The legacy of the hip-hop greats just got a little bigger.
The Hip Hop Hall of Fame named 60 hip-hop artists Wednesday who comprise this year’s Hall of Fame class.
LL Cool J, Soulsonic Force and the Us Girls are just a few of the names that will be enshrined alongside such legends as Grandmaster Flash and DJ Kool Herc.
The 2017 class also includes DJ Jazzy Jay, The Lockers dance group, MC Lovebug Starski, rapper Kurtis Blow, social activist and actor Harry Belafonte and Bronx-based photographer Joe Conzo.
All 60 artists will be officially inducted during the Hip Hop Hall of Fame Awards TV Show on Sept. 15 at United Palace Theater in New York City.
“Hip-hop has a tendency to fall under the Grammys, the Oscars, the American Music Awards, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and all the other different award shows,” said JT Thompson, chairman and executive producer of the Hip Hop Hall of Fame and creator of the awards show. “But hip hop now has enough time with over 40 years in the game that we need our own hall of fame to establish our legends and pioneers.”
Founded in 1992, the Hip Hop Hall of Fame began with fewer than 10 members, according to Kenny Syder, 52, co-chairman of the hall of fame. Past inductees include the Sugar Hill Gang, DJ Hollywood and Run-D.M.C., an American hip-hop group from Hollis, Queens.
Members are chosen based on their years of experience and level of contribution to the greater hip-hop community. Each class is comprised of musicians, dancers, graffiti artists and photographers who have played a significant role in the rise and evolution of the music genre.
“When I first started, there was no hip hop at all,” said James Top, a 2017 inductee, the host of Graffiti NYC TV and a pioneering artist of The Odd Partners graffiti crew from the mid-1970s. “We have achieved everything we wanted to achieve when we started this back in the 1970s, which is to be a major force in popular culture. We were an underground culture, but now we’re on top.”
At the ceremony, organizers also displayed conceptual images of the new Hip Hop Hall of Fame Museum slated to open in Harlem next year. The museum will be part of a 20-story entertainment complex that also houses retailers, a cafe and the Hip Hop Arts & Media Youth Academy, according to Thompson. Phase one of the project will launch as early as February 2018.
“(This) is not just a hall of fame for the music and artists, it’s a museum and educational institution,” said Thompson, 47. “We’re able to teach the younger generation not only the history, but also the science, technology, mathematics, arts and culture. Hip hop is not just limited to music and the rap you hear on the radio. Hip hop is a culture and we’re all a part of it.”
The Hip Hop Hall of Fame also shines a spotlight on early artists in the field who are often overlooked as more modern hip-hop groups gain recognition, said Gail Hall, formerly known as DJ Le Spank of the Mercedes Ladies, the first all-female MC and DJ group that started in 1978. The Mercedes Ladies were inducted into the Hip Hop Hall of Fame in 2014.
“Hip Hop Hall of Fame is a tribute that makes me proud, whereas at one point I wasn’t feeling so proud because I felt like we were alienated from the culture,” said Hall, 54, who now works as an urban gospel DJ for WHCR-FM radio. “When we were DJing, there were no record deals. Nothing was commercialized. The industry actually told us we would never make it, that hip hop was a fad and would never be respected.
“It’s emotional because especially for the people who are inducted, it’s an honor because we were unrecognized. We are hip hop’s unsung,” Hall said.
Tickets for the 2017 Hip Hop Hall of Fame Awards Show will go on sale June 23. Visit http://hiphophof.org.