Jazmyn Scott and Aaron Walker-Loud partnered with the Museum of History & Industry to curate and present The Legacy of Seattle Hip-Hop, an exhibit celebrating the people, places, and events that make up one of our region’s most vibrant cultural communities. The exhibit ran from September 19, 2015 through May 1, 2016. We at 4Culture were proud to help fund it! Here, Aaron and Jazmyn give us some insight into how the exhibit evolved, and where it’s taken them:
After six years of constructing a brighter light to help the world better understand the Hip-Hop scene in Seattle, both past and present, we found ourselves in Detroit receiving national acclaim for these efforts. On the evening of September 16, 2016, we were overjoyed to receive, along with MOHAI, the American Association for State & Local History 2016 Leadership in History Award of Merit for The Legacy of Seattle Hip-Hop exhibit: “the most prestigious recognition for achievement in the preservation and interpretation of state and local history.” To think that two people who have never curated an exhibit before could partner, receive great acclaim and public engagement—approximately 31,000 guests attended the exhibit throughout the run—then also receive national accolades, was beyond what we’d ever imagined.
To think that two people who have never curated an exhibit before could partner, receive great acclaim and public engagement—approximately 31,000 guests attended the exhibit throughout the run—then also receive national accolades, was beyond what we’d ever imagined.
In 2010 we were involved in an exciting project with Steve Sneed of the Seattle Center for the 50th anniversary of the Seattle World’s Fair, in the multi-faceted “Next 50” project. Originally approaching Aaron to look at the possibility of producing a Seattle Hip-Hop compilation album, Steve was quickly open to expanding the concept. We built a team that included the two of us, brother Avi Loud, and several community collaborators and created 50 Next: Seattle Hip-Hop Worldwide, which launched in 2012. The project includes a free compilation of 76 Seattle/Northwest Hip-Hop tracks spanning from the early 1980s through 2012, as well as a short film documentary on this region’s unique culture.
To grow the long-term scope of our work, Steve then immediately introduced us to the Black Heritage Society of Washington State, who then introduced us to MOHAI to produce a Black History Month Celebration in February 2014. Showcasing film, visual art, dance, music, and a community conversation about gentrification in Seattle, over 700 guests were in attendance. We were later invited to meet with MOHAI, and presented with the opportunity to co-curate an entire exhibit about Seattle Hip-Hop. After our initial shock at the invitation, we eagerly accepted!
Collecting artifact loans that represent over 1,000 Seattle Hip-Hop artists, along with vital support from Blend, Dr. Daudi Abe, DeVon Manier, Margo Jones, 206 Zulu, the Coolout Network, as well as our teams at 50 Next: Seattle Hip-Hop Worldwide, The Town Entertainment and Big World Breaks, we embarked on our journey. Tasked with engaging the spectrum of museum goers, from toddler aged youth through elders, enlightening those new to Hip-Hop as well as “Hip-Hop Heads,” honoring cultural originators in parallel with new artists, composing the supportive text, having the patient persistence to build trust and collect loaned artifacts from artists spread all over the region—these were the challenges to embrace.
Hip-Hop is ever-evolving. Originating as a Black American art form in New York City in the late 1970s, it is unique among all other music genres as a multi-medium cultural force that is directly tied to the roots of the Black Power movement of the 1960s and still consistent with the ongoing fight against institutional racism through the efforts of Black Lives Matter and many more active entities. To have activists and artists participate in events that brought honest conversation around these vital issues was extremely important to us. We were grateful that MOHAI not only supported us in creatively exploring elements of Hip-Hop within the exhibit—Graffiti, Deejaying, Dance, Emceeing, Production and Fashion—but also co-produced over 20 events with us during the exhibit run, that included the participation of over 45 community members and organizations represented.
Sharing Seattle’s stories in Detroit this September at the AASLH award ceremony, all we could help feel is that this is just the beginning, a surprisingly explosive start to both of our life’s work in amplifying Northwest culture on the world stage.