Photos of Hip-Hop’s Greatest Legends

The Photo Blog
May 20 2014 11:03 AM

Iconic Hip-Hop Photography

Joey Bada$$

Che Kothari

As long as hip-hop culture has existed, photographers have documented it. An exhibition presented by Che Kothari and Toronto’s Gladstone Hotel, “40 Years of Hip Hop Photography,” celebrates the artists who have shaped the music since its birth in 1974 as well as the pioneering photographers who helped introduce those artists to the world. “Part of the reason we did the show was to show appreciation not only for hip-hop and the impact it has in our lives and the community around us, but to give props to those who document it, those who are behind the lens but whose work is so important,” said Ryan Paterson, who co-curated the exhibit.

The exhibition’s photographs chart the progression of hip-hop from an underground, geographically specific phenomenon to a worldwide cultural movement that has created fortunes. That evolution might be seen through the style of the photographs themselves, which include a mix of raw documentary shots and highly polished studio images used for promotion.


Mike Schreiber

Biggie Smalls

Ernie Paniccioli

Dr. Dre

Estevan Oriol


Che Kothari

Hip-hop is a giant phenomenon made up of the contributions of a variety of people all over the world. Recognizing that incredible breadth, the exhibition doesn’t seek to be a retrospective of the entire culture. Instead, it focuses on hip-hop’s presence in North America and pays special attention to the emcees, or rappers, who’ve become faces of the music, such as Biggie Smalls and Chuck D. “Emcees play a massive role in hip hop. They are the messengers. They take the message of the people in the streets and share that in a public forum. Their role is very powerful,” said co-curator Kothari, whose own photographs are included in the exhibition.


While the music’s growth and increasing commercialization have certainly changed it during the last 40 years, Paterson said, it’s clear that more people are participating in hip-hop than ever before and pushing the music in new directions. “It's incredible to see how many people are approaching the art form and the culture and all the different modes of expressions and styles. It’s cool to see it grow from a relatively small group in New York to it suddenly exploding. The 80 images in the exhibition show just a small sliver of that,” he said.

40 Years of Hip Hop Photography,” which is featured in the Scotiabank CONTACT Photography Festival in Toronto, is on display until May 31.

Chuck D

Che Kothari

Biz Markie

Mike Schreiber


Che Kothari

Saukrates and Rich Kidd

Che Kothari

Mary J. Blige

Ernie Paniccioli


Che Kothari



The Democrats’ War at Home

How can the president’s party defend itself from the president’s foreign policy blunders?

Congress’ Public Shaming of the Secret Service Was Political Grandstanding at Its Best

Michigan’s Tradition of Football “Toughness” Needs to Go—Starting With Coach Hoke

A Plentiful, Renewable Resource That America Keeps Overlooking

Animal manure.

Windows 8 Was So Bad That Microsoft Will Skip Straight to Windows 10


Cringing. Ducking. Mumbling.

How GOP candidates react whenever someone brings up reproductive rights or gay marriage.

Building a Better Workplace

You Deserve a Pre-cation

The smartest job perk you’ve never heard of.

Hasbro Is Cracking Down on Scrabble Players Who Turn Its Official Word List Into Popular Apps

The Ludicrous Claims You’ll Hear at This Company’s “Egg Freezing Parties”

  News & Politics
Sept. 30 2014 9:33 PM Political Theater With a Purpose Darrell Issa’s public shaming of the head of the Secret Service was congressional grandstanding at its best.
Oct. 1 2014 8:34 AM Going Private To undertake a massively ambitious energy project, you don’t need the government anymore.
The Vault
Oct. 1 2014 10:49 AM James Meredith, Determined to Enroll at Ole Miss, Declares His Purpose in a 1961 Letter
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 30 2014 12:34 PM Parents, Get Your Teenage Daughters the IUD
  Slate Plus
Behind the Scenes
Oct. 1 2014 10:54 AM “I Need a Pair of Pants That Won’t Bore Me to Death” Troy Patterson talks about looking sharp, flat-top fades, and being Slate’s Gentleman Scholar.
Brow Beat
Oct. 1 2014 10:44 AM Everyone’s Favorite Bob’s Burgers Character Gets a Remix You Can Dance to
Future Tense
Oct. 1 2014 10:27 AM 3,000 French Scientists Are Marching to Demand More Research Funding
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Oct. 1 2014 7:30 AM Say Hello to Our Quasi-Moon, 2014 OL339
Sports Nut
Sept. 30 2014 5:54 PM Goodbye, Tough Guy It’s time for Michigan to fire its toughness-obsessed coach, Brady Hoke.