S otheby’s is honored to announce an auction celebrating the history and cultural impact of Hip Hop on 15 September in New York. The first-ever dedicated Hip Hop auction to be presented at a major international auction house, the sale reflects on the impact Hip Hop has had on art and culture from the late 1970s through the “Golden Age” of the mid-1980s to mid-1990s, and up to the present. Featuring over 120 lots, the auction is comprised of unique artifacts, contemporary art, one of a kind experiences, photography, vintage and modern fashion, historic and newly designed jewelry and luxury items, rare ephemera including flyers and posters, important publications, and more. The majority of items on offer in the sale have been consigned directly by artists or their estates and the full contents of the auction will be announced at a later date.
The auction was curated and organized by VP, Senior Specialist Cassandra Hatton in collaboration with Monica Lynch, former president of Tommy Boy Records (1981-1998) who helped launch the careers of legends Afrika Bambaataa & Soulsonic Force, Queen Latifah, De La Soul, and Naughty by Nature, among many others.
A portion of Sotheby’s proceeds will benefit the Queens Public Library Foundation, to support their Hip Hop Programs, coordinated by “Uncle” Ralph McDaniels, as well as Building Beats, a non-profit community organization that teaches tech, entrepreneurial and leadership skills to underserved youth through DJ and music programs.
One of the most iconic artifacts in the history of hip hop, worn by one of the greatest hip hop stars of all time, for one of the most famous hip hop portraits ever taken.
An intimate, early archive of teenage love letters, written by one of the greatest and most talented rappers of all time.
This imposing installation piece, created by DJ Ross One, consists of 32 vintage boomboxes from the early 1980s-early 1990s, displayed together on a custom built shelf and wired to function as a singular sound system. The work includes some of the rarest and most recognizable vintage boomboxes of all time.
DJ Ross One and The Wall of Boom
1970The Last Poets, a spoken-word collective from East Harlem New York, release their debut album; mixing poetry with politics, the album lays the foundation for the emerging hip hop movement.
(left) The Last Poets (L-R Jalal Mansur Nuriddin, Nilaja Obabi and Umar Bin Hassan) pose for a portrait circa 1970 in New York City, New York. (Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)
1971Aretha Franklin records “Rock Steady"; the track becomes a popular b-boy song and inspires the Rock Steady Crew, a hip hop and breaking group, to form in 1977. Also in 1971, Gil Scott Heron records "The Revolution Will Not Be Televised," further cementing hip hop as a powerful form of political discourse.
(left) New York City artist Chico's commemorative mural of Gil Scott Heron
1973DJ Kool Herc, known as the father of hip hop, holds his first DJ block party in the south Bronx.
(left) DJ Kool Herc and the Herculoids host a Bronx party, circa 1970s
1974DJ Kool Herc inspires other DJs around the Bronx, including Afrika Bambaataa, Grandmaster Flash and Grandmaster Caz. Lovebug Starski, a MC in the Bronx, refers to the movement as "hip hop."
(left) Grand Mixer D.ST on turntables, Donald D on the mic, DJ Kool Herc in hat and shades, Bronx River Center, November 12, 1983
1975DJ Grand Wizard Theodore accidentally invents the record 'scratch,' and Grandmaster Flash begins 'mixing,' a deejaying method that involves combining bits of two songs.
(left) Friday, May 11, 1979 - Flyer by Buddy Esquire - Webster P.A.L - Grandmaster Flash and the Furious 4 MCs vs. The Funky 4 (known as the "Battle for Rahiem"), Brothers Disco featuring DJs Breakout and Baron
1976At the Bronx River Center, DJ Afrika Bambaataa battles against Disco King Mario; this DJ battle is one of the first of its kind, but others quickly follow – and the DJ battle becomes a bedrock of hip hop culture.
(left) March 28, 1980 – Flyer by Eddie Ed - Bronx River Center - Bam, GM Flash, Breakout and Baron
1977Hip hop begins to spread across New York, taking root in all five boroughs. B-boys from the Bronx, JoJo, Jimmy D, Easy Mike and P-Body, form The Rock Steady Crew.
(left) Members of the Rock Steady Crew break-dance in the yard of Booker T. Washington Junior High School (JHS 54), New York, New York, May 8, 1983. (Photo by Linda Vartoogian/Getty Images)
1978The music industry uses the term 'rap music' for the first time, signaling a shift from deejaying to emceeing.
(left) Crowd at Bronx River Center, 1983
1979Rap begins to take center stage. Rap group The Furious 5 and the Sugarhill Gang form; the latter's "Rapper's Delight" becomes the first commercial rap recording. Kurtis Blow becomes the first rapper to sign with a major label, Mercury Records. Mr. Magic’s Rap Attack, a weekend radio show on New Jersey's WHBI, introduces many Americans to hip hop for the first time.
(left) A side-A label for one of early pressings of the US 12-inch vinyl single release of "Rapper's Delight" by Sugarhill Gang
1980Kurtis Blow releases "The Breaks" on Mercury Records, which sells more than a million copies. Afrika Bambaata and his group, Zulu Nation, release their first 12", called Zulu Nation Throwdown Pt. 1. Inspired by meeting Fab 5 Freddy and other rappers, the band Blondie releases "Rapture," which features Debbie Harry rapping.
(left) Image of the Kurtis Blow album, "The Breaks"
1981The news show 20/20 airs a TV special on the "rap phenomenon." The Beastie Boys form. The Rock Steady Crew battles the Dynamic Rockers at Lincoln Center. Grandmaster Flash's The Adventures of Grand Master Flash on the Wheels of Steel record captures the sound of a live DJ scratching. Gigolo Rap, the first West Coast rap label, launches.
(left) Saturday, October 10, 1981 – Flyer by Fab 5 Freddy – East River Park Amphitheater - The Amphitheatre Jam!!!
1982Artists Fab 5 Freddy and Charlie Ahearn co-produce Wild Style, a film exploring hip hop and graffiti culture. Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five release "The Message", a rap exploring social and political issues present in low-income communities.
(left) Hip-hop personality Fab Five Freddy in front of a Lee Quinones graffiti mural in Lower Manhattan on Monroe Street in the Lower East Side. (Getty Images)
1983West Coast rap gets a boon when Ice-T releases his rap singles, “Body Rock" and "Killers." The Queens, New York group Run-D.M.C. release their first single.
(left) JANETTE BECKMAN, RUN DMC, 1984
1984A hip hop tour titled the Fresh Fest concert, featuring artists including Run-D.M.C., Kurtis Blow and Whodini, nets $3.5 million. In Los Angeles, the first all-rap radio station, KDAY, brings hip hop to the mainstream. Russell Simmons and Rick Rubin launch Def Jam Records.
(left) RUN-DMC. "BILL GRAHAM PRESENTS & PACE CONCERTS PRESENT SWATCH WATCH NYC FRESH FESTIVAL" CONCERT POSTER, 1984
1985Salt-n-Pepa make their debut appearance, making history as the first all-female rap group.
(left) Salt-n-Pepa's "Push It Jackets"
1986The Beastie Boys release their first album, License to Ill, on Def Jam Records. Run-D.M.C.'s rendition of Aerosmith's Walk This Way is a hit; they become the first rap group to be nominated for a Grammy.
(left) BEASTIE BOYS | "LICENSED TO ILL" CONCERT POSTER, 1987
1987Public Enemy releases their first album, Yo! Bum Rush the Show. The album offers a candid take on life and injustice in the Black community, continuing hip hop's legacy of promoting civil rights and political activism.
(left) Ed Piskor, Original artwork & designs for Public Enemy action figures, w/ original set of action figures
1988The LA group N.W.A. releases Straight Outta Compton; the album, which tells the story of life on the streets of South Central LA, popularizes the West Coast rap movement. Afrika Bambaataa forms the Native Tongues Posse; artists include Queen Latifah and the Jungle Brothers.
(left) Rashaad Newsome, Saltire Compton, 2011
1989Four members of the Native Tongues Posse form their own group, called A Tribe Called Quest, and release an album. Another trio from the Native Tongues Posse forms the group De La Soul; they release their debut album, 3 Feet High and Rising.
(left) Grey Org/Toby Mott. De La Soul, "3 Feet High And Rising" album cover study, 1988
19902Pac (Tupac Shakur) joins Digital Underground as a dancer and roadie; the same year, the Digital Underground's “The Humpty Dance" goes platinum. Florida bans As Nasty as They Wanna Be, an album by 2 Live Crew, citing its controversial lyrics.
(left) TUPAC SHAKUR. AUTOGRAPH LETTER SIGNED, NEW YORK, 1995.
1991N.W.A.'s sophomore album reaches #1 on the pop music charts; nearly a million copies sell in the first week. Source magazine features The Notorious B.I.G. (Christopher George Latore Wallace) in its “Unsigned Hype” column. Boyz N the Hood, a film starring Ice Cube and portraying life in South Central LA, comes to theaters nationwide. 2Pac releases his debut studio album, 2Pacalypse Now.
(left) A Source magazine featuring Ice Cube
1992The Chronic, a debut studio album from Dr. Dre, goes multi-platinum. Together with Suge Knight, Dr. Dre forms Death Row Records and signs an up-and-coming rapper: Snoop Doggy Dogg. On Staten Island, the rap collective Wu-Tang Clan forms.
(left) Vintage Wu-Tang t-shirt
1993The Wu-Tang Clan releases their debut album, Enter the Wu-Tang: 36 Chambers; the album adds new life to the East Coast rap scene. Snoop Dogg releases his debut album, DoggyStyle – it becomes the first debut album to enter the Billboard charts at number one. 2Pac releases his second studio album, Strictly 4 My N.I.G.G.A.Z... A Tribe Called Quest drop their third album, Midnight Marauders. Very Necessary, an album from Salt-N-Pepa, becomes the best-selling album of all time by a female artist.
(left) JANETTE BECKMAN. SALT-N-PEPA. YELLOW VARIATION. SILKSCREEN. ARTIST'S PROOF. 2017
1994The Notorious B.I.G. releases his debut album, Ready to Die. The album remains a critical and commercial success, and reached a 6x platinum in 2018. 2Pac is robbed and shot in a New York recording studio – he recovers, but the incident fuels tensions between the East and West Coast hip hop groups. The rapper Nas releases lllmatic, his debut studio album; today, the album is considered a crucial touchstone in the history of East Coast hip hop.
(left) September 1994 issue of Source magazine, featuring Tupac Shakur
1995Queen Latifah wins a Grammy award for her single, “U.N.I.T.Y.” In March, 2Pac releases his third studio album, the critically acclaimed Me Against the World. After Suge Knight pays 2Pac's bail, he signs with Death Row Records. Eazy-E of N.W.A. dies of complications from AIDS.
(left) July 1995 cover of Source magazine, featuring Biggie
1996The Fugees release The Score, an album fusing hip hop with R&B and reggae influences; the album relieves two Grammy awards. In New York, Jay-Z drops his debut album, Reasonable Doubt, to much acclaim. On the evening of 7 September, an unknown shooter fires at 2Pac and Suge Knight in their car on Las Vegas Boulevard; 2Pac dies on 13 September.
(left) CHI MODU. Tupac Shakur Smoking, Atlanta, GA, 1994
1997The Notorious B.I.G. is shot and killed on 9 March, after leaving a party in Los Angeles. Sixteen days later, the rapper's second studio album, Life After Death, drops. The album was nominated for two Grammy awards. Also in 1997, Missy “Misdemeanor” Elliott releases her debut album, Supa Dupa Fly, and Jay-Z releases his second studio album, In My Lifetime, Vol. 1.
(left) THE NOTORIOUS B.I.G.] BARRON CLAIBORNE. 1997.
1998Jay-Z releases his third studio album, Vol. 2... Hard Knock Life; it's lauded as one of the most influential hip hop albums of all time, and pushes the artist's notoriety to new heights. Lauryn Hill releases her solo debut, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, earning her 11 Grammy nominations and 5 wins.
(left) Jay-Z in 2003 (Mikael 'Mika' Väisänen)
1999Eminem releases The Slim Shady LP on Dr. Dre’s Aftermath label. Dr. Dre releases his second studio album, 2001, in November. Songs created with The Neptunes – a production collaboration composed of Pharrell Williams and Chad Hugo – dominate the airwaves.
(left) Eminem and Proof performing in 1999 (Image: Mika Väisänen)