NYC libraries celebrate 50 years of hip-hop with special edition library cards

July 10, 2023

Image courtesy of Jonathan Blanc

The New York Public Library (NYPL) and Queens Public Library (QPL) are releasing new limited-edition library cards in celebration of the 50th anniversary of hip-hop. The new cards honor the genre and commemorate New York City’s integral role in its rise to global fame. The cards will be available at branches across the NYPL and QPL systems starting on Friday, July 14.

Image courtesy of the Queens Public Library

The NYPL’s cards feature the famous mural from Wild Style, a 1983 film set in the South Bronx that is widely considered to be the first-ever hip-hop movie and features genre pioneers like Grandmaster Flash, Fab 5 Freddy, the Cold Crush Brothers, and Lady Pink. The film was directed, written, and produced by Charlie Ahearn.

NYPL chose the Wild Style mural image because the movie’s original soundtrack cassette is part of the library’s hip-hop research collection at the Schomburg Center. The Wild Style mural, which was created by artists Zephyr, Revolt, and Sharp in 1983, is located on the front of the library card, while the back depicts the original soundtrack cassette.

The QPL’s cards feature art from the Shirt Kings, legendary streetwear designers who started out in a booth in Jamaica, Queens’ Colosseum Mall in 1986. Their distinct, graffiti-inspired custom clothing quickly became highly sought after and was worn by some of the biggest names in hip-hop, made its way on album covers and music videos and helped define hip-hop fashion.

On Thursday, July 13 at 11:30 a.m., QPL’s Queens Central Library is hosting an official card release party alongside the Shirt Kings and QPL’s Hip-Hop Coordinator Ralph McDaniels. Guests will have access to the special cards at the start of the release celebration. The Queens Central Library is located at 89-11 Merrick Boulevard in Jamaica.

Both of the library systems are hosting a wide variety of activities in celebration of hip-hop’s anniversary. The genre’s anniversary marks the moment on August 11, 1973, when DJ Kool Herc switched, repeated, and isolated tracks using record breaks at a house party in the South Bronx, a moment considered to be the birth of hip-hop.

On Saturday, August 5, the NYPL’s Stephen A. Schwarzman Building will host “The Rap Up,” an immersive event that will take guests back in time to the early years of hip-hop through a series of panel discussions and exhibits. Special guests include VIBE Magazine Editor-in-Chief Datwon Thomas, Wild Style Director Charlie Ahearn, Fab 5 Freddy, and more. The event will end with a hip-hop-themed version of NYPL’s annual Dance Party NYC with a special guest DJ, kicking off at 3 p.m. More information on the event can be found here.


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  1. D


    Is there any chance I can receive the Queens hip hop library card. I missed the timeframe due to illness.

    My birthday is 8/11/1980. I have my NY state driver license to prove. The birth of hip hop is on my birthday. I have been a resident of Queens since birth. I been in love with hip hop all my life. Big Dady Kane Grand Master Flash. My parents didn’t have money to buy hip hop cassette. I would borrow them from the Queens library across the street from Jamaica bus terminal.