Saturday, October 10, 2009

New York wake up and take care of your hip hop heritage in the digital age before it's too late

The death of Mr Magic was for many a moment to reminisce about the time they where introduced to hip hop. Taping Mr Magic, Afrika Islam, The World Famous Supreme Team and other shows. Or about the joy of getting your hands on a copy of a Grandmaster Flash, Zulu Nation or Treacherous 3 blockparty. Those tapes traveled around the world. Spreading the news about the birth of a new music (and culture!) form called hip hop.

Many of those who decided to search the web the last week, trying to find some Mr Magic shows, landed on my blog or youtube channel. I think that most of them hadn’t heard a show for many years.

At first, it felt good that there where so many visitors on my site. But then I realized that there is something fundamentally wrong!
Why are sites, like the in their post about the death of Mr Magic, pointing to my site for those who want to listen to a show?

I have never been to New York (although I’m hoping to run the NY marathon one day) or even the US. Sure, I can feel hip hop running through my blood when I hear Flash or Whiz kid on the wheels of steal. But how is it possible that there are almost no live and radio shows online? And how about the fact that the probably largest online old school tape collection is managed by an hip hop loving 'volunteer' from a small European country?

Why do ‘old school headz’ talk about the tapes in their basements without taking action before it’s too late? And why is there so little interest in the early days of hip hop, besides when one of the founders dies?

Is there hope? Yes of course. I see tapemasters like Troy L Smith and Johnnie Freeze sharing pieces of their huge collections and many, like me, are thankful for that. I see some forums where hip hop fans meet and hip hop artists can be spotted here ‘in the wild’. But I think that’s not enough. It’s like a small family, sharing memories around the campfire.

However, that is not the way you should preserve your heritage. Look around and you see many initiatives to build digital online collections for cultural reasons. Libraries are doing it, Museums are doing it and even Google is doing it.

Sure, there will be some (legal) obstacles. But they can be overcome and this is not about making money! This is about preventing that an essential part of our hip hop culture is lost forever.
New York wake up! Tapemasters, radio stations, hip hop ‘industry’ and archive and internet experts join forces.
Build an online campfire, let people share there tapes and stories, restore old footage from radio stations and let old folks (like me) reminisce about ‘the good old days’ while the younger generations can discover the energy and the creativity that founded this art form.