A photography exhibition entitled “Hip-Hop Revolution: Photographs by Janette Beckman, Joe Conzo and Martha Cooper” will escort viewers back in time via a nostalgia-inducing series of photographs capturing the zeitgeist of one of culture’s most decisive moments.

And while the music was undoubtedly the standout aspect of this cultural moment, the style wasn’t bad either. Bucket hats, boom boxes, gold chains, flat tops – the spirit of hip-hop wasn’t just pulsing through speaker systems, it was all over the streets.


Photographer Joe Conzo and his images of the birth of hip-hop in the Bronx

Hip-hop culture was born on the streets of New York City in the 1970s, largely in the Bronx and Manhattan, and photographer Joe Conzo was there, capturing the infancy of this cultural revolution.

Conzo, who was raised in the South Bronx and went on to a career as an emergency medical technician and union official, has been called, “The man who took hip hop’s baby pictures,“ by David Gonzalez of The New York Times.

Joe Conzo was a teenager when he started photographing the early hip-hop scene. His black-and-white images of the Bronx in the turbulent and often violent 1970’s and 80’s are considered an important part of that era’s history.

He photographed hip-hop groups such as the legendary Cold Crush Brothers in early performances and depicted a scene that started on the gritty South Bronx streets, in high school gyms and small nightclubs.

Conzo’s photographs in "Born In The Bronx: A Visual Record of the Early Days of Hip Hop” became part of a permanent archive housed at Cornell University. More than 10,000 of his photographs of early hip-hop have been digitized and can be viewed online at the Cornell University Library’s hip-hop collection.

The Museum of the City of New York is featuring an exhibit of the images of Conzo, Martha Cooper and Janette Beckman until September 13, 2015. Hip Hop Revolution presents more than 100 photographs taken between 1977 and 1990 in the Bronx.

The Museum of the City of New York is located at 1220 Fifth Avenue near E 103rd Street and is open from 10am-6pm every day.  (David Handschuh/Yahoo News)

Photography by Joe Conzo/

See more of Joe Conzo’s photos of the birth of hip-hop and our other slideshows on Yahoo News.

Joe Conzo the man with the lens.  He is probably the most amazing photographer that was able to document the start and evolution of hip hop.  He captured the rawness and the excitment of that time.  Not only did he capture the birth of the hip hop culture but he also captured some other significant events such as the Forte Apache Protests, the New York Black out, protests against the closure of Athletic Programs at South Bronx High School and the decay of the South Bronx during that time.  It is amazing because he was just a kid when he picked up the camera.  Because of his work I can have a basic idea and feeling of what it must have been like during that time and space.  I can only imagine what it must have been like during the grassroots of hip hop.  So thanks and much respect to Joe Conzo for giving me and the world a glimpse into the atmosphere of the South Bronx and the early days of hip hop.  His pictures depict creativity, humanity, in equality, social unrest and the strength of a community under so much pressure.

Peace, Love, Respect

Joe Conzo, Jr. first met members of the Cold Crush Brothers in 1978, while he still attended South Bronx High School. The Cold Crush Brothers, an important and influential early hip hop group including DJs Charlie Chase and Tony Tone, and MCs Grandmaster Caz, JDL, Easy AD, and Almighty Kay-Gee. Becoming the group’s professional photographer, Conzo documented their live performances at the T-Connection, Disco Fever, Harlem World, the Ecstasy Garage, and the Hoe Avenue Boys’ Club. He also shot photos of other hip hop artists and groups, street scenes, Latin music performers and events, documenting the South Bronx as it was and capturing Hip Hop when it was a localized, grassroots culture on the verge of spreading worldwide, when DJ, MC, and b-boy/girl battles took place in parks, school gyms, and neighborhood discos.

His photographs, post and present, have appeared in publications like The New York Times, Vibe, The Source, and Esquire, and his work has been shown internationally in galleries in London, Japan, and Germany. Domestically his work has appeared in both the gallery setting, as well as academically at places like Cornell University and the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture.

The archive of Joe Conzo, Jr., has become part of the larger Cornell Hip Hop History Archive. Conzo’s archive contains more than 10,000 of his negatives and prints.




Last weekend we joined World of Dance Bgirl of the Year nominee Jeskilz and her Cypher Adikts to throw arguably the realest and livest celebration of the Hip Hop lifestyle in LA. After appreciating Skilz in our RITUAL exhibit with Allison “Hueman” Torneros, she approached us with the goal of turning her third anniversary party into a two-day festival of the culture of breakdance, DJ, graffiti, and more. The first night was a great one: red lights and a huge floor full of hundreds of amazing dancers supported by DJ Ervin Arana. Ervin collaborated with special guests Jungle Fire to close out the night in what was an awe-inspiring example of dance and music coming together. 

Ervin then showed off his multi-faceted approach showing his photography, and joining longtime insider photographer Joe Conzo alongside curator Easy Roc and others for the second night at an art show that hit the genre from all angles. Easy’s set design background created a mini playground of graffiti, bboy, MC, and DJ culture that we hope to replicate even larger next time. Check out all of the pictures and the full recap over at Cypher Adikts’ blog.