S otheby’s is thrilled present our second annual Hip Hop auction. Titled The Art and Influence of Hip Hop, the sale spans art, fashion, photography, hand-written documents, historic studio equipment, important artifacts, NFTs and more, representing key moments from the late 1970s through the present, demonstrating the influence of Hip Hop on art and culture.
The selection is led by an unpublished booklet of haikus written and illustrated by Tupac Shakur when he was just 11 years old, on offer from his godfather, Jamal Joseph (lot 100), a Black Panther activist who was gifted the booklet by Tupac 40 years ago while incarcerated with fellow Panthers at Leavenworth Prison, as well as a selection of love letters from Tupac to a cherished sweetheart, written at the age of 17 and just before rocketing to fame (lots 101-107).
A majority of the auction consigned directly from the artists on offer in the sale, including Chuck D, Jazzy Jay, Ice T + Afrika Islam, Bobbito Garcia, Crazy Legs, Sue Kwon, Roberto Lugo, Shirt King Phade, April Walker, Dan Lish, Danny Hastings, Danny Cortes, and Elena Kazi, as well from the Estate of Marcel Theo Hall (aka “Biz Markie”), and many more. In addition, works from the late Shock G of Digital Underground, MF Doom, and Ricky Powell will be represented.
This years’ Hip Hop auction was once again curated and organized by SVP, Global Head of Department & Senior Specialist Cassandra Hatton, in collaboration with Monica Lynch, former president of Tommy Boy Records (1981-1998), who helped launch the careers of legends Queen Latifah, De La Soul, Digital Underground, Naughty by Nature, House of Pain, among many others. Lynch is widely recognized as a leading voice on the history of the culture, and has appeared in numerous documentaries and podcasts.
Jamal Joseph Remembers the Poetry of Tupac Shakur
"Eternally, Tupac Shakur"
Created by FUTURA as a personal gift for the famed b-boy Crazy Legs, the current lot is one of the earliest known works by the legendary graffiti artist to come to market. Dating from 1983 and titled 5% Solution as a nod to Legs' then-affiliation with the Black Nationalist Five-Percent Nation, the work features Futura’s signature "Pointman" motif, one of his earliest known uses of the figure.
Afrika Islam / Ice T
Vintage Audio & Historic Recording Equipment
Available for Private Sale
The Archive of Skateland U.S.A., Compton, CA
Price Upon Request
Stage-Worn and Vintage Fashion
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) Set of five candid Sugarhill Records photos, [ca. 1980-1982]
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) Super Jam Music Festival at The Felt Forum concert poster, 1980
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) Set of six color Polaroid photographs taken at the South Bronx Hip Hop nightclub, Disco Fever, ca. 1981
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) "Wild Style" title animation cel, ca. 1982
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) Oberheim DMX Drum Machine signed by Ice T and Afrika Islam, . Accompanied by: Original instruction manual and Anvil travel case
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) Jazzy Jay's Personalized Def Jam Records bomber jacket, ca. 1985.
1985Following the success of the first-ever Hip Hop tour in Europe, breaking continues to rise in popularity as the unofficial Hip Hop dance to accompany the exploding musical genre.
(left) Japanese Adidas track jacket owned and worn by Crazy Legs, 1983.
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) Original concept art for the Beastie Boys "Licensed to Ill" album cover, 
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) Afrika Islam's custom leather Zulu Nation jacket. Los Angeles: Gonzo Fashions, ca. 1987.
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) Ice T's own medallion and promotional poster from the album Power, 1988.
1989Public Enemy releases their second album, It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back. It would outperform their first release, Yo! Bum Rush the Show, and go on to become The Village Voice’s first-ever hip hop album of the year.
(left) Chuck D's Raiders Starter jacket, signed, and worn on-stage while on tour, 1988-1989.
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) Autograph letter signed ("Thinking of U! Eternally your friend, Tupac A. Shakur"), to Cosima [Knez], [Marin City, California, ca spring 1989]
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 collection of twenty eight issues of Word Up! magazine, 1987-1997
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) Nas and Wu-Tang live shows and radio freestyle recordings, [1992-1994]
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) Sony Walkman (ca. 1993)
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. 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) Oversized chromogenic print of The Notorious B.I.G., April 1994
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) A full run of Wax Poetics magazine, with all printed issues from Issue 1 (Winter 2002) through Issue 68 (Winter 2020)
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.
(left) 3 Back From Hell at the Miami Arena concert poster, 1996
1997Sixteen days after rapper The Notorious B.I.G dies, his 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) Biggie Smalls in profile, 1997, silver gelatin print signed by Sue Kwon
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) Hard Knock Life Tour at the Arco Arena concert poster, 1999
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) Original Operation: Doomsday test pressing,