It was 1984 and photographer Janette Beckman took a picture of hip-hop legends RUN DMC and some friends in their Hollis, Queens neighborhood. At that point, they were just about to become known worldwide and go on to be one of the most influential acts in hip-hop history.
“They weren’t famous yet but, this picture is also famous because of what they are wearing,” said Beckman. “You know, they have Adidas, the Gazelles, Kangol Hats, it’s just kind of like a really moment in time.”
Her photo is one of more than 250 items on display at the Museum of the City of New York. The new exhibit, New York, New Music 1980-1986, chronicles a half-dozen years of creative magic, when hip-hop, punk and other genres of music exploded in neighborhoods all over the five boroughs.
One of the contributors to the exhibit is Charlie Ahearn, whose 1983 film Wild Style introduced hip-hop culture to the world.
“There was this incredible cross respect, you had a place like the Roxy downtown, which was on 17th Street, and you had that grow from being a roller rink to being one of the outposts of culture in New York” said Ahearn.
The exhibit includes photos, videos, costumes, and instruments from the bands, the rappers, clubs and of course, MTV, which was established 40 years ago.
Curator Sean Corcoran said, at the time, the city was slowly emerging from a fiscal crisis and it was affordable for artists to live here.
“There were so many clubs playing different kinds of music from popular music to more experimental music so the city really allowed creativity and a certain artistic expression that we thought was particularly compelling for the moment,” Corcoran said.
Beckman, who had arrived in New York from London to cover the burgeoning hip-hop scene, said it was a unique time in the city that she will never forget.
“There was so much happening, it was a very rich time. You didn’t need to be extremely wealthy to be a part of the scene and it was really something that came from the streets,” said Beckman.
So if you are ready to go back in time to the 80s, head here to plan your visit.