MoCADA Art Exhibit: The Box That Rocks

I’m not a native Brooklynite nor a native New Yorker. So, there are more than a few cultural phemomena that I can only half claim. But given my age (late 20s, if you’re curious), stumbling upon the birth of hip hop in the boroughs is perhaps the most romanticized one — in my head, anyway — that I’m sorry to have missed. And after Museum of Contemporary African Diasporan Art’s opening reception for The Box That Rocks, it’s clear that all documentaries and compilations in the world won’t help me catch up.

On Saturday, MoCADA held its opening reception for The Box That Rocks: 30 Years of Video Music Box and the Rise of Hip Hop Music & Culture at Brooklyn’s 80 Arts building. What felt like a couple of hundred people, cramming the sidewalk and lobby, the group gathered to compare notes about where they were when hip hop was born and reminisce about running home to catch their favorite video show, Video Music Box.

Hosted by Ralph McDaniels and Lionel “The Vid Kid” Martin, Video Music Box might be considered the predecessor of Yo! MTV Raps and the like, debuting over a decade before MTV thought to add urban artists to its line-up. It aired locally in New York City beginning in 1983 and was the first television program of its kind to feature hip hop videos.

McDaniels is to New York City’s black music scene what Don Cornelius was to Chicago’s, and for the next two months MoCADA pays homage to the pioneer and reflects on the multifaceted reaches of his work to bring hip hop to the mainstream. Curated by Dexter Wimberly, The Box That Rocks features photography, painting, video, and interactive digital art that will be on view through May 28 in MoCADA’s main gallery at 80 Hanson Place in Brooklyn.

Below are a few must-see events on my list, but check out MoCADA’s site for full programming:

Screening: HomeGrown –  TONIGHT, March 13 at 6:00 – 8:00 p.m.
Screening of HomeGrown: HipLife in Ghana, a documentary film about Ghanaian music group VIP (Vision In Progress) that follows their journey from the Muslim ghetto in Accra to their first international tour. A Q&A with VIP  will follow screening.

Women in Hip Hop – Thursday, March 29  at 6:00 – 9:00 p.m.
Celebrate Women’s History Month with a panel discussion featuring a multigenerational group of women music artists — includes a special reception featuring a live DJ set of music by female recording artists.

Artist Talk –  Saturday, April 7 at 6:00 – 8:00 p.m.
A conversation in the gallery between Ralph McDaniels and exhibiting artists from The Box That Rocks about their work and the legacy of Video Music Box. Get ready for a lively Q&A!

On May 8, BAM Rose Cinemas will also host a special screening of Video Music Box highlights and performances (that might include this “rare” flashback interview between Ray Dejon and Biggie Smalls). The screening will be followed by a Q&A with Ralph McDaniels.

I’ll see you there — and will be taking notes!