Rendering of The Universal Museum of Hip Hop, set to open in 2024 (courtesy Ralph Appelbaum Associates)

Last week, the New York City Mayor’s office and the Department of Cultural Affairs (DCLA) announced $5.5 million in funding for the new Universal Hip Hop Museum (UHHM) in the Bronx. The museum opened in late June in a temporary location at the Bronx Terminal Market. Construction on the final site is expected to be completed in 2024.

Mayor Eric Adams and Bronx Borough President Vanessa Gibson each gave $2 million to the project, with City Council providing an additional $1.5 million. Last year, the Bronx Borough allocated $4.2 million to UHHM, added to $3.75 million from New York state in 2019.

The two-story museum will be located in the new Bronx Point, a massive mixed-use development on the Harlem River. About one-third of the project’s over 1,000 residential units will be designated as affordable housing; the project will also include 10,000 square feet of retail space and a new waterfront esplanade. The development has been years in the making. In 2017, City Council approved the Bronx Point plan, and in 2021, construction began on the $349 million project.

The museum is the brainchild of former record executive and Bronx native Rocky Bucano, who started planning the museum in 2012. The new location will include galleries, a theater, and interactive exhibits. Through a partnership with Microsoft and MIT, the museum hopes to create a technologically advanced interactive museum experience.

“We’re building a unique kind of museum experience,” Bucano told CNN. “We’re not building the old traditional museum where you’re going to see a bunch of stuff on the wall and you know, looks like old dinosaurs.”

Before growing into a global cultural phenomenon, hip-hop emerged in the 1980s in the South Bronx, where the UHHM will open its doors. Hip-hop legends like LL Cool J, Nas, and Grandmaster Flash attended the museum’s May 2021 groundbreaking ceremony. Other important hip-hop figures like Kurtis Blow, Afrika Bambaataa, and Grandmaster Melle Mel are counted among UHHM’s founding members.

UHHM at its current location at the Bronx Terminal Market (courtesy UHHM)

The museum is currently exhibiting [R]Evolution of Hip Hop: 1986-1990, The Golden Era, which includes artificial intelligence and multimedia components in addition to displays of hip-hop memorabilia. It focuses on what the museum calls the “five elements of Hip Hop.” These are “MCing, DJing, Breakdancing, Aerosol Art, Knowledge.” 

The exhibition’s chief curator is Claude “Paradise” Gray, who was the entertainment manager and host of the Latin Quarter club. In the 1980s, the club served as a springboard for the emerging culture of hip-hop.

“Hip Hop was homegrown in the Bronx,” Bucano said in a press release about the new round of city funding, “And now with that vital support, we’re poised to become a global destination where visitors can learn about Hip Hop’s storied past and vibrant future.”

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Elaine Velie

Elaine Velie is a writer from New Hampshire living in Brooklyn. She studied Art History and Russian at Middlebury College and is interested in art's role in history, culture, and politics.

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