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For nearly three decades, hip-hop relics such as vinyl records, turntables, microphones and boom boxes have collected dust in boxes and attics.

On Tuesday, owners of such items–including pioneering hip-hop artists such as Afrika Bambaataa, DJ Kool Herc, Grandmaster Flash and Fab 5 Freddy–will blow that dust off and carry them to a Manhattan hotel to turn them over to National Museum of American History officials.

The museum, part of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C., is announcing its plans to embark on a collecting initiative, “Hip-Hop Won’t Stop: the Beat, the Rhymes, the Life.”


Wow, quite the coup for hip-hop, except I didn’t even know it existed back in 1976. Surely, they didn’t call it “hip hop” back then, if it even existed. It was called “rock-n-roll” by 1956 (less than two years after Bill Haley’s “Rock Around the Clock”), but wasn’t hip-hop called “rap” in the 1980s and early 1990s? If it was called “rap” or something else, did it really exist as “hip-hop”? Am I sounding like William of Occam?

I don’t claim to be a hip-hop expert (and if I was, I’d deny it), but a quick search reveals that none of the four “artists” listed above are singers. The first three were DJs, who pioneered “scratching” and junk like that. Freddy was a music video director.

They refer to some these “artists” (like Eminem) as “geniuses.” I don’t know. They’re clearly clever, but genius? I’ll always have a hard time with that.

“Get down on dat Smitty/
Gonna stab in you da drawers/
Gonna bitch slap yo sista/
Gonna also slap dem whores.

Cuz I got a gig in white town/
And dey want to see my stuff/
All dem sophisticated rabbits/
Want me to give it to ’em rough.”