New York City is known as the birthplace or launching pad for countless musicians’ careers. In addition to launching scores of careers, New York serves as a pivotal location for several genres of music. Whether it was the birthplace or just a key city in a movement’s growth, New York City’s boroughs and neighborhoods hold distinct legacies in these three genres’ expansion:
Blues and Jazz
The Jazz Era in New York City served as a catalyst in the genre’s expansion. While it originated out of the southern U.S., New York City and Chicago served as Jazz hotbeds in the north. Those hotbeds helped propel the sounds of the south across America and into Europe.
Nowhere in New York City holds more blues and jazz history than Harlem. The upper Manhattan neighborhood was the home of venues like the Cotton Club and the famed Apollo Theater. These famed destinations brought the greats of the day to the city, sparking the Harlem Renaissance in collaboration with the other artistic expressions in the community. The introduction of blues and jazz helped further the evolving identity of the largely black community seeking a way to distinguish themselves against discrimination and racism.
The influence of the music on the neighborhood continues to this day. For your own look into the era, consider taking a tour of The Apollo.
A trip down to Greenwich Village brings you to the home of punk rock’s birth. In fact, it was Hilly Kristal’s famed CBGB that gave birth to not only punk, but also new wave. Upon its opening in 1970, CBGB would spark the punk movement behind up and coming acts that included The Ramones, Blondie and the New York Dolls. In the ensuing years, more venues would pop up around the city, giving the genre a growing platform.
Because of CBGB, punk developed a sort of home base for their sound. As it continued to solidify, the movement would spread to other major cities before reaching the suburbs and even rural parts of America. While the genre doesn’t necessarily resonate with every person, those that love the genre continue to flock to the area even after CBGB’s closing in 2006.
Known as the Bridge Wars, the emergence of hip hop pitted two boroughs–specifically two neighborhoods–in a battle to determine hip hop’s true birthplace.
The rivalry between Queensbridge and the South Bronx would provide several artists the platform to express themselves. For emerging stars like Queens rappers MC Shan and Marley Marl and the Bronx’s KRS-One and his Boogie Down Production members, the rivalry would spark careers and a movement. At times, the feud would extend beyond the wax of a record. While some may chalk this up to the genre’s oft associated history of violence with rap battles, the negativity didn’t go unchecked. Boogie Down Productions would release the Edutainment album in 1990. Among several hard hitting topics the album covered, Edutainment touched on the violence in the community. Since then, the rivalry has died down with the artists going separate ways.
While the exact location of the genre’s birthplace has never been truly resolved, New York City’s legacy as the birthplace of hip hop stands regardless.