Tuesday, October 4th, 2005

The Birth of Hip-Hop Through The Lens of The Great Joe Conzo

He was there–and you probably weren’t!

Photos by Joe Conzo Jr.

Here’s one very good story about the great Bronx photographer Joe Conzo Jr.. I met him this past February at that out-of-body experience called the Bronx book release party.

Joe was there, a youngster who came up after the 1971 peace treaty, and he was close to both the gangs and the activists. His grandmother, Evelina Antonetty, was the founder of United Bronx Parents, a kick-ass neighborhood organization that emerged in the early 70s to save the borough from the politics of abandonment.

After the peace treaty, Ms. Antonetty hired a lot of the gang peacemakers, including Benjy Melendez and other Ghetto Brothers, to literally serve the people. She was a powerful, if still largely unsung, positive force in the community.

When the next thing after the gangs came along–hip-hop–Joe was just learning how to use a camera. He tagged along with his homies from the Cold Crush and captured everything they all did together. The result was pure genius.

Imagine you have some of the earliest photos–that aren’t just historical documents, but works of beautiful art–of a culture that takes over the world. They’d be valuable, right? They’d be a hot commodity.

But here’s what you should know about Joe. He has kept it real all these years. He’s warm and humble and has never sought fame.

Instead, now fame has found him–his photos have been exhibited in London, Europe, and New York these past few months to widespread acclaim–and I think there couldn’t be another person more deserving.

It’s really interesting to see Joe’s photos of the Fort Apache protests, organized by Richie Perez and other Bronx community leaders, in the New York Times now.

Those protests proved very crucial for the development of what came to be known as the multiculturalism movement of the 80s, the grassroots cultural and political force that helped make icons of people like Greg Tate, Spike Lee, and Public Enemy. But it has largely been written out of the history books.

To me, it says a lot about Joe’s view of the world that he chose these images to represent his work in the New York Times. And this quote sums up his greatness:

“When I’m gone from this world, I hope my grandchildren can go to a library and see Joe Conzo images,” he said. “I am carrying on in the legacy of my grandmother, photographing music and the community. I don’t think I’ll get rich off this. But having this legacy is worth more than money.”

posted by @ 10:43 am | 2 Comments

2 Responses to “The Birth of Hip-Hop Through The Lens of The Great Joe Conzo”

  1. Brother OMi says:

    thanks for the history man

  2. Anonymous says:

    Joe Conzo is also one of the most well-rounded guys you could meet; he’s also a firefighter! Very approachable as a human being and an artist, willing to answer the questions of a younger head like me.


Previous Posts

Feed Me!






Come follow me now...


We work with the Creative Commons license and exercise a "Some Rights Reserved" policy. Feel free to link, distribute, and share written material from cantstopwontstop.com for non-commercial uses.

Requests for commercial uses of any content here are welcome: come correct.

Creative Commons License