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Straight Outta Oakland

The Oakland Museum of California honors 45 years of hip-hop with an interactive exhibition touting the genre’s global—and local—influence.


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Courtesy of Jamel Shabazz

The history, culture, dance, and sound of hip-hop come to life in the newest exhibition at the Oakland Museum of California (OMCA). Respect: Hip-Hop Style and Wisdom reveals the unexpected story of the musical genre and its global impact over the last 45 years, rewinding to its humble beginnings in the Bronx, New York, and detailing its evolution into a multibillion-dollar industry that influences everything from fashion to politics.

“We want people to recognize that hip-hop is part of their lives and that it is important,” says René de Guzman, OMCA’s senior curator of art and director of exhibition strategy. “Hip-hop has shaped the world and been a positive social force.”

Museum visitors can view artifacts and objects spanning the eras of hip-hop, including original promotional flyers from early New York City parties; DJ pioneer Grandmaster Flash’s turntables; a handwritten essay by rapper Tupac Shakur; photographs depicting Oakland street life; and contemporary artworks influenced by the genre—including artist Nick Cave’s acclaimed Soundsuits, described as colorful, wearable fabric sculptures.

Respect also highlights the history of West Coast hip-hop and delves into Oakland’s role in the music’s evolution. The exhibit features a “hip-hop map” of the Bay Area, as well as insights from local artists and luminaries about how hip-hop’s lyrics, sound, and style provide a platform for creative self-expression, activism, youth development, and education.

Visitors even have the chance to experiment for themselves in the Hip-Hop Dojo—a practice, performance, and event space where they can bust a move, write rhymes, craft beats, and create graffiti art.

“With this exhibition,” says de Guzman, “OMCA sets the stage for a deeper exploration of hip-hop.” Jump on it!

Respect: Hip-Hop Style and Wisdom is on view at OMCA from March 24 to August 12. museumca.org.

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