Prepare to embark on a captivating journey through the annals of Hip Hop history as A&E Network introduces its latest series, Hip Hop Treasures. Premiering on August 12 at 10 PM ET/PT, following Hip-Hop’s 50th birthday, this groundbreaking show takes you on a quest to uncover lost and iconic hip-hop memorabilia, guided by none other than Ice T and LL COOL J.
Led by two legendary figures of the genre, alongside field collectors and museum curators, Hip Hop Treasures delves deep into the stories behind some of Hip Hop’s most illustrious artists and the cherished items that defined their legacy. Imagine seeing The Notorious B.I.G.’s iconic jersey from the “Juicy” video, Flavor Flav’s iconic clocks, DMX’s Aaliyah car, and more, all meticulously preserved and showcased in the birthplace of Hip Hop culture – The Bronx.
This exclusive partnership between A&E, Pulse Films, LL COOL J’s Rock The Bells, and The Universal Hip Hop Museum pays homage to these music legends by returning their artifacts to where it all began. “Hip Hop Treasures” offers a rare behind-the-scenes glimpse into the originators and artifacts that birthed the global phenomenon of Hip Hop.
With LL COOL J and Ice T at the helm, joined by field collectors Cipha Sounds and Yo-Yo, alongside Chief Museum Curator Paradise Gray and curator Pete Nice, elusive artifacts find their way back to The Universal Hip Hop Museum’s archive. The museum, set to become “The Official Record of Hip Hop,” is diligently assembling the world’s largest Hip Hop memorabilia collection, with its permanent home scheduled to open worldwide in 2024.
Throughout the series, you’ll be treated to poignant personal narratives from LL COOL J and Ice T themselves, along with unparalleled access to Hip Hop luminaries like DMC (Run DMC), CeeLo Green, Flavor Flav, Fat Joe, Treach (Naughty by Nature), Master P, Soulja Boy, and many more. Moreover, “Hip Hop Treasures” will honor the legacies of The Notorious B.I.G., DMX, Biz Markie and feature Coolio’s final on-camera appearance before his passing in 2022.
In conversation with The Source, Ice T discusses being a part of Hip-Hop Treasures, the growth in Hip-Hop, and why our memorabilia is one of the most rich entertainment components.
What initially drew you to be a part of this series, and why do you think it’s important to highlight the search for lost Hip-Hop memorabilia?
Well, I didn’t start off as a host. I started off just as one of the characters. We were donating stuff to the hip-hop museum, and we shot our episode, and the people from A&E said, Ice, you are so well-spoken. Would you like to come in and, you know, co-host this? So that’s how we got put on. It’s a good concept. It’s a great thing. Hip-Hop being 50 years old man, Hip-Hop has gray hair, and a lot of the stuff that we never thought would be valuable is valuable. It only takes 20 years for something to be an antique. So you go and meet these people like me, and you’re like, man, you got stuff from day one, and now there are collectors out there, and there are people that are really appreciating it. And that’s a great thing.
Can you share a particular moment or item that resonated with you personally during this filming?
No, I can’t say anything personally. Every time I see something, it’s dope. Like when Flavor Flavor tells the story about his clock, I’m like, I didn’t know that story. So a lot of times you see the item, but then the story that goes along with it is so dope. Everybody’s looking for the Holy Grail. On my end, my gold gun got lost in the mix of me and my ex breaking up. I don’t know where that is; she probably sold it. But it’s a lot of things. So it’s an amazing show, and just cool to kick in with people. We went and talked to Coolio, and we had no idea that that would be the last interview with Coolio. So, it’s a lot about getting Hip-Hop while it’s still alive.
You mention these artifacts and also contributing to the Universal Hip-Hop Museum. How does it feel for you to be almost like a scientist who gets to find, preserve, and celebrate these items for other people in the future?
It’s cool, man. When Rocky Bucano and the team started the Universal Hip-Hop Museum up in the Bronx, I donated a lot of stuff early in the game, but it’s just taken fire. I’m with Afrika Islam, and they do auctions at Sotheby’s, the most prestigious auction house, and that’s where I learned a lot of this stuff is extremely valuable. See, collectors are interesting. There are baseball cards that are worth millions of dollars. Now to somebody, that’s not valuable, but to a collector, that’s valuable. So there are people that really respect Hip-Hop to such a level. I heard Biggie’s Crown went for hundreds of thousands of dollars, you know? So it’s a very interesting thing, but it’s something that I don’t think, as a rapper, we ever felt that these things would have much value. You’re gonna be amazed at some of the stuff we got. They got stage props from Digital Underground that are two stories tall.
You mentioned Coolio, and throughout the series, we also have moments of tribute to Biggie, DMX, Biz Markie. People who are associated with the legend tag like yourself. How does that personally feel inside?
When people throw legend around, I always try to throw living in front of it, you know? I’ve lost so many people, man. The thing we do with Biz Markie’s wife [on the series] is crazy, and I think all our legends would be proud to know that pieces of them are being immortalized on a TV show and museum. My thing was always, even dating back to my film Art of Rap, I wanted to make Hip-Hop respectable. I think this show will give people on the outside to understand where different parts of the culture came from. Culture is just a bunch of people who bring something to the table.
What do you want viewers to take away from this show, and what message do you send to those excited about the upcoming Hip-Hop museum?
It’s a place to go and see things you remember from your era. Take your kids and see where Hip-Hop was born. You have a Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, some of my stuff is in the Smithsonian. When items are respected enough to be in museums, it gives credibility. Believe me, some people still don’t want to give Hip-Hop its credit even though it’s a multibillion-dollar industry. They want to aim at the negative stuff because it gets more views. But this is a totally positive show that will only show the best. One of my favorite shows right now is Tales From the Territories, highlighting wrestlers, it’s also on A&E, and they sit and talk about wrestling. What makes it dope is that you only see them in the ring, but you don’t hear from them. It’s not like sitting down and talking about beef; it’s about the actual work. So I think this will humanize Hip-Hop more to where children can look at their mothers and say, “Okay, Mom, I understand why you love Salt-N-Pepa so much.”
With Hip-Hop hitting it’s 50th year. What do you see in the game now and enjoy most?
I like the fact it’s still around and still called Hip-Hop. Hip-Hop has gone through many phases that I wasn’t fond of. I made it clear I wasn’t too fond of the ringtone phase where no one was rapping. As a person like me, a rapper, I like rap. I like bars. I really feel right now, we’re in an era where the rapper is about to return as freestyles are getting popular and the lyrics are starting to push forward. Any culture is going to go through phases, though. It can’t stay the same. It has to morph and go into different zones. So ultimately, I’m happy it’s still alive. I’m happy kids can learn from it. I’m happy Hip-Hop billionaires are showing you can take this anywhere. You look at JAY-Z, you look at 50 Cent, these guys started rapping, but there’s no limit to what they can do. Ice Cube has a basketball league. Do you see what I mean?