Ground was recently broken in the Bronx for the long-proposed Universal Hip Hop Museum. The ceremony attracted many music legends including Grandmaster Flash, Public Enemy’s Chuck D, Fat Joe, LL Cool J, Nas and Slick Rick, who were among the many hip-hop legends present at Bronx Point, adjacent to the Harlem River.
“Hip hop is one of those things that gave my life meaning. It made me dream, you know what I’m saying?” noted recent inductee into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, LL Cool J. “Hip hop made me believe that anything was possible. It was the first time that I heard young Black men sound empowered. Most of the time when I saw young Black men, they were, like, putting their heads down being put in a police car. This was, like, the first time where I felt like, ‘Wow. It’s possible to be powerful. It’s possible to be somebody.’”
Bronxite Fat Joe reflected: “Hip-hop music came out of oppression, it came out of people suffering, it came out of the Bronx looking like Vietnam—the buildings were blown up. People had to make something out of nothing,” said the Forest Projects native. “You can never stop the passion of the people, the poor people—that’s who I stand for no matter.”
It’s most appropriate that the cultural center is being erected in the borough that birthed the culture that has grown to become a global phenomenon.
“Well, hip hop originated here back in 1973,” explained founder and executive director of the museum, Rocky Bucano. “Hip hop is the most popular art form in the entire world, which is now getting ready to celebrate its 48th anniversary this year. And it’s almost sacrilegious that a creative art form doesn’t have its own place where the history can be preserved to celebrate. This museum will serve as the home of hip-hop history and culture for the world.”
Construction began this February for the Universal Hip Hop Museum as part of a $349 million mixed-use project along the South Bronx’s waterfront. Affordable housing and public open space are also in the plans which include cultural and community-focused programs.
Described as the “cultural anchor” of the Bronx Point development, Bucano is optimistic the project “will instill a sense of pride” in the Bronx, as well as “also a sense of belonging. Now this museum will provide educational resources, workforce development and just a way to provide economic empowerment. Hip hop has always had an innovative spirit, and the museum will continue in that creative fashion that hip hop is known for.”
The museum launches as the hub of the new Bronx Point development in 2024.