They say a picture is worth a thousand words, and that deems true for the latest exhibit that touched ground at the Annenberg Space for Photography in Los Angeles. CONTACT HIGH: A Visual History of Hip-Hop takes an intimate look at the photographers who chronicled the rise of hip-hop, documenting some of the most iconic images of hip-hop’s greatest figures to date.
Launching on Friday, August 26th, the exhibit kicked off with a special evening of panels featuring an array of guests including Fab 5 Freddy, who creatively directed the show, and Vikki Tobak, who curated and penned the book that inspired the photo exhibition. The historical documentarians behind the history-making visuals, which included Janette Beckman, Mike Miller, Estevan Oriol and Jorge Peniche, also spoke on behalf of the photos and their experiences capturing history in the making.
During the panel, Jorge Peniche — former tour manager for Nipsey Hussle, business partner with Nipsey for the Marathon Agency and personal confidant — shared a few heartfelt moments about his late friend, describing how the two initially met and how the genesis of their relationship began.
In doing so, he also shared a few photos of Nipsey from the exhibit on massive screens adjacent to the stage — one in particular of the "Victory Lap" rapper with his daughter. This heartwarming piece is included in the actual presentation, but there’s one photo in particular that resonates beyond words, especially in the wake of the rapper's recent death in front of his very own The Marathon Clothing store. Labeled “In Memoriam,” there is a photo of Nipsey Hussle driving a convertible car in front of County of Los Angeles Probation Department back in 2011. It not only represents his journey in the Crenshaw District, but it also demonstrates his progress and the initiative he took to invest back into the Crenshaw District despite pre-notions of the neighborhood.
The visual history display features nearly 140 works from 60 photographers, and of those 140 works, over 75 are original unedited contact sheets.
One of the most legendary pieces of the entire exhibit is Barron Claibone’s shot of Notorious B.I.G., which was taken in March of 1997 (only three days before his death). Regarded as the King of New York, there is an array of images of the East Coast rapper serving looks to the camera with the help of his plastic gold crown and exceptional smug facial expressions, including the memorable one everyone knows today.
But the specific photo of the contact sheets that is most striking is the one where he is enthusiastically smiling at the camera, portraying a foreign demeanor contrary to his tough public persona.
JAY-Z, Tupac, Kendrick Lamar, Lauryn Hill, Erykah Badu, Queen Latifah and Kanye West are other prominent creatives featured in the timeless exhibition, which is like no other in the market. There's no doubt hip-hop let alone pop culture aficionados should check out the invaluable showcase.
For more information on the exhibit, visit the Annenberg Space for Photography’s website. The entire inspirational documentation of hip-hop visuals is truly groundbreaking, not to mention completely free of charge.
So as Nipsey Hussle would say (and what this exhibit says through the electric art forms): "Hussle & Motivate."