A Groundbreaking Moment For Hip-Hop [WAAMN Chapter 2.1]

The start of construction on the Universal Hip Hop Museum gathered figures from Fat Joe to Bill De Blasio in the Bronx—and elevated ownership for hip-hop culture.

This is a limited-time free preview of my new book, We Are All Musicians Now. To make sure you don’t miss future weekly serializations, click here. The below installment is Chapter 2: The Genius of Ownership (Part 1).

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Pop out of the subway at 149th Street and Grand Concourse and you’ll find a more representative slice of life in the Bronx than you might by attending a Yankee game less than a mile to the north. 

On one particularly sunny Thursday, I stroll past Glackens, a brick bar where ordering an Old Fashioned means getting pint glass stacked with ice and filled to the brim with bottom-shelf whiskey for half the price of a beer at the Stadium. I navigate the seemingly permanent thicket of dusty orange construction vehicles. Then I pass a throng of union reps voicing displeasure via megaphone next to a giant inflatable rat.

But on the other side of a thunderous underpass, I find what I came for: a gathering to celebrate the groundbreaking of the Universal Hip Hop Museum—no relation to the record company—the genre’s answer to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. I walk up as Nas and Fat Joe arrive, both set to speak along with a list of big names from LL Cool J to Mayor Bill de Blasio. As I settle into my seat, gazing out across a field of rebar with an American flag flapping in the breeze, Bronx borough president Ruben Diaz takes the stage.

“Today’s the beginning, it’s the groundbreaking, but it’s not the end,” he says. “It’s 60,000 square feet of condos and hip-hop. This is not rental space, this is a condo space. This is a permanent home.”

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