Jul. 7, 2023 By John Schilling
To celebrate the 50th anniversary of hip-hop, the Queens Public Library (QPL) will release a limited edition library card that honors the genre’s global significance and the role New York City played in its rise as a cultural movement.
The new library cards feature a purple background with a graffiti art-style design that reads “Queens,” as well as an open book, two street signs that say “Public” and “Library” and two smiley-faced spray paint cans. The overall design is the artistic vision of Shirt Kings streetwear.
“Starting in 1986 from a booth at the Colosseum Mall in Jamaica, Queens, their graffiti-inspired custom clothing designs drew some of the biggest names in hip-hop as well as everyday fans, made their way to album covers and music videos, and helped lay the foundation for hip-hop fashion as a global force,” QPL said in a statement. “The card reflects the Shirt Kings’ trademark style, while reinforcing the importance of reading, writing, positivity, and fun.”
While set to be available at QPL branches on July 14, the new library cards will first be available at a release party at the Queens Central Library at 89-11 Merrick Blvd. at 11:30 a.m. on July 13. The party will offer attendees with early access to the cards and feature the Shirt Kings, QPL Hip Hop Coordinator Ralph McDaniels and other special guests.
In addition to QPL, the New York Public Library (NYPL) will also release a special edition card recognizing hip-hop, but with a different design. Instead of the Shirt Kings, NYPL’s card features the “Wild Style” mural from the original soundtrack of the 1983 film of the same name. Created by Charlie Ahearn and set in the South Bronx, “Wild Style” is considered to be the first-ever hip-hop film.
“The New York Public Library chose the “Wild Style” mural image because the soundtrack’s original cassette is part of NYPL’s extensive hip-hop research collection at the Schomburg Center,” NYPL said in a statement. “The distinct ‘Wild Style’ mural created by artists Zephyr, Revolt, and Sharp serves as the art for the front of the library card, while the back of the card depicts the original soundtrack cassette.”
Both library systems also plan to celebrate hip-hop’s birth with a series of events scheduled for early August, including a two-day summit starting on Aug. 3 at LaGuardia Performing Arts Center in Long Island City. This event will feature various hip-hop and graffiti artists who will lead panel discussions and explore the genre’s history in higher education, marketing and advertising, economics, social justice, civil rights and other music genres.
The summit, along with the new cards, will culminate QPL’s six-month celebration of hip-hop that began in February when the library partnered with New York City’s libraries and other institutions across the country to host dozens of related panel discussions, workshops and education programs.