Hip-Hop Exhibit Features Run-D.M.C., Tupac Shakur Artifacts

A red leather jacket worn by the Notorious B.I.G. also piqued interestof museum crowd.

CLEVELAND — You might not think a suit worn by jazz great

Cab Calloway would belong in a rap

exhibit, but "Roots, Rhymes & Rage: The Hip-Hop Story" reveals that the

young history of hip-hop has strong ties to its musical and cultural

antecedents.

"We feel this exhibit has something for everyone," said Santina

Protopapa, education program director for the Rock and Roll Hall of

Fame. "Hip-hop is a global phenomenon. Its language and dress have come

to define much of contemporary pop culture."

The exhibit, which opened at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum

last November and will run through August, features more than 50

costumes and includes artifacts from

COLOR="#003163">Run-D.M.C., a clock donated by

COLOR="#003163">Flavor Flav and even a few pairs of funky old

Adidas shoes.

Most of the artifacts are on loan from the artists or their estates.

"Once the exhibits shift to New York it will be expanded," Protopapa

said. "Hip-hop originated in New York and we're sure more artists from

that area will contribute to the collection."

But the Cleveland exhibit didn't receive short shrift. The exhibit spans

three floors of the museum and is organized into different sections: the

Block Party, the Roots, the Golden Era, Controversy, Outrage & the Rise

of Gangsta Rap and Pop Goes the Culture. The latter underscores the

genre's pop success, from MC Hammer

and Vanilla Ice to genre moguls

Sean "Puffy" Combs and

COLOR="#003163">Master P. The display also pays tribute to

the Sugar Hill Gang, whose "Rapper's

Delight" recording, released more than 20 years ago, was hip-hop's first

crossover hit.

Kool Herc,

COLOR="#003163">Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five,

Afrika Bambaataa and other hip-hop

pioneers, whose live performances are near-legendary events, are only

featured to a minor extent. But that does not diminish the exhibit's

effect and scope.

Taking Hold

"Roots, Rhymes & Rage" clearly shows the economic influences the music

has had in the last decade. Hip-hop has risen from the backbeats of

urban streets and now is affecting every aspect of contemporary pop

culture, from merchandising and sales to fashion.

Jennifer Grodin, a hip-hop fan who made the trip to the exhibit from

Dayton, Ohio, was surprised to see how extensive the displays of hip-hop

memorabilia were.

"I had no idea how vast this exhibit was," Grodin said. "I like how they

have integrated some of the lyrics into the displays and the clothing."

Grodin, like many other viewers, was drawn to the gold ring once sported

by Tupac Shakur and a red leather

coat and tan suit worn by the Notorious

B.I.G. Both artists were victims of unsolved drive-by

shootings.

The exhibit also features a film, "Style Wars," the first documentary

about hip-hop culture, produced by Pittsburgh native Henry Chalfont, a

photographer, and his partner Tony Silver, a filmmaker. It chronicles

the war between New York's subway graffiti artists and city officials.

Get To The Basics

Overall, the exhibit begins ostensibly with an exploration into the four

principle elements of hip-hop: DJing (cutting and scratching), MCing,

graffiti art and breakdancing. This presentation includes an interactive

video for viewers. There are even photos of former president Ronald

Reagan with the New York City Breakers.

Most provocative is the section that explores hip-hop's political and

controversial messages. Here, among other things, are legal appeals from

2 Live Crew's infamous obscenity

trial, and a letter from the FBI that addresses

COLOR="#003163">Ice-T's "Cop Killer" recording.

"Obviously we couldn't present the entire hop-hop culture in one

exhibit," said Protopapa. "But our aim was to do service to the genre.

We feel everyone has been able to take something from the exhibit."

Preceding the exhibit's opening in November was a three-day hip-hop

conference sponsored by Cleveland State University's black studies

department. There, Chuck D,

COLOR="#003163">KRS-One and journalist/activist Harry Allen

held workshops and panel discussions on the origins and evolution of

hip-hop culture.

This September, the exhibit will travel to the Brooklyn Museum, with

other cities expected to follow.