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Rarely Seen Images of Biggie, Flash and More from Rap’s First 25 Years

From Grandmaster Flash to Snoop Dogg through the lens of Lisa Leone

Here I AM, photographs by Lisa Leone

Lisa Leone

Lisa Leone was still a student at New York's High School of Art and Design in 1982 when she began photographing the burgeoning hip-hop movement, which at that time was confined almost entirely to the city. "It was a time of graffiti and breakdancing," she says. "There would also be park jams and you'd run into artists like Afrika Bambaataa. It was an innocent time and I just started taking photographs."

She went on to become one of the most prominent photographers of the scene, and she soon got into film, working with everybody from Spike Lee to Stanley Kubrick. She recently went through her hip-hop archives to assemble the book Here I Am – Photographs By Lisa Leone (click here to order it by July 31st) and an exhibit at the Bronx Museum of the Arts that runs from September 13th, 2014 through January 11th, 2015. Here are the stories behind 11 of her photographs. 

Here I AM, photographs by Lisa Leone

Lisa Leone

Treach

"I shot Treach [from Naughty By Nature] on the set of a video. I don't remember which particular one this is from. I did shoot 'O.P.P' and this definitely isn't from that. It's definitely from the early 1990s. I just have so many pictures of Treach. I shot him all the time."

Here I AM, photographs by Lisa Leone

Lisa Leone

Snoop Dogg

"This was taken at the video shoot for 'What's My Name?' in Long Beach. It was his first video. This was taken in the studio. A few days before this we were shooting in a park and all hell broke loose. There were gunshots and helicopters and people running. Gang stuff was happening, so we had to shoot the rest of the video indoors. I got this about three days after the shootout. I remember when they put together the part where he morphed into a dog."

Here I AM, photographs by Lisa Leone

Lisa Leone

Wyclef Jean

"This was taken in East Harlem when the Fugees were shooting their video for 'Vocab.' I got this image when Wyclef was sitting in an abandoned lot between takes. I don't know if the chicken was brought in for the video. In East Harlem back then there were chickens just walking around. People in Spanish Harlem want to get their chickens fresh. It's horrible the group broke up so early. You could just imagine what else could have come out of them. People were chattering in their ears and they were kids. That's always bad."

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