The Queens Public Library now hosts a tribute to some of the borough’s fallen hip-hop heroes, as Fox 5 News reports.

“Now that hip hop has turned into a world-class ‘most popular music in the world,’ it’s time to really start documenting and preserving its history, so the library is a perfect place,” said artist Sherwin Banfield.

Banfield, who is originally from Trinidad, settled in Astoria as a child and wanted to make sculptures that were based on the beloved culture.

“When I first came to this country having reggae as my main music, hip-hop was the first music that hit me,” he said.

Banfield created a project called A Cypher in Queens, for the Socrates Sculpture Garden in Long Island City, and the project was displayed there last year.

Banfield chose artists from Queens like Prodigy of Mobb Deep, Jam Master Jay of Run DMC and Pfife Dawg of A Tribe Called Quest, who were significant to him.

The nine-foot-tall sculptures feature the face of each of the artists who have passed, atop built-in speakers from which their music plays. Each sculpture also highlights the artist’s neighboorhood, Prodigy: Queensbridge, Jam Master Jay: Hollis and Pfife: Linden.

The playlists are rotating on small iPods that are inside of each sculpture. Banfield routinely changes them. At the sculpture garden in Long Island City, the music by the artists was played out loud, but the library has headphones available for patrons to listen to.

“The music travels through the DNA and each of them has a unique style and they represent that style,” Banfield said.

A Cypher is displayed at the Central Branch of the Queens Public Library in Jamaica via Ralph McDaniels, the library’s hip-hop coordinator, formerly the host of Video Music Box on WNYC. He saw the project in Long Island City and was determined that it needed to be also shown at the library.

“We have a lot of foot traffic that comes through this library, folks will be able to come in and learn about their favorite hip hop artist,” McDaniels said. “Kids will come in here and be like who is this? They don’t even know who Phife Dawg is but they’ll be able to Google it up and see what we’re talking about.”

Staff of the library has also put together a collection of books and CDs on the history of hip-hop for those who want to educate themselves more on the culture. A Cypher will be displayed through February 2020 and the library will also offer a number of programs and speakers to coincide with the tribute.

The grand opening takes place on Thursday, September 19. The Queens Public Library will host a launch party at 6 p.m. featuring Pfife Dawg’s mother, who will read poetry, and Jam Master Jay’s son, who will DJ the event. Learn more about A Cypher here.


Glennisha Morgan is a Detroit-bred multimedia journalist and writer. She writes about intersectionality, hip-hop, pop culture, queer issues, race, feminism, and her truth. Follow her on Twitter @GlennishaMorgan.

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