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Archiving Hip Hop: 50 years in the making

Archiving Hip Hop: 50 years in the making

Hip Hop Seminar & Exhibition

50 years have now passed since Kool DJ Herc plugged in his sound system at his sister Cindy Campbell’s back-to-school party at 1520 Sedgwick Avenue in the South Bronx on 11 August 1973. This party would eventually be remembered globally as the ‘birth of hip hop’ and as such it marks a starting point of hip hop as an African diasporic culture that is celebrated and practiced around the world. 


Purchase your tickets via Eventbrite.


Thursday 28th - Friday 29th September 2023

Final Programme

Keynote Speakers

  • Hanifa McQueen-Hudson, UK's 1st BGirl, Wolverhampton, UK (Instagram)
  • James Jessop, Graffiti Writing Obsessive, Glasgow, UK (Instagram)
  • Frederik Hahn, Hip-Hop-Archiv, Heidelberg, Germany (Instagram)
  • Bryan Vit, Hip-Hop-Archiv, Heidelberg, Germany (Instagram)
  • Kaptin Barrett, Hip Hop Coordinator at Amgueddfa Cymru / Museum, Wales (Instagram)
  • Silhouette Bushay, Senior Lecturer, Early Childhood and Education Studies, University of East London, UK (Instagram)
  • Anthony Gunter, Senior Lecturer, Childhood and Youth Studies, The Open University, UK (Profile)

In the 1980s and 1990s British hip hop kicked off and slowly but steadily found its own identity and branched off into several unique musical and cultural expressions. Recording artists such as The Criminal Minds, Congo Natty, and Shut Up & Dance successfully fused hip hop music and culture with other existing art forms such as House and Reggae music to pioneer new musical genres such as Rave, Jungle, and Drum & Bass. 

Picture of Asiatic Soul & MK Posse

With this conference and exhibition, we want to highlight how global hip hop practitioners and hip hop scholars remember, historicise and archive the culture locally. The exhibition will bring to light memorabilia, artefacts and images from the local Milton Keynes hip hop scene from the late 1980s to the mid-1990s. We will invite local breakers, graffiti artists, emcees, deejays, musicians, and knowledge producers to showcase their art and culture and reflect on the past and the future of hip hop in Milton Keynes, in the United Kingdom, and in the world. Parallel to the exhibition, we will also host a conference, for which we will invite scholars and practitioners to examine how hip hop can be archived, what institutional and cultural challenges such archiving might entail, and how we can work collaboratively with local scenes to represent the varied histories of hip hop in ways that are accurate and fair. We invite participants to reflect on the following questions: What happens when hip hop is exhibited in museums? How can we archive hip hop knowledge, practices, and artefacts? What data repositories and hardware are necessary for archiving hip hop? How can hip hop archives be funded, sustained, and made accessible for the people? How to deal with copyright and sampling? Who are hip hop archives for? How can universities and cultural organisations support hip hop archives? 

Apart from standard academic talks and keynote addresses, the conference will also feature novel formats of knowledge production and dissemination, such as knowledge-droppin cyphers, graffiti literacies, or scratch-in-the-surface of ideas sessions. We want to emphasise that knowledge production within hip hop is both an intellectual and an embodied practice, so we explicitly invite participants to experiment with novel ways of presenting their ideas - in a hip hop way.


The Archiving Hip Hop: 50 Years in the Making Conference will feature an exhibition highlighting Hip Hop culture that has evolved in and around the city of Milton Keynes, UK, which is where the Open University’s main Walton Hall campus is located. The exhibition will be curated by local Hip Hop practitioner and Milton Keynes resident Barry Watson (aka Kraze One) and will feature content and memorabilia taken from his online archive project available to view at

The Break to the Beat archive project covers all aspects of Hip Hop culture (Emceeing, Deejaying, Breaking, Graffiti, etc.) since its emergence in the UK during the early 1980s and specifically focuses on the achievements of practitioners with a connection to the city of Milton Keynes, located in the South of England directly between the cities of London and Birmingham.

The archive project is currently in its second stage researching and documenting the time-period between 1991 and 1995. The first stage of the project which focused on the 1980s was completed in 2021 and presented to residents and visitors to the city by way of a community exhibition that was displayed over a two-month period and featured several of the area’s local Hip Hop practitioners.

The Break to the Beat collective has previously worked with the Open University’s Black Minority Ethnic Network on several events that have taken place at the Walton Hall campus aimed at highlighting and celebrating local Hip Hop culture. The below video, which was created using footage from an event held in 2019, provides a good example of how Hip Hop culture can bring academics, practitioners, and members of the local community together.


On-site participation on the Open University Campus in Milton Keynes, including lunch, refreshments and dinner: £210

Online participation: £40

Online and on-site non-presenting auditors (no meals included): Free

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