The Bronx is the birthplace of hip-hop culture. In a literal as well as a figurative sense, this New York borough has been on fire since the 1970s. Violence, poverty and discrimination are everyday realities. This place gave rise to a ‘do-it-yourself’ culture in which originality and credibility are key. Creativity is the essence of hip-hop, and fashion serves as a connecting element. Even though you may have been born a pauper, you can still look like a million bucks. Through visual art, photography and video installations, the exhibition ‘Street Dreams: How Hiphop took over Fashion’ show the looks, the codes and the creative force of hip hop, focusing on the origins and underlying philosophy of this street culture.
A Trip Down The Memory Block
Especially for the exhibition, the Dutch artist Victor D. Ponten made the video installation ‘A Trip Down the Memory Block’. Dressed by the fashion stylist Isis Vaandrager, sixty Rotterdam residents make up a living timeline that shows the development of hip-hop style through the years. In slow motion, a variety of looks, based on thirty iconic music videos, pass by against the backdrop of the Rotterdam West-Kruiskade street. For example, hiphop lovers poses in recognizable outfits of LL Cool J, Salt-n-Pepa, Dr. Dre, Lil' Kim and Kanye West.
With major pieces by contemporary artists, ‘The Gallery’ represents the hip-hop dream: being very successful, earning loads of money and having attitude. It features work by the artists Nick Cave, Thomas J. Price and Kehinde Wiley. The latter is known for his colourful and embellished variations on classical paintings in which he places black men centre stage. Images by photographers such as Jamal Shabazz, Janette Beckman and Dana Lixenberg show the early years of hip-hop fashion. Also shown is the extraordinary 2006 video artwork ‘Winter in America’ by the artists Hank Willis Thomas and Kambui Olujimi, telling the story of the coldblooded murder of Willis Thomas’s cousin. And an iconic photograph by Djamilla Rosa Cochran shows rapper Cam’Ron in the pink mink coat he appeared in during the 2002 New York Fashion Week.
In this room, pioneers and key figures from hip-hop fashion industry are talking to the public in a larger than life-sized, immersive spatial installation especially developed for the exhibition. Heroes like April Walker, David Fischer and Angelo Baque share their own personal stories about their role in hip-hop history and their influence on the current fashion industry. At the start of their careers they encountered many obstacles, but now the doors of renowned fashion houses are wide open to them. The Netherlands produced some major gamechangers too. One of them is Edson Sabajo, co-founder of the fashion brand Patta, who also shares his story in ‘The Masters’.
Hip-hop started in The Bronx, but is now a world-wide phenomenon! Young people will stand in line for hours for product launches of unique collaborations such as Nike x Patta. It is now quite normal to wear sneakers to the office or sportswear outside the gym. New hip-hop talents are emerging and picking up the baton from their predecessors. ‘The Street’ represents the current street scene and offers a change to reflect on the next step.