News | July 18, 2023

New York Public Library Releases Special Edition Library Cards to Celebrate 50 Years of Hip-Hop

Jonathan Blanc/NYPL

One of the new library cards

In recognition of the 50th anniversary of hip-hop, The New York Public Library (NYPL) and Queens Public Library (QPL) have each released a limited edition library card that celebrates the genre and New York City’s central role in its rise as a global cultural movement that endures to this day. The cards will be available at each system’s respective branches in the Bronx, Manhattan, Staten Island, and Queens.

The NYPL card features the iconic Wild Style mural from the original soundtrack of the 1983 film by the same name. That film, directed, written, and produced by Charlie Ahearn and set in the South Bronx, is considered the first ever hip-hop film, with appearances by some of the most formative figures of the genre, including Fab 5 Freddy, the Cold Crush Brothers, Lady Pink, and Grandmaster Flash. The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture acquired Fab Five Freddy’s archives in 2019.

The New York Public Library chose the Wild Style mural image because the soundtrack’s original cassette is part of NYPL’s extensive hip-hop research collection at the Schomburg Center. The distinct mural created by artists Zephyr, Revolt, and Sharp serves as the art for the front of the library card, while the back of the card depicts the original soundtrack cassette.

The special edition QPL card features art by the legendary streetwear trailblazers, the Shirt Kings. Starting in 1986 from a booth at the Colosseum Mall in Jamaica, Queens, their graffiti-inspired custom clothing designs drew some of the biggest names in hip-hop as well as everyday fans, made their way to album covers and music videos, and helped lay the foundation for hip-hop fashion as a global force. The card reflects the Shirt Kings’ trademark style, while reinforcing the importance of reading, writing, positivity, and fun. 

In addition to the release of the limited edition library cards, both Queens Public Library and The New York Public Library will be hosting activities to mark the anniversary of hip-hop, which commemorates the moment on August 11, 1973 when, at a house party in the South Bronx, DJ Kool Herc switched, repeated, and isolated tracks through record breaks, creating one of the first instances of the genre as people would come to know it.