Rap Icon Kurtis Blow and Rocky Bucano Talk the Universal Hip Hop Museum

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Kurtis BlowHip hop as American knows it was more or less formed in the early 1970s by young New Yorkers of African-American, Caribbean, and Latino heritage. It was not just a musical form, but a culture encapsulating music, dance, graphic art, and deejaying. By the 2000s, what was previously considered a passing musical fad, rap music became the most listened-to musical genres on the globe. A relatively new New York City museum wants to preserve Hip Hop Culture. It’s called the Universal Hip Hop Museum (UHHM).

“Hip Hop is the world’s most popular culture; it has impacted every aspect of the global economy and yet it doesn’t have a central resting place where the amazing body of work that was created by the culture’s pioneers is preserved and on display for students and the general public to study the history of Hip Hop,” says financial professional Rocky Bucano, president/founder of UHHM.

Founded by hip-hop pioneers, and chartered by the New York State Department of Education, UHHM showcases, preserves, and protects Hip Hop Culture. Visit it in the Bronx, or on your device. “We became an official museum last year (2015). The response has been phenomenal.  We have a team of supporters who are all around the world in countries such as England, Italy, South Africa, France, Australia, China, Brazil etc.  The world is behind this project,” says Bucano.

Hip Hop has become part of America, and says legendary rapper Kurtis Blow, who is the face of the museum,  a museum is necessary to showcase its importance in American history. “A Hip Hop Museum is important because it will document the history of Hip Hop.  By documenting the history, kids can be inspired by this information to help them know where they are going now that they have an understanding of where they came from,” he says.

The Universal Hip Hop Museum is also a digital experience. It uses leading edge virtual and augmented reality technologies for an immersive online and offline experience. “We chose to begin the development of the Universal Hip Hop Museum using the latest advances technology specifically Virtual Reality in 2016. We teamed up with Framestore VR of NYC to produce the Kurtis Blow VR Experience which is available as a downloadable app in the Google Play store. This is the first of many full immersive curated virtual reality features about the history of Hip Hop culture that we will be producing for the virtual museum,” explains Bucano.

He continues, “We seek to be a different kind of museum, one with no boundaries, allowing people from distant places to visit the museum without having restrictive access to our exhibits and programs.  Virtual reality hardware and today’s smartphones allows us to make our VR programming and collections accessible to the world.  The Virtual Museum will allow our patrons to enjoy a unique viewing experience of Hip Hop culture that can’t be found anywhere else online or offline.  We are the arbiters of the culture so the stories and exhibits that we produce will be authentic.”

The UHHM, which is supported by Hip Hop Pioneers Kurtis Blow, Krayzie Bone, Ice T, Grand Wizzard Theodore, Q Tip, Doug E. Fresh, MC Sha Rock and other luminaries of Hip Hop’s 5 core elements, is unique in its virtual experience, which offers Hip Hop patrons a comprehensive analysis and multidimensional view of Hip Hop’s global evolution with immersive virtual reality exhibits produced by virtual reality production studio Framestore VR of New York City.  The virtual museum offers  access to the world’s finest collection of  Hip Hop artifacts, photography, artwork, research information, music and video content ever assembled about the culture’s 5 elements (Emceeing, Turntablism, Break Dancing, Graffiti and Knowledge).

Recently the UHHM attempted a Kickstarter to raise funds to help in the development of the museum. Unfortunately, the Kickstarter was not successful in raising its goal of  $75,000.  “We chose to use KickStarter to help fund development of the Virtual Museum because we wanted to ensure our supporters that the campaign would be transparent and held to a high level of integrity.  Kickstarter was the best crowdfunding platform this project. We just did not have enough awareness about the KickStarter to accomplish our goal,” says Bucano. “The  KickStarter did not meet the goal so all money was returned.  What the KickStarter did accomplish is that it gave the UHHM a platform to connect more people from around the world to the museum and the future educational and social programs that will be offered.”

The UHHM will develop fully into a physical space as well over time. “The Universal Hip Hop Museum’s rollout of a comprehensive cultural arts and education programming and preservation strategy that supports the virtual museum and the future plan for development of a brick and mortar building in the Melrose section of the South Bronx scheduled for 2018,” notes Bucano. “Consumers spend $8 Billion annually on museum experiences. The virtual museum is powered by a proprietary mobile application designed and engineered for Google Android and Apple iOS smartphones. There are now more than 7 Billion smartphone users worldwide who are surrounded by the influence of Hip Hop culture. Hip Hop culture continues to evolve and change over time.  Technology allows the UHHM to ensure that Hip Hop’s global history adapts to communication and social networking interests of our patrons.”

Looking at the goals for 2016, the museum is looking to continue to grow. “The goal for 2016 is all about fundraising to get the Virtual Museum up and running.  We have secured commitments from the top collectors of Hip Hop culture for the museum. Partnerships with some of the country’s most prestigious universities and colleges are now in place.  We are now offering accredited college courses with our partners. Later this year we will have a digital television network up and operating with Hip Hop programming from around the world to promotes Hip Hop’s 5 cultural Elements ie. Turntablism, Emceeing, Breakdancing, Graffiti, and Knowledge,” says Bucano. “We will have physical building in NYC. The plan is to open the physical museum by 2018. We are campaigning now to support this endeavor and have the support of both city and state officials to achieve this goal.”

The UHHM will ultimately hold its own–just like the Hip Hop Culture has. Says Blow, “I felt the longevity of Hip Hop culture a long time ago and investing in a career that I have been blessed to have is proof. I went to college seeking a degree in communications. I met Russell Simmons and we made history from a plan designed at CCNY.”