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Indepth Arts News:

"Under One Groove: The Roots of Hip-hop"
2003-05-24 until 2003-07-06
Eindhoven, , NL Netherlands

The exhibition ‘Under One Groove’ exposes the roots of hip-hop culture, which developed in New York's black boroughs The Bronx, Brooklyn and Harlem in the late seventies. The exhibition pays tribute to the pioneers of hip-hop and to the positivity and the power of hip-hop culture in the late seventies and the early eighties. The core of this exhibition consists of thirty photos by Jamal Shabazz and thirty by Charlie Ahearn. Shabazz is a master at capturing the energy, the pride and the mentality of his (Afro-American) people. He shows us the power and ‘coolness’ of early hip-hop.

Charlie Ahearn made his photos from the angle of an onlooking visitor, and these photos often portray the first hip-hop parties, with turntablist DJs doing their tricks by the light of one single bulb, in the streets, in parks and in clubs. In addition to the photos by Jamel Shabazz, the exhibition also presents a number of the early hip-hop flyers and posters that were meant to attract people to the parties. Wonderful promotional material, often done with thick felt-tip markers, in a period in which computers and editing programmes were hard to come by in black neighbourhoods. The exhibition also presents a collection of record sleeves of the 12-inch records and LPs that inspired the first hip-hop DJ's, and a series of short texts and a number of videos.

Hip-Hop in the year 2003

Nowadays, hip-hop has become synonymous with the threatening growl of super machos, extended limousines, scantily dressed women in Jacuzzis, the idolisation of violence and the commitment to ‘explicit lyrics’. A global phenomenon, hip-hop has now turned into a large-scale industry producing CDs, clothing, footwear, jewellery and video clips. What happened to many earlier sub-cultural movements such as hippie, punk, metal, skaters and gothic, happened to hip-hop, too: its original power, vitality and significance got devoured and wiped out.

The origins of hip-hop

Hip-hop developed as a consequence of the urge to escape poverty, violence and drugs and the strong need for a distinctive identity, an individual voice. Many young blacks wanted to have parties and express their creativity; they wanted to put an end to gang wars and turn the prevailing atmosphere of negativity into an atmosphere of positivity, and in doing so created the breeding ground for the hip-hop culture.

Jamel Shabazz and Charlie Ahearn

Jamel Shabazz was born in 1960 in Red Hook, Brooklyn. When he was fifteen, his father taught him the basic principles of photography. For over twenty-five years now, Jamal has been registering the history and culture of African Americans and their street wear. Shabazz observed the people he photographed, but he also was one of them. Shabazz is a man obsessed with the wonders of photography, but he is also a man with a deep-rooted love for his people. In the USA, the book Back In The Days (published last year by Powerhouse Books) featuring photos by Jamel Shabazz was an immediate hit. The work of Charlie Ahearn was recently published in the book Yes Yes Y’all (Da Capo Press). Charlie Ahearn’s work and the photos by Jamel Shabazz are poles apart. Shabazz asked kids to pose for his camera, whereas Charlie Ahearn photographed the MCs (masters of ceremony) and rappers during the legendary ‘street jams’, when street lamps were tapped for power and city parks rocked on their foundations all through the long, hot summer nights. Remarkably enough, Charlie Ahearn often was the only white man attending the legendary parties in Brooklyn, Harlem and The Bronx. In 1982, Ahearn shot his first classic hip-hop film Wild Style, which will also be shown during the exhibition.


MU explores the peripheral areas of art. MU (Japanese for synergy) focuses on the links between art, architecture, design, popular culture and new media. The issues and the set-up of the MU exhibitions hold a great attraction for both the experienced and the young visitors. All MU exhibitions are free.

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