The Universal Hip Hop Museum breaks ground this month in the birthplace of hip-hop, New York’s Boogie Down Bronx. Touted as the first musum in the world dedicated the genre’s music and culture, it’s coming to life with the help of some industry icons: Chuck D of Public Enemy is Chairman of the Celebrity Board, Ice-T is on the board of directors, and other ambassadors include Fab Five Freddie, Q Tip, Rakim, Nas, and graffiti artists Tats Cru.
“The museum will be a solid base of recognition of the past,” Chuck D told Billboard. “But it will also be involved in hip-hop’s [ongoing] definition, protecting it and making it viable for the future.”
Fans can get a taste for what to expect from the $80 million project, which just received a $3.7 million grant from New York State, at a preview installation in the Bronx Terminal Market, not far from where the 50,000-square-foot museum is being constructed. Timed-entry tickets are required, but free.
The museum has also been using social platforms and multi-media efforts to build excitement and inspire donors—posting trivia, historical milestones, and news of special events (including a New Year’s Eve fund-raiser) on its Instagram, and organizers even released a compilation album featuring iconic and up-and-coming hip-hop artists.
When the full museum eventually opens, visitors will be immersed in a multi-floor experience spanning the genre’s influence from the east coast to the west coast and organized into hip-hop’s five key themes: DJ’ing, emceeing, breakdancing, visual arts, and knowledge. In addition, exhibits will include portraits, an extensive collection of classic magazine titles such as The Source and VIBE, and a host of Snoop Dogg paraphernalia. (No, not that kind. Think custom low-riders and action figures.) The UHHM also worked with Microsoft and MIT to develop a technology-forward feature called “Breakbeat Narratives,” where a visitor’s personal music preferences—be it country, jazz, rock or pop—are translated into a unique hip-hop playlist.
“The Breakbeat Narratives show the interrelationship between individuals relating to hop-hip even if they don’t even know,” UHHM board member Ed Young told the Bronx Times. “It shows there is a reason we as people can communicate and get along.”