This weekend saw the launch of a joint show of Hip Hop history, showcasing the works of Janette Beckman and Joe Conzo. Looking back on years of Hip Hop. Born in the Bronx was also the launch for the same titled book, A Visual Record of the Early Days of Hip Hop Edited by Johan Kugelberg with photographs by Joe Conzo, I spoke to Joe Conzo about the movement he’s been so heavily involved with. You can check out more at the NY Times too.

AB: You’ve been involved in hip hop almost since its beginning, what have been the biggest changes?

JC: Biggest changes: the bastardization of the culture. Commercialism, degrading of our women. The openness of the killings and its okay to sell drugs and to go to jail. Stripped the innocence of the culture.

AB: and with photography, do you think there have been big changes in the way people view and take photos? has this impacted on you at all?

JC: of course its impacted on me. Internet, computers, digital photos.. Big changes. Can do more now then before. When I was younger I could only afford to shoot 2 or 3 rolls because of limited funds.. Now 1,000 pics at a time and send them out to all publications all over the world.

 

AB: Tell us the inspiration behind this show today?

JC: Book release! Born in the Bronx coming out on Rizzoli publications! We sold out of all the books tonight…

AB: You’ve taken photos of some of the most famous artists in the history of hip hop, do you have any photos that you hold in especially high esteem?

JC: Kind of reluctant to admit this but my prized possessions are of the earliest photos of Herc and Bambaataa.

AB: Do you have a favourite era within the culture?

JC: The beginning. The innocence, joyfulness, ambiance. Excitement of everyone coming together.. Living for next week, the next show, the next jam.. Being with your friends

AB: Where do you see hip hop headed in the years to come?

JC: It will self implode. Its gonna start all over.. Its already imploding right now. Come back to its roots and origins. Our book, Charlie Ahearn’s book.. Stuff like this is so much in demand.

AB: As an artist, which other photographers do you admire?

JC: Jamel Shabazz, Ernie Paniccioli, Henry Chalfant, Ben Watts

AB: Why hip hop? how did you get involved in the early days?

JC: I was kidnapped!!! Disco heads kidnapped! DJ Toney Tone and MC Easy A.D. did it, and they held me ransom and no one wanted to pay for me and now 30 years later.. I’m still being held captive! I was a good photographer and they liked having me around. It was a different culture back then.. They weren’t playing disco in the park or rock and roll..

AB: and what lead you into the world of photography?

JC: Picked it up very young as a hobby in school. I enjoyed it because people liked having their pictures taken.. Especially girls.. Just loved taking pictures. Wasn’t very athletic or a dj or an mc or anything like that..

Dad was estranged from the family.. Tito Puente’s manager.. To bring son and father together he brought him to shows etc.. And I brought my camera.. And I had access to all these musicians and being part of the cold crush brothers, I had access to all these other pioneers that no one else had.  No one could get near Bambaataa or Herc at that time but being part of the brothers, I did. Very territorial so you needed an in.. And I had it.

 

Sara Rosen from Powerhouse

A view from the top

Andre Torres from WaxPoetics and Jamel Shabazz

Charlie Ahearn from Wildstyle

 

Joe Conzo

Joe Conzo and Guest

Joe Conzo and Janette Beckman

Joe Conzo and Joy Yoon.