NEW YORK The history of hip-hop music will be celebrated in "Echo Park: The Hip Hop Musical," starring pioneer artists DJ Hollywood and Kurtis Blow and opening June 1 at the Apollo Theater in Harlem, N.Y.
The first installment in a trilogy, "Echo Park" chronicles the rise of the DJ, graffiti art and breakdancing from 19781981. It centers on a fictional DJ named Anthony Jenkins.
"It's been 20 years since hip-hop first emerged," the show's producer, Eric Vinson, said at a press conference Wednesday at the Apollo. "After years of fighting the stigma that hip-hop is just a passing fad, it's time to look back and examine the influence of the genre."
Blow and Hollywood perform and help narrate the musical, named after the Bronx, N.Y., park that many consider to be the birthplace of hip-hop. In the late '70s, DJs would gather at the park, rigging lampposts for electricity to fuel their mixing equipment and sound systems.
Parts Two and Three of "Echo Park" focus on the ascent of the MC and hip-hop's present influence on popular culture.
Accusing today's hip-hop as leading to "teen sex, drug use and violence," Blow expressed hope that "Echo Park" would show the younger generation that the hip-hop genre started a positive, unifying force for the Harlem and Bronx communities.
"In the 10 albums I made, I never cursed," Blow said. "There was a code of ethics when we MCed. We need to take hip-hop back to its early days, so kids can go back to that code of ethics."
"Echo Park" cast members, a group of Harlem and Bronx singers, dancers, actors and graffiti artists, from ages 1942, gave a 15-minute preview of the show at the press conference. Dressed in Adidas sweatsuits, they breakdanced to the beats of James Brown's "Sex Machine." Another preview of the show can be seen May 20, when the "Echo Park" crew recreates a park jam in the Bronx's Mullaly Park.