The Archive of Joe Conzo, Jr.
The Cornell Hip Hop Collection is the home of the archive of photographer Joe Conzo, Jr., featuring more than 10,000 of his negatives and prints. Called “The man who took Hip-Hop’s baby pictures” by the New York Times, Joe Conzo captured images of the South Bronx between 1976 and 1984, including early hip hop jams, street scenes, and Latin music performers and events.
In 1978, while attending South Bronx High School, Conzo became friends with members of the Cold Crush Brothers, an important and influential early Hip Hop group which included DJs Charlie Chase and Tony Tone and MCs Grandmaster Caz, JDL, Easy AD, and Almighty KayGee. Conzo became the group’s photographer, documenting their live performances in many of Hip Hop’s legendary early venues, such as the T-Connection, Disco Fever, Harlem World, the Ecstasy Garage, and the Hoe Avenue Boy’s Club. He also took pictures of other Hip Hop artists and groups, including The Treacherous 3, The Fearless 4, and The Fantastic 5.
These rare images capture Hip Hop when it was still a localized, grassroots culture about to explode into global awareness. Without Joe’s images, the world would have little idea of what the earliest era of hip hop looked like, when fabled DJ, MC, and b-boy/girl battles took place in parks, school gymnasiums and neighborhood discos.
The Cornell Hip Hop Collection preserves and has digitized Joe Conzo negatives, more than 6,000 of which are freely available to search and browse here:
Joe continues to photograph Hip Hop and other music performers today. His photographs have appeared in The New York Times, Vibe, The Source, Hip-Hop Connection, Urban Hitz, Esquire, and Wax Poetics, to name only a few.
More about Joe and his work: