Ministerio de Cultura de la Nación Argentina

Universal Hip Hop Museum Confirms 2024 Opening

It’s Official! The world’s first museum dedicated to Hip Hop will open in 2024 in the birthplace of its music.

The ceremonial unveiling of the Universal Hip Hop Museum took place on Thursday (May 20) on a huge tract of vacant land in the South Bronx, overlooking the Harlem River and Grandmaster Flash, Slick Rick, Chuck D, Nas, LL Cool J, and Fat Joe were among the legendary urban artists who attended the festival. Local and state politicians joined the Hip Hop legends in laying the groundwork for the $80 million, 52,000-square-foot museum, which will be subsidized by a combination of public, corporate, and government funds.

The event honored Hip Hop, whose roots can be traced back to 1520 Sedgwick Avenue, just over two miles from the museum’s location at 50 East 150th Street, between Melrose and Mott Haven. Hip Hop arose from a need for speech by its forefathers, when the Bronx was plagued by disinvestment and burning fires that decimated communities. “There was a time when nobody cared about the Bronx. “No one gave a damn,” said Grandmaster Flash. “And now, almost 48 years later, here we are.” Rocky Bucano, the museum’s executive director, started conceptualizing the museum a decade ago, with the aim of honoring rap and its Bronx origins. The museum will cover DJ-ing, breakdancing, graffiti art, knowledge, and MC’ing, which are considered to be the five foundations of Hip Hop.  “It’s a long journey, but a very worthwhile journey to see what should have happened already is finally happening,” Bucano said.

Bucano’s perseverance was recognized by LL Cool J, who credited him with keeping the museum’s idea alive. Born James Todd Smith, LL’s golden era hip hop hit “Mama Said Knock You Out” catapulted him to fame and led to an acting career, credited Hip Hop with giving him a face. “This was like the first time where I felt like, ‘Wow, like it’s possible to be powerful, it’s possible to be be somebody, it’s possible to have meaning in this world,'” LL Cool J said. “Hip Hop is one of those things that gave my life meaning.” Fat Joe, who grew up in Melrose’s Forest Houses during the heyday of hip hop culture, agreed, calling the museum “long overdue.” Slick Rick, a Hip Hop rapper from the Bronx praised the museum and its setting as Hip Hop-friendly. “It’s a good thing that it has such powerful relevance and it started here and to this billion-dollar industry.”

The Universal Hip Hop Museum will be located inside a $349 million affordable housing construction project that will be built on city-owned land. The city Economic Development Corporation selected private developer L+M Development and Type A to co-develop the Bronx Point project five years after making the property available for sale. The 22-story tower is planned to provide 542 affordable housing units along the waterfront as part of a comprehensive urban revitalization that involves a large waterfront renovation courtesy of the city Parks Department. Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr., a Hip Hop fan and historian, couldn’t hide his delight at the prospect of a museum dedicated to the genre.

“We expect that when a family from Australia, or Japan, or Germany, come to New York City that their kids are gonna say, ‘yeah, we want to go to New York City, Mom and Dad, but we also better go to the Bronx and see the Hip Hop museum,'” says the museum’s director. 

The museum was scheduled to open in 2023, but due to the pandemic, was moved back to 2024.

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Author: Luke Traina

Photo: Ministerio de Cultura de la Nación Argentina