This past July, the U.S. Senate unanimously passed a bill to name November Hip-Hop History Month. To close out this inaugural Hip-Hop History Month, Hard Rock Hotels and Casinos across the country continue to honor the impact hip-hop music has had in history and culture. Always keeping their finger on the pulse of music it’s no surprise they have rolled out the carpet during HHHM.
The Source got to speak with Keith Sheldon—President of Entertainment at Hard Rock International about the cultural shift of hip hop and their incredible collection of hip hop memorabilia. From Hard Rock’s Autograph Series featuring legendary hip-hop artist Tupac Shakur to their expansion of their hip hop collection check out the interview below.
Hard Rock has always shown camaraderie to hip-hop, housing some of the most intriguing memorabilia for music fans. Why do you think it’s so important to place the spotlight on the authentic artists such as Tupac Shakur who meant so much to hip-hop culture?
Music is the common thread that connects every Hard Rock property. And as a brand, we want to cater to the tastes of every music fan. Accordingly, it is essential for us to spotlight authentic artists such as Tupac Shakur who paved the way for so many hip-hop artists and helped usher in cultural shifts throughout the music industry as a whole. Artists like Tupac are a vital part of music’s ever-evolving story, and as storytellers ourselves, our memorabilia collection provides a mouthpiece for that narrative. Additionally, as it relates to our memorabilia collection itself, Hard Rock is passionate about collecting authentic items with touch points relevant to the geographic locations where the items are displayed.
Back in the 80’s, many of our parents and most of the mainstream media contended that hip hop was a phase and would go out of style. What has surprised you the most about the journey of hip-hop music?
It’s rare when cultural shifts are celebrated, and more natural for these moments in time to be resisted by those reluctant to embrace change. But the reality is that music is ever evolving, with each phase building on the last, creating new foundations for future sounds. Our parents’ parents might have thought The Rolling Stones were a fad, and their parents may have thought Elvis was for delinquents. What was really happening, though – whether we’re talking about hip hop, The Stones, or Elvis – was a paradigm shift that (with the benefit of hindsight) undeniably shaped trends in music, fashion, and pop culture on a global scale. So, I guess the only thing that surprises me is the lasting impact that hip hop continues to have over so many decades – not just as it relates to the music that we listen to – but its influence over pop culture across such a wide range cultures and countries, as well.
Can you discuss some hip-hop memorabilia Hard Rock currently has on display around the country?
From Run-D.M.C.’s classic Adidas sneakers, to several outfits that Nicki Minaj wore during The Pinkprint Tour, a handwritten poem by Tupac Shakur, and a pair of blue jean overalls worn by Busta Rhymes on his “Fire” music video. Contemporary items include DJ Khaled’s Miami jersey from Hard Rock’s commercial shoot for Super Bowl LIV and Megan Thee Stallion’s bathing suit from the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit 2021 during which she made history as the first rapper to land the cover. About 70 different items from hip-hop artists are currently displayed across the nation with pieces from Ice-T, JAY-Z, Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes, LL Cool J, MC Hammer, Snoop Dogg, Tone Loc, Eminem, and more. In addition, Hard Rock’s collection features several mementos from artists who paved the way for the genre, as well as crossover artists who have been inspired by hip-hop.
Where do you see Hard Rock meshing with rap/hip hop as the music genre continues to grow?
At Hard Rock, we believe music is a language that brings the world closer together. It’s part of our DNA. As Hard Rock continues to evolve, just as music does, it’s unmistakable how hip-hop has impacted our brand over the years. For Hard Rock’s next 50 years, we hope to continue collecting and expanding the hip- hop memorabilia items in our collection. We also look forward to seeking more opportunities to focus on engaging with hip-hop
artists across our entire ecosystem – whether it be new merchandise collections, live performances in our venues, activations in our hotels, or potential future partnerships, we will continue to collaborate with hip-hop artists from past to present. Additionally, the new flagship Hard Rock Hotel New York is slated to open in April 2022. Located just steps away the New York City’s most exciting attractions, the hotel will feature an incredible collection of memorabilia from some of the greatest musicians who have been inspired by New York City, including hip-hop pioneer Scorpio of
Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, LL Cool J, Beastie Boys, Public Enemy, Salt-N-Pepa, Mary J Blige, 50 Cent, Notorious B.I.G., Nicki Minaj, and Cardi B.
CLICK HERE for Hard Rock Cafe’s Spotify List For Hip Hop Month