“I just went nuts two years ago,” says Jeremy Beaver. “I went full mid-life crisis.”
When Beaver purchased a $12 doll of rap megastar Biggie Smalls two years ago that he later found out was worth $1,000, his plan was merely to make some extra cash from investing in a collection of hip-hop memorabilia.
“The more I got into it, just the more I fell back in love with hip-hop all over again,” Beaver, 42, says. “I got to relive my childhood of the ’80s and ’90s growing up in New York and being a DJ and a hip-hop fanatic.”
Two years later, the return on his investment is far bigger than he likely could have imagined, and not just financially. Beaver’s first few purchases quickly grew into a mammoth collection more than 1,000 pieces of clothing, accessories, cassette tapes, and other ephemera he found online, about half of which is now on display as the Hip-Hop Museum Pop-Up Experience at Blind Whino in Southwest D.C..
The museum opened January 18 with a star-studded concert including industry legends Grandmaster Caz and members of the Sugarhill Gang, and will remain open through February 18. Beaver, a former DJ and founder of Listen Vision recording studios who has worked with Lil Wayne, Shy Glizzy, and Future, acknowledges that other hip-hop museums are in the works in cities such as New York, but he claims his gallery is the only one currently standing.
About a year ago, Beaver started chatting with David Mays, founder of hip-hop magazine The Source, about turning his private collection into a community experience, and soon solicited donations from the public. Beaver says about 10 percent of the items in the pop up were donated.
The pop-up format was selected in part to allow the exhibit to travel, Beaver says, potentially moving to cities such as Philadelphia, Chicago, and Detroit where local hip-hop stars could perform and interact with the community.
“We want to bring this to other communities and show them what it’s all about,” Beaver says. “[Traditional] museums tend to get kind of old and tired and sleepy.”
Beaver won’t divulge exactly where the museum is headed next but says it will be somewhere in the Northeast. And thus far, he says the visitor feedback has been overwhelmingly positive.
“People are so nostalgic and it brings them back to really happy, fanciful parts of their childhood where they got to dream and pretend that they were a rapper or a dancer or a graffiti artist,” Beaver says. “That’s the most fulfilling part, is seeing everyone reminisce.
So what are some of the must-sees at this new space? We recently took a spin and offer you this starter list of recommendations:
Visitors are encouraged to try out the record player at the Hip-Hop Museum.Eliza Berkon / DCist
Interactive record player. Try your hand at spinning records with a please-do-touch record player, loaded with a vinyl of beats you can scratch to your heart’s content.
Run-DMC action figures circa 2002 and 2009. The Rock & Roll Hall of Famers founded in 1981 were also the first rap group to have a video on MTV and scored a Top 10 hit in 1986 with their Aerosmith collaboration “Walk This Way.”
Signed boxing glove from LL Cool J’s “Mama Said Knock You Out” music video. The no-holds-barred single off his 1990 album of the same name hit #17 on the Billboard Hot 100 and helped the album reach double-platinum status.
The gift shop at the museum includes autographed items and artwork.Eliza Berkon / DCist
The gift shop. Any good museum has to have one of these, and the Hip-Hop Museum is no exception. Purchase options include original artwork, lace-up caps and autographed vinyl.
Ladies of hip-hop box. Female hip-hop stars make a few other appearances in the museum but most of the memorabilia is gathered here, including a signed Rolling Stone cover of Salt-N-Pepa, a microphone signed by Lauryn Hill, and a vinyl copy of Queen Latifah’s 1989 track “Ladies First.”
The Hip-Hop Museum Pop-Up Experience is open at Blind Whino through February 18. Hours are Wednesday 4 p.m.-8 p.m., Friday-Sunday 12 p.m.-5 p.m. Admission is free.