Hip hop card

Queens Public Library and New York Public Library Release Special Edition Library Cards at Branches on July 14 to Celebrate 50 Years of Hip-Hop

The two library systems will also celebrate the birth of hip-hop in a series of special events August 3–5.

For QPL, early access for cards will be available at Central Library on Thursday, July 13 at a Hip-Hop Card Release Party with the Shirt Kings and special guests.

NYPL to release playlists in partnership with TIDAL featuring archival material and song selections from staff at the Library for the Performing Arts.


Visual Assets:

Links to images of NYPL and QPL cards


July 7, 2023 — In recognition of the 50th anniversary of hip-hop, The New York Public Library (NYPL) and Queens Public Library (QPL) will each release a limited edition library card that celebrates the genre and New York City’s central role in its rise as a global cultural movement that endures to this day. The cards will be available at each system’s respective branches in the Bronx, Manhattan, Staten Island, and Queens starting July 14. 

The NYPL card features the iconic “Wild Style” mural from the original soundtrack of the 1983 film by the same name. That film, directed, written, and produced by Charlie Ahearn and set in the South Bronx, is considered the first ever hip-hop film, with appearances by some of the most formative figures of the genre, including Fab 5 Freddy, the Cold Crush Brothers, Lady Pink, and Grandmaster Flash. The Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture acquired Fab Five Freddy’s archives in 2019.

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. 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. Other items in the Schomburg’s hip-hop collection include Hip-Hop Archive Project files, the James Topp art collection and the Talib Haqq pictorial history of hip-hop.

The special edition QPL card features art by the legendary streetwear trailblazers, the Shirt Kings. 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. The card reflects the Shirt Kings’ trademark style, while reinforcing the importance of reading, writing, positivity, and fun. 

QPL’s special edition hip-hop cards will be available at all QPL branches starting on Friday, July 14. On Thursday, July 13, at 11:30 a.m., Queens Central Library (89-11 Merrick Boulevard in Jamaica) will host an official card release party with the Shirt Kings, special guests and Ralph McDaniels, Queens Public Library’s Hip Hop Coordinator.  Early access to the cards will be available at the start of the release celebration. 

In addition to the release of the limited edition library cards, both Queens Public Library and The New York Public Library will be hosting activities to mark the anniversary of hip-hop, which commemorates the moment on August 11, 1973 when, at a house party in the South Bronx, DJ Kool Herc switched, repeated, and isolated tracks through record breaks—creating one of the first instances of the genre as people would come to know it. 

Hip-hop Events To Be Held August 3–5 at Both Queens Public Library and The New York Public Library 

As part of a six-month celebration that began in February, Queens Public Library partnered with New York City’s libraries and other institutions nationwide to host dozens of in-person and virtual programs. Titled “Collections of Culture: 50 Years of Hip Hop Inside Libraries, Museums and Archives” and funded through a $342,760 grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), the initiative has featured dozens of panel discussions, author talks, educational forums, and workshops. 

The initiative will culminate in a two-day summit on August 3–4 at LaGuardia Performing Arts Center in Long Island City, Queens, which aims to further explore the history of hip-hop and its expansion into different sectors of society, including higher education, marketing/advertising, other genres of music, social justice, civil rights, and economics.

The summit’s interactive workshops will invite visitors to learn hands-on from artists who specialize in various elements of hip-hop, including DJs, break dancers, and graffiti artists. Hip-hop pioneers, performers, and scholars will lead panel discussions about the history of hip-hop and its cultural significance. To register for the summit, click here.

The following day, on August 5, New Yorkers can celebrate hip-hop culture at two corresponding events at The New York Public Library’s historic Stephen A. Schwarzman Building. “The Rap Up”— an immersive experience that will take you back in time to hip-hop’s early years featuring a series of panel discussions and hip-hop exhibits — will begin at 10 AM and feature VIBE Magazine Editor-in-Chief Datwon Thomas, Wild Style director Charlie Ahearn, Fab 5 Freddy, award-winning hip-hop artist Mickey Factz, fashion icons 5001 Flavors and April Walker, acclaimed author and journalist Vikki Tobak, music by DJ Spinna, and more. 

The party will continue outside on the Fifth Avenue plaza where NYPL will conclude the celebration with a special hip-hop–themed edition of the Library’s annual Dance Party NYC, an intergenerational citywide dance party with a special guest DJ, hosted in partnership with the New Victory Theater and Bryant Park. The dance party begins at 3 PM. More information about all hip-hop anniversary activities at NYPL can be found at www.nypl.org/hiphop50.

Curated music playlist inspired by archival material in partnership with TIDAL

In partnership with NYPL’s Library for the Performing Arts, global music and entertainment streaming platform TIDAL has created three staff-curated playlists featuring music by decade inspired by the research library’s expansive VIBE magazine collection. This hip-hop playlist will be on “Live on TIDAL,” which is a feature on the TIDAL app, on Monday, August 7, at 4PM. 

The playlists, a joint effort between NYPL and TIDAL, were designed to showcase the Library’s extensive hip-hop research archive, which includes the entire collection of VIBE magazine print periodicals. Each playlist is 30 songs, in recognition of VIBE’s 30th anniversary this year, and is largely inspired by artists featured in the celebrated magazine, which captured the golden age of hip-hop and was founded in 1993 by Quincy Jones and David Salzman. Over the years, VIBE profiled rappers like Tupac Shakur, Snoop Dogg, TLC, Queen Latifah, and the Notorious B.I.G., and captured the raw feelings and differences of opinion underpinning the East Coast vs. West Coast hip-hop battles of the late 90s.


About The New York Public Library

For over 125 years, The New York Public Library has been a free provider of education and information for the people of New York and beyond. With over 90 locations—including research and branch libraries—throughout the Bronx, Manhattan, and Staten Island, the Library offers free materials, computer access, classes, exhibitions, programming, and more to everyone from toddlers to scholars. The New York Public Library receives approximately 16 million visits through its doors annually and millions more around the globe who use its resources at www.nypl.org. To offer this wide array of free programming, The New York Public Library relies on both public and private funding. Learn more about how to support the Library at nypl.org/support. 


About Queens Public Library

Queens Public Library is one of the largest and busiest public library systems in the United States, dedicated to serving the most ethnically and culturally diverse area in the country.  An independent, non-profit organization founded in 1896, Queens Public Library offers free access to a collection of more than 5 million books and other materials in 50 languages, technology and digital resources. Each year, the Library hosts tens of thousands of online and in-person educational, cultural, and civic programs and welcomes millions of visitors through its doors. With a presence in nearly every neighborhood across the borough of Queens, the Library consists of 66 locations, including branch libraries, a Central Library, seven adult learning centers, a technology center located in the nation’s largest public housing complex, two teen centers, two bookmobiles, and two book bicycles.


Media Contacts

QPL: Ewa Kern-Jedrychowska | ekern@queenslibrary.org

NYPL: Leah Drayton | leahdrayton@nypl.org