Fifty years ago today, November 22, 1963, president John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, Texas.
It was major, hugely traumatic event in American history, and one that, occurring as it did in the relatively new age of the handheld camera, yielded some of the most famous and powerful photographs ever taken.
It was a very different country back then, a very different world. Fifty years is a long time and a lot has changed. Music, for starters. Here is the song that was the No. 1 song in the country that week in 1963. "Deep Purple" by Nino Tempo and April Stevens. Sounds kind of dated now, doesn't it? Also, interestingly, the Beatles second album With the Beatles, was released the same day Kennedy was shot. So we've had the British Invasion since then, and Motown, and classic rock, and funk, and punk, and disco, and new wave, and, of course, rap. Rap has changed the world dramatically since its advent in late-'70s New York. (For the much better, many of us would argue.)
Rap obsessives have a way of seeing the world through rap-tinted glasses. Every news headline triggers a reference to a classic song, every snippet of overhead conversation can spin off into the resuscitation of a rhyme in our memory. So, looking through the photographs from the time of the Kennedy assassination (the first one, that is—that family being America's cursed royalty), we start to think things like, Hey, one of the best new rappers from California is a Kennedy, Dom Kennedy. What if he were around in 1963? What if he was at Arlington Cemetery, mourning with the family? (Weird thoughts, it's true. Such is our lot.) And then, What if Slick Rick were on the plane when vice president Lyndon Johnson was sworn in as president? What if Scarface from the Geto Boys was in Dallas two days after Kennedy's assassination, when the man who shot him, Lee Harvey Oswald, was subsequently murdered—while in police custody! in front of a bunch of news cameras!—by Jack Ruby? (Man, what a crazy couple of days of history that was.)
And since we have all these photographs of historical events accessible on our computers, and all these photographs of rappers, and an ever-helpful art department that knows how to use photoshop, we are able to engage our imaginations, and find out what lots of different rappers would look like superimposed into lots of different famous historical photographs. So that's what we did. Please enjoy them, in chronological order.
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