Photographer/director Charlie Ahearn was directly responsible for opening the world’s eyes to New York City’s nascent hip-hop culture via his his touchstone film, Wild Style, which he both directed and produced.
A monster talent, DJ AM has single-handedly done a tremendous amount for the forwarding of the role of the party deejay in both underground and mainstream culture. His ability to bridge tremendous and authentic skills with the a-list realm is one that has yet to be surpassed by most great deejays.
Pioneering producer/deejay Arthur Baker, best known for producing Afrika Bambaata and the Soul Sonic Force’s world-wide, genre-bending hit “Planet Rock, remains acknowledged as a key figure in the evolution of the dance music industry.
Jaleel Bunton & Dave Sitek / TV on the Radio
TV on the Radio, the groundbreaking New York City indie rock band responsible for mixing electronica, hip-hop, free jazz, doo-wop, soul and electro, have not only topped many major music media outlets “best of” charts, but have, via their own work as well as collaborations with the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Celebration, Massive Attack and The Liars, helped to redefine the modern New York City music scene.
Henry Chalfant Photographer/videographer
Henry Chalfant, one of the first frontline documentarians of b-boy culture, first gained notoriety by awakening the world to the graffiti culture of the Bronx via his definitive books Subway Art and Spray Can Art before going on to coproduce, direct, research and shoot much of the film of equal impact, Style Wars.
Legendary graffiti writer Daze was one of New York City’s first artists to straddle all-city street respect with a burgeoning success on the international gallery scene.
Pioneer deejay David DePino began his stellar deejay/production career by working alongside dance music god Larry Levan at the legendary Paradise Garage.
Ever since the fortuitous start of his career at the Mudd Club in 1980, deejay and impresario Johnny Dynell has remained a favorite of New York’s downtown art and fashion crowds.
Drummer Chris Franz helped to unique and signature sounds of seminal new wave bands the Talking Heads and Tom Tom Club.
Bona-fide legend Bobbito Garcia is a world-famous deejay, writer, streetball player and member of the Rock Steady Crew. As co-host of The Stretch Armstrong and Bobbito show on WKCR from 1990-1998 and founder of his own Fondle Em record label, he was recognized as one of the unofficial leaders of the hip-hop industry.
Known popularly for his 1988-92 “Native Son” column in The Village Voice, Nelson George has authored fifteen books as well as having produced numerous films, including She’s Gotta Have It, CB4, To Be A Black Man, A Great Day in Hip-Hop, and, most recently, VH1’s Hip Hop Honors show.
A key figure in the downtown art scene of the early 1980s, screenwriter/director Michael Holman began his professional career as a leading impresario in the early days of hip-hop. Known for founding the band Grey with Jean-Michel Basquiat, as well as for hosting the short-lived, legendary public access show Graffiti Rock, Holman was a huge catalyst in the interactions between hip-hop and downtown subculture in their nascent days.
Legendary Zulu Nation deejay Jazzy Jay was an instrumental figure in the development of hip-hop turntable culture before going on to hosting his own show on Kiss Fm, producing several all-time classics for Def Jam and forming his own Strong City Records label.
Ed Koch, Mayor of New York City from 1978 to 1989, was not only responsible for bringing desperately needed fiscal stability to the city, but for the implementation of several housing and anti-discriminatory programs that earned him the status of a “people’s mayor” in many citizen’s eyes.
Deejay/remixer Danny Krivit has maintained international notoriety as one of the key players in the history of New York City nightlife through a career that has spanned over 35. Krivit has been cited in key historical films and books on deejay culture, including Maestro, Love Saves the Day, Last Night A Deejay Saved My Life and My Life and the Paradise Garage.
Man Parrish, a defining force in both the sound of hip-hop’s b-boy culture and that of the overall electronic music genre, has remained an icon long after his premier release, the reknowned “Hip Hop, Be Bop (Don’t Stop)” was released in 1983.
Revolutionary hip hop artist and actor Mos Def has maintained respect as a unique and outspoken critic in social and political issues, and has worked with numerous key hiphop luminaries. He has won several Grammy awards and his acting career has included key performances in Bamboozled, Monster’s Ball, Topdog/Underdog, Chapelle’s Show, Def Poetry, The Woodsman and Something the Lord Made.
Fashion designer, stylist and photographer Maripol has held great influence over the careers of numerous iconic artists, including Grace Jones, Deborah Harry, Madonna, Cyndi Lauper and Naomi Campbell. She also produced Downtown 81, the perennial classic window into New York City’s shadowy downtown arts and music scene.
Salvatore Principato is best known as the vocalist/percussionist of seminal minimalistfunk band Liquid Liquid, whose massive club hits became recognized worldwide after Grandmaster Flash’s sampling of “Cavern”.
John Robie has been producing dance music since 1982 and is considered to be the driving force behind many of the electro genre’s crucial explosion and evolution during the 1980’s. Between his production, mix and musical appearances work, he has had his hand in nearly every key song of the era.
Tom Silverman is the Founder and President of the hugely influential dance/hip-hop record label, Tommy Boy Records which has served as the home for artists as diverse as 808 State, Broadcast, Coldcut, De La Soul and Afrika Bambaataa.
Cynthia Sley was the lead singer for The Bush Tetras, a prominent no wave band best known for infectious dance rhythms with characteristically dissonant guitar riffs in songs like “Can’t Be Funky” and “Too Many Creeps”.
Ed Steinberg, one of New York’s earliest VJs, got his start experimenting with video at the Mudd Club before going on to directing videos for many key downtown bands. He is also the founder of Rock America, a music video subscription service for professional deejays.
Chris Stein is the co-founder and lead guitarist in the hugely popular and influential new wave band Blondie.
A key figure in New York’s no wave movement, James Chance combined freeform playing with solid rhythm inspired by James Brown to create a unique improvisational blend of jazz and punk in famed bands of the era Teenage Jesus and the Jerks, James Chance and the Contortions, and James White and the Blacks.
Glenn O’Brien wrote and produced Downtown 81, the rare snapshot of post-punk downtown New York City culture. Directed by Edu Bertoglio and produced by the aforementioned Maripol, Downtown 81 features renowned artist Jean-Michel Basquiat, James Chance, Amos Poe, Wlater Steding, Tav Falco, Arto Lindsay/DNA, Lee Quinones and Fab Five Freddy.
Fab 5 Freddy
Graffiti writer Fab 5 Freddy was a key figure in the broadening exposure of early hip-hop culture. Freddy, a supporting character in Downtown 81, aided Charlie Ahern in the production of Wild Style and was a key participating artist/performer in the very first gallery shows and performances to take place outside of the Bronx. In addition to an illustrious career as a promoter of hip-hop culture, Freddy was name checked in Blondie’s smash hit song of 1981, “Rapture” and went on to become the first hip-hop VJ by hosting MTV’s “Yo! MTV Raps” video show.
Considered one of graffiti’s “elders”, Andrew Witten began writing graffiti in 1975 and has, along with Futura 2000, Blade, Phase 2, Lady Pink and Taki 183, invented much of the styles and standards that continue to be used and expanded upon today.