40 Years of Hip Hop

From left to right: Johnathan Mannion’s Yasiin Bey aka Mos Def, Lauryn Hill, Outkast, and Nicki Minaj.

May 2 – 31, 2014
The Gladstone Hotel, 2nd and 3rd Floor
1214 Queen Street West, Toronto

Curators Che Kothari and Ryan Paterson present a group exhibition with the aim “to celebrate a collection of iconic portraits that serve as vital contributions to the immortalization of some of the legends of Hip Hop – and the legend of Hip Hop itself.”

Charlie Ahearn, Rhythm Den with owner Ritchie T who also owned the T-Connection (see above) with The Fantastic with Grand Wizard Theodore East Tremont, The Bronx, 1980,

Indeed, opening night was a celebration of one of the most energetic movements in recent history. Needless to say, rap music, harmoniously matched its setting among iconic images of Hip Hop’s most renowned and recognized figures. The movement, born out of the South Bronx, acted as a means of self-expression/a voice for denigrated youth that has now become a worldwide phenomenon. It has been said to be comprised of four elements: rap, DJing, graffiti/tagging, and breakdancing.

Jamel Shabazz, Subway Love

On the walls of the Gladstone Hotel hang candid shots and portraits of each of these elements. A shot of the Japanese tour of cult classic “Wild Style” as well as American icons such as DJ Kool Herc, Slick Rick, EMPD, Ice Cube, and Lauryn Hill were featured on the second floor, while the third floor featured a large section of Canadian rappers such as Toronto natives Drake and k-os, and Saukrates.

Charlie Ahearn, The Chief Rocker, Busy Bee, Crazy Legs, KK Rockwell, Lady Pink, Wild Style Japan Tour, 1983

Che Kothari, KRS-ONE

Che Kothari, k-os

The show, however, did not comment on some of the popular thoughts (and scrutiny) surrounding the movement over the past 40 years. The latter includes male centeredness, the promotion of social/political consciousness, the urban decay in inner cities, swagger, parental advisory, conspicuous consumption, and the, sometimes, misogynistic attitude of male rappers.

Matt Barnes, Azalea Banks

Many of these popular images of contemporary Hip Hop were, and will remain, visible in these photographs, even though they were not addressed in the didactic material or photographs. Instead, Kothari and Paterson provided a lighthearted exhibition that gives super-fans the nostalgic satisfaction of seeing some of their favorites while, for those who may be less familiar, it remains enjoyable (and educational) experience to find out more about the movement.

Text and photo: Leanne Simaan
assistant: Ella Gorevalov

*Exhition information: May 1 – 31, 2014, The Gladstone Hotel, 1214 Queen Street West, Toronto. Gallery Hours: Mon–Sun, 12 – 5 p.m.

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