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Hip Hop Pioneers at St. Albans Library

DJ Divine

MC Davy Jay, DJ Divine, DJ Casino, Livio G…

These names may not be household names, but they represents artists one who paved the way for the likes of Jay Z, Kayne West and Kendrick Lamar.  They are just a few of the Queens Hip Hop Pioneers featured in a photo exhibit curated by Queens Library’s Hip Hop Coordinator, VJ Ralph McDaniels.  On Thursday, June 15 the St. Albans branch of the Queens Library hosted an opening day reception to welcome the exhibit to its new temporary home. 

McDaniels, Video Music Box’s VJ is a legend in his own right and was inducted into the Smithsonian African American Museum of History and Culture for his work.  McDaniels’ has been documenting the story of Queens Hip Hop for the Library.  That has included past conversations with FUBU Founder Damon John and Darryl McDaniels from Run DMC. 

The pre-Father’s Day reception assembled many of the legends depicted in portraits from the exhibit.  As they gathered for the event, talk turned to dollar vans and block parties as friends celebrated the portraits new location. 

“Some of us didn’t talk to each other back then, but we battled,” said MC Davy Jay.  “When we started the blocks had a crew and that crew battled against another crew.  It wasn’t about all this gang stuff”.

At the time, these pioneers, some who are now grandfathers, didn’t know they were playing a significant role in the creation of what is now a billion dollar industry.  These men were merely on their grind.  Some juggled work and school while passionately displaying their craft at area parties and on the stage.  While many now have new careers and pursued very different life paths, some still work in the recording industry and encourage others to investigate careers outside of being an entertainer.  However far they may have strayed from their musical beginnings, they quickly returned as the reception turned into an indoor jam!  With vinyl scratching and old school callout and shout backs, the crowd was on its feet waving their hands in the air like they just didn’t care. 

“Like Beef Fried Rice with Extra Duck Sauce/I’m running things and I’m called the boss” chanted MC Davy Jay to a familiar back in the day beat.

Pioneers took their turn on the mic while others, like Livio G, took time to spin. 

The exhibit will continue its tour through Queens stopping at various branches throughout the system.  McDaniels will continue documenting Queens’ hip hop history which will be accessible in Library archives. 

Originally published on Jun 22, 2017 and printed in July 2017 Issue of Communities of Color News.