick up our bags, and get to the airport before check-in closed! As my parents flight home was before mine, I went across to their terminal with them, we said our goodbyes (and mum got all emotional – worrying about plane crashes etc. *rolls eyes* 😛 ) and I ran off to my own terminal. We got on our respective flights back to Manchester/London as I reminisced another incredible, action packed holiday! 🙂
Check out my blog on this trip, from the beginning, here. 🙂
Have you ever been to New York City?? Did you go on any of the more cultural tours? Are you a fan of any aspect of hip hop culture? Please feel free to join the discussion in the comments section below!! 🙂
Love, Magic and Fairy Dust 😉