Earlier this month, Gavin Brown Enterprises held an event entitled "The Afrika Bambaataa Master of Records vinyl archive." For those unfamiliar, Afrika Bambaataa is a DJ from the South Bronx, but not just any dime-a-dozen DJ. Bam's legacy stems from not only helping to create what we know as "hip hop," but he is also responsible for getting the culture and his philosophies out of the Bronx and out to the world. Bam is the Grandfather, the Godfather, the Father of Electro Funk, the Amen Ra of Universal Hip Hop Culture, and the Master of Records.
A man with all those titles has a certain responsibility to the culture. One of the most important hats that Bam wears is that of historian. As a DJ and music enthusiast, he amassed a large and diverse vinyl collection comprised of just about every genre that he could get his hands on. Over the decades, the collection continued to grow and grow, and that's where this event comes into play.
Cornell University has one of the largest hip hop collections in world and it also has the honor of having Afrika Bambaataa as a visiting scholar. The University made the decision to merge Bam's entire vinyl collection with their own, giving it a permanent home. The problem was that decades of research and innovation resulted in a collection of more than 40,000 records split between three storage units...and they were not organized. The public archiving at Gavin Brown Enterprises was centered around that task. Over the period of a month, Cornell University Library Board Member Johan Kugelberg and a team of diggers organized, catalogued, and documented each and every record so that the collection could properly be integrated into Cornell's archives. The public was invited to view and engage with the process. Turntables were set up so that Bam's records could be used for their intended purpose, with professional DJs also visiting the space and performing selections.
Did we mention that all of this went down at Gavin Brown Enterprises? There have been hip-hop events in art galleries before, but never one this important, and probably never in a space where work by Andy Warhol, Urs Fischer, Elizabeth Peyton, and a host of other major artists has been exhibited. To quote Dead Prez, this is bigger than hip-hop.
Witness DJ Jazzy Jay and Rich Medina using Bam's records: