A Cypher in Queens

Queens Public Library is devoted to recognizing, documenting, and celebrating the history of hip hop culture, and we’re bringing a new six-month exhibit to Central Library this fall that honors three hip hop pioneers.

A Cypher in Queens features nine-foot-tall “audio sculptures” of three Queens artists who have died in recent years: Prodigy, from the Queensbridge duo Mobb Deep; Phife Dawg, from the St. Albans supergroup A Tribe Called Quest; and Jam Master Jay, the legendary DJ and member of Run-DMC who grew up in Hollis.

Each sculpture consists of a bust of the artist that sits atop stacked speaker boxes, inspired by Carnival season on the island nation of Trinidad and Tobago. Visitors will be able to listen to the music of each artist with wireless headphones from the Library’s Media Center.

“These three hip hop icons were chosen for their individuality, unique style of delivery, excellence, and contribution to the art-form of hip hop,” writes artist and creator Sherwin Banfield. “Each audio sculpture celebrates not just the artistry of hip hop culture, but also serves as a memorial for the genius of each artist representing Queens.”

Artist and A Cypher in Queens creator Sherwin Banfield with QPL Hip Hop Coordinator Ralph McDaniels; Banfield poses with A Cypher in Queens in Socrates Sculpture Park, October 2018.

Artist Sherwin Banfield with QPL Hip Hop Coordinator Ralph McDaniels; Banfield poses with his creation A Cypher in Queens in Socrates Sculpture Park.

A Cypher in Queens originally stood in Long Island City’s Socrates Sculpture Park in 2018, and is coming to Queens Public Library thanks to the efforts of QPL Hip Hop Coordinator Ralph McDaniels. “I encourage all lovers of hip hop and art to come out for this event and bring their families,” he says.

Join Ralph McDaniels and Sherwin Banfield on Thursday, September 19 at Central Library in Jamaica for the grand unveiling of A Cypher in Queens. McDaniels and Banfield will meet and greet the community in front of the sculptures at 3pm, followed by a ceremony at 6pm featuring music by Jason Mizell, Jr. (Jam Master Jay’s son) and spoken word by Cheryl Boyce-Taylor (Phife Dawg’s mother).

A Cypher in Queens will be at the Central branch of Queens Public Library from September 2019 through February 2020. Be sure to look for additional QPL hip hop programs related to the sculptures and the artists who inspired them after the grand opening of the exhibit!