Hip hop tribute at New York City library

There is now a tribute to hip hop in the Queens Public Library.

"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 immigrated to the U.S. from Trinidad as a child and settled in Astoria, wanted to create sculptures based on hip hop.

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

He envisioned the project, called A Cypher in Queens, for the Socrates Sculpture Garden in Long Island City, where it was first on display last year.

Banfield chose artists from Queens who were especially meaningful to him: Prodigy of Mobb Depp, DJ Jam Master Jay of Run DMC and Pfife Dawg of a Tribe Called Quest. Each nine-foot-tall sculpture features the face of each of the late artists, atop built-in speakers from which their music plays. Each sculpture notes the artist’s neighborhood, Prodigy: Queensbridge, Jam Master Jay: Hollis and Pfife: Linden.

Banfield routinely changes the playlists on small iPods inside of each sculpture. At the sculpture garden the music played out loud but at the library it will be available through headphones.

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

A Cypher in Queens found its way to 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 had seen the project in Long Island City and was determined to bring it to 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," he 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."

The Library staff has compiled a collection of books and CDs on the history of hip hop for those who want to learn more.

The exhibit will be on display through February and the library will offer a number of programs and speakers in conjunction.

The grand opening will be on Thursday September 19th. The library will host a kickoff party at 6 p.m. featuring Pfife Dawg’s mother, who will read poetry, and Jam Master Jay’s son, who will DJ.