Clive Campbell brought two turntables and a microphone to his sister’s birthday party in a Bronx apartment building on Aug. 11, 1973. This immigrant from Jamaica, who is now known as “DJ Kool Herc,” improvised a bit by scratching vinyl records to create beats and tell stories in rhyme while attendees danced. Hip-hop was born.
On Thursday, the Museum of the Moving Image kicks off Made You Look: Documenting the Art, History, Power and Politics of Hip-Hop Culture, a series of documentaries that examine this distinctly American genre from its origins to its current worldwide influence. “Fresh Dressed,” which features interviews with Kanye West, Sean Combs, Russell Simmons and urban fashion designers, screens on opening night. Then, director Sacha Jenkins, style legend Dapper Dan, and Elena Romero, who wrote “Free Stylin': How Hip Hop Changed the Fashion Industry,” will participate in a panel discussion moderated by Martha Diaz, director of the Hip-Hop Education Center. This free event takes place at the Jacob Riis Settlement House in Queensbridge.
The four-month series then continues at the museum. “In My Father’s House” will be presented on Sept. 25 with another discussion led by Diaz. Set in Chicago’s south side, this documentary depicts the yearlong journey of Grammy-winning rapper Che “Rhymefest” Smith, from homelessness and alcoholism to self-discovery and redemption, highlighted by a reunion with his homeless father.
“Shake the Dust,” which chronicles breakdancing’s influence on poor neighborhoods around the world, will show on Oct. 23 with another Diaz-guided chat. Queensbridge-raised rapper Nas is the executive producer of this movie, which features jaw-dropping dance moves.
The series ends with Rubble Kings and a conversation between director Shan Nicholson and Diaz. This film tells the story of New York City gangs from 1968 to 1975, their influence on city life, and the way they finally chose peace.