Yasiin Bey Is Opening An Art Gallery To Keep Hip-Hop In The South Bronx

After Black Star album reports began in February, it has been a busier year than most for Yasiin Bey. He and partner Talib Kweli performed at the Brooklyn Hip-Hop Festival just last weekend (July 14). It comes in the midst of a 20-year-celebration of their landmark Rawkus Records LP. Now, Yasiin Bey has announced the launch of an all-new venture.

Settled in the Port Morris neighborhood of the South Bronx, Yasiin Bey and advertising executive Free Richardson have announced the opening of an art gallery next month dubbed, The Compound. The move reportedly comes in an attempt to keep Hip-Hop and art of all kinds in an area known for its rich history in the grander art community.

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Reportedly, the first show at The Compound will feature the work of Jonathan Mannion, a career photographer in Hip-Hop who has photographed genre icons including The Notorious B.I.G., Aaliyah, OutKast, Lauryn Hill, and Yasiin Bey himself, as well as having produced countless album covers for the likes of JAY-Z, DMX, Erick Sermon, Eminem, Warren G, and more. With the gallery’s red carpet reveal in tow, both Bey and Richardson expect that events like these will keep the history of the area alive and help tie the knot between Hip-Hop and fine art.

As reported to Artnet news, Bey said, “The gallery will serve as a space for all mediums of art. Free will run day-to-day operations alongside staff and I will bring in curatorial and special projects.” Richardson adds, “For me everything is art. What often happens is that certain artists don’t get a fair chance, and a lot of galleries don’t accept certain artists. The whole blue-chip world isn’t fair because certain artists that are just as good will never be accepted.”

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This announcement comes during a period in which the South Bronx has been slowly taken under siege by gentrification and wealthy real estate developers. One group re-branded the area, The Piano District. The rebranding was followed by a controversial “Macabre Suite” Halloween party attended by community elites and hosted by the same real estate developers, The Chetrit Group and Somerset Partners, who first put up a billboard declaring The South Bronx, “The Piano District,” in late 2015.

One could surmise that Bey’s gallery, and it’s upcoming grand opening, can be viewed as a positive deterrent for such tasteless events in the future, and a beacon for more respectful, unifying outlets to join this robust, historic birthplace of Hip-Hop. Speaking with The Ed Lover Podcast last weekend (July 13), Yasiin Bey spoke about childhood trips to The Bronx informing his love for the culture.

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#BonusBeat: This 2017 video looks at the significance of Soundbombing, a Rawkus series which Yasiin was a star of: