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In an exclusive interview, we got the chance to speak with Rocky Bucano, the director of the Universal Hip-Hop Museum about the institution’s plans this year for Hip-Hop’s 50th anniversary.
This year, Hip-Hop has officially been in existence for 50 years, and there’s already been a few numerous events that are celebrating and amplifying the culture. At the center of these celebrations stands the Universal Hip Hop Museum, an institution that has been years in the making in the culture’s birthplace of the Bronx, New York. It has been a long journey that will culminate in the completion of the museum’s permanent home at Bronx Point, projected for the summer of 2024.
A respected music industry veteran with strong ties to Hip-Hop dating back to his founding of Strong City Records with DJ Jazzy Jay to working with LaFace Records before venturing into television and community initiatives, UHHM’s Executive Director Rocky Bucano has been hard at work collaborating with many individuals, artists, and companies to make the UHHM a reality. We recently had a chance to speak with him about the plans for the museum as Hip-Hop celebrates this landmark year and beyond.
Hip-Hop Wired: Hip-Hop is celebrating 50 years of existence, and many are paying rightful tribute and homage to the culture. For you, as someone who’s been such an integral part of this culture, how does it feel witnessing all of this taking place with the celebrations and the continued journey of UHHM, how does that make you feel?
Rocky Bucano: I’m deeply blessed and honored to be one of the few people who have seen Hip-Hop from before it was Hip-Hop to where Hip Hop is today. Being the executive director of the University Hip-Hop Museum, it becomes almost an obligation, because I’ve seen the entire journey of Hip-Hop, right? To make sure that we have one of the best museums in the world to celebrate and preserve the global history of the culture. I’m so excited and blessed to be in this position. And I look forward to the next 50 years, even after the museum is open. You know, Hip-Hop has done so much for so many people, including myself. So I’m just so excited to be in this position and to see this museum coming to the finish line.
HHW: With the current exhibition, The [R]Evolution of Hip Hop “Golden Era” 1986-1990 open now – which I feel everyone has to visit at least once – what further activations and events do you and UHHM have planned this year?
Bucano: So we are the official partner of Mayor Adams and his administration to produce and curate a variety of different programs and events to celebrate the 50th anniversary. We have a women’s empowerment program coming up later this month, which will be at the Billie Holiday Theater (in Brooklyn). We’re doing health and wellness programs, we’re doing social justice outreach programs, and small business workshops. But the big one we’re working on is a celebratory concert to celebrate 50 years of Hip-Hop. Right now, the plan is to do it in Central Park, but it might be Yankee Stadium, so stay tuned for that.
And then we will be opening up a traveling museum that will start here in New York City. Later this year, so hopefully around August 10 of this year, we’ll be putting that up and that will stay open until the actual museum opens up at the Bronx Point. The traveling museum will debut in Manhattan, so we’re working on a location now.
HHW: That sounds amazing. And that ties into the final question that I have for you. In terms of further projects that have been completed, with the highly interactive components in the exhibits at your current space are we going to see further virtual collaborations like you’ve done in the past with Microsoft, like with Metaverse and Facebook under Meta as well?
Bucano: Great question. So you know, we have a Metaverse, a virtual museum that was accessed accessible through alt space. We were working with Microsoft, but they decided to sunset their alt-space division. So now we’re moving our Metaverse virtual museum over to Spatial, and we’re working with the team there on that. We’ll probably have some virtual projects and programs ready to go later this spring and early summer. Pretty excited about that. And we’re exploring how to use AI and all of the available tech experiences including ChatGPT. We’re right there trying to use the most advanced technology. We want to make sure that we’re curating and celebrating Hip-Hop history with new technology.
For more information on upcoming events at the Universal Hip-Hop Museum, visit their website.