A mixtape love letter to the parks that birthed hip hop


Hip hop was born in an apartment building in the Bronx, but it grew up in New York City’s parks. In the 1970s and ’80s, DJs would steal electricity from street lamps to power their speakers, plug in two turntables and a microphone, and throw a jam. Amateur rappers gathered for freestyle sessions in parks, most famously Manhattan’s Union Square.

The essence of living in a dense urban area is trading private space for public space. City-dwellers don’t have sprawling suburban lawns, or often even a backyard. But they do have access to great public and semi-public places: sidewalks, stoops, and, most importantly, parks. Parks are also where people without big houses, and people who are too young or too poor to gather in bars, go to party. And hip hop is party music, invented by DJs and MCs mixing records and making up rhymes to entertain the crowd.


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