As the world commemorates Hip-Hop’s 50th anniversary, the Caribbean Cultural Center African Diaspora Institute (CCCADI) launches its latest in-person exhibition entitled, Rhythm, Bass and Place: Through the Lens. Launching on March 17, 2023 with a free public reception at CCCADI (120 E 125th Street, NY, NY 10035), this exhibition, featuring the photographs of New York photographers Joe Conzo Jr. and Malik Yusef Cumbo, explores the moments in which musical styles were created in New York City’s African Diasporic communities. From portrait to photojournalism, this exhibition is a testament to a social movement, a cultural renaissance and a communally crafted sound experience that reverberates worldwide.
“If Hip-Hop is 50, then so too are the Reagan policies that spawned a musical movement. His administration’s dismantling of social programs lit a fire under the creativity of Black and Brown youth across New York City boroughs. There are stories that live between rhythm, imagination and innovation out of hardship. And yet, trauma is not the engine. Artists have found a way to mark this era through a series of interrelated cultural practices — breakdancing, scratching, rhyming, and painting — manufacturing joy. Photography serves as a compass into these lively worlds. This photographic exploration mirrors what it means to be a selector at the decks painting a story with each song – even if the song is an image,” – Lynnée Denise, Curator of Rhythm, Bass and Place: Through the Lens.
For the exhibition, CCCADI has procured images with a combined history of over 50 years of visual storytelling for New York’s music culture. While Joe Conzo Jr.’s work captures the Afro-Latin contributions and signatures to multiple genres of music from disco to house to Hip-Hop, Malik Yusef Cumbo’s work capturesthe ’90s and ’00s element of New York Hip-Hop and artists who have left a mark on what could be called the New York City underground street culture. By placing these photographers in the same exhibition, CCCADI seeks to inspire questions about the usefulness of a visual archive of the city’s music and cultural history.
The New York City area community is invited to the launch of Rhythm, Bass and Place: Through the Lens on March 17, 2023 at 6 p.m. – 7:30 p.m. The free reception will be held at CCCADI, 120 E 125th Street, NY, NY 10035. Registration is available at Here.
Capacity is limited, registration does not guarantee admission.
The exhibition will be on display from March 17 – June 24, 2023 during the following gallery hours: Thursdays and Fridays 3 – 7 p.m., and Saturdays 12 – 4 p.m.
The gallery will be closed on March 24, 2023
Rhythm, Bass and Place: Through the Lens is part of CCCADI’s five-month series, launched in February 2023, that celebrates the migration and creative evolution of Black music by highlighting the routes of rhythms and sound culture in a Diasporic context. Entitled Rhythm, Bass and Place: Connections and Reflections on Music of the African Diaspora, the series constructs a living archive through engaging stories from neighborhoods, stages, studios and dance floors that shaped the sonic landscape in select U.S., U.K. and Caribbean cities over the last three decades. Virtual programs, upcoming events and resources that are all part of this series can be found at www.cccadi.org/rbp
Malik Yusef Cumbo is a Photographer / Artist / Filmmaker / Producer. His first love is the art of photography, and his first creative influence was his mother, Fikisha Cumbo, a great photojournalist. He would study her photographs of Bob Marley and Peter Tosh, amongst many other music makers, and he made portraits of her when she needed one for publicity. After his mother got him a summer job with a local photographer named Larry Brown as Brown’s film and print processor, Malik fell in love with the craft.
Malik bought tons of magazines and books to study all the greats like Van Der Zee, Parks, Watson, Ritts, Leibovitz, and many others that were popular at the time. He set up a dark room in his bedroom and was quickly possessed by the art form. Inspired by this engulfing passion, he attended the School of Visual Arts for photography where he would dive into the study of working in a designated amount of space and making a Black and White print from it. He thought color had its place, but B&W made a photograph something else. Line, shape and form became more available to his senses, and a new dimension opened up for him.
Surrounded by a multitude of creatives at this time, moving in the same party scene, Malik befriended and photographed many of them who happened to be recording artists, and great visual artists. He would start working with many noted record companies and publishing houses as an event photographer and shooting stills on music videos. Later, he moved into portraiture, magazine features, fashion spreads, album covers, and multimedia applications.
He has extended his work as a photographer, currently working on photo document of Black Creatives, something that he feels is important to archive. “One hundred years from now, their names and faces should be known and presented as a creative document”.
Malik opened his first studio in D.U.M.B.O. in the early 90s, a few years later another studio in Tribeca, NY. His newest studio in Brooklyn, NY called ThoughtFormZ is a multimedia studio, focusing on photography, film, and sound design to create projects that are fitted for the new era of education and entertainment.
The New York Times heralded Joe Conzo Jr. as “The Man Who Took Hip-Hop’s Baby Pictures.” The long and perilous journey of his photographic images had finally captured the gaze of mainstream America.
Born and raised in the Bronx, Mr. Conzo acquired a passion for photography as a young boy attending the Agnes Russell School on the campus of Columbia University. He continued his formal artistic education at the School of Visual Arts (NYC). He also received certification as a Combat Medic. Later, he would join the New York Fire Department as an Emergency Medical Technician. It was his role as an EMT that delivered him to the World Trade Center on the morning of September 11, 2001.
All the while, he continued his photography and published a seminal book on Hip-Hop culture that has received worldwide acclaim — “Born In The Bronx: A Visual Record of the Early Days of Hip Hop” (2007). In 2008, this entire collection of images became part of a permanent archive housed at Cornell University. The digitization of over 10,000 of Mr. Conzo’s film images has already begun — progress can be viewed at the Cornell University Library’s website. This collection is regarded by genre experts and academia as an important lens into the roots of Hip-Hop culture, the Urban NYC landscape of the 70s and 80s, and an integral source for any serious discourse on the movement.
Curator Bio ~ Lynnée Denise was shaped as a scholar and a DJ by her parent’s record collection. She is an artist, writer, and DJ whose work reflects on underground cultural movements, the 1980s, migration studies, theories of escape, and electronic music of the African Diaspora. Denise coined the phrase “DJ Scholarship” to reposition the role of the DJ from a party purveyor to an archivist, cultural custodian, and information specialist. Her bylines have appeared in the Los Angeles Review of Books, The Black Scholar Journal, The Journal of Popular Music Studies, The Los Angeles Times, Harper’s Bazaar, and the Oprah Daily. Her writing is also part of anthologies including Women Who Rock, and Outside the XY: Queer Black and Brown Masculinity.
In 2020, Lynnée Denise was invited to be an Artist in Residence at the Stanford University Institute for Diversity in the Arts, and she was invited to be the Sterling Brown ’22 Distinguished Visiting Professor of Africana Studies at Williams College. She is currently a doctoral student in the Department of Visual Culture at Goldsmiths University of London.
About CCCADI ~ The Caribbean Cultural Center African Diaspora Institute (CCCADI), is an arts, culture, education and media organization that advances cultural equity, racial and social justice for African descendant communities. CCCADI’s programs serve children/youth, families, young professionals, elders, local and international artists, and practitioners of African-based spiritual traditions. Through our work CCCADI offers a collective space where African descendants honor the contributions of the global African Diaspora through exhibitions, performances, conferences, educational programs and international exchanges.
Rhythm, Bass And Place: Through the Lens will be on view from March 17 to June 24, 2023 at Caribbean Cultural Center African Diaspora Institute (CCCADI) located at 120 East 125th Street, NYC. The gallery is open Thursdays and Fridays from 3:00 ~ 7:00pm,, and Saturdays from Noon to 4:00pm. (The gallery will be closed on March 24th).