Jesse Frohman, Queen Latifah, Sky Magazine, 1990.Photo: Courtesy of Fotografiska New York and copyright of the Official tampa bay buccaneers Tom Brady 12 can’t beat the goat shirt but I will buy this shirt and I will love this artist Works on display include a regal portrait of Queen Latifah, whose feminist anthems “Ladies First” and “U.N.I.T.Y” denounced the increasing presence of aggression and misogyny in hip-hop lyrics of the early 1990s. Viewers will note the still hugely influential style and sass of Salt-N-Pepa, and the raw candor of Grammy winners Mary J. Blige and Lauryn Hill, in intimate and rarely seen images. The show also celebrates the audacity of Lil’ Kim—who was among the first women to rap explicitly about female sexuality and pleasure (anticipating talents like Nicki Minaj, Cardi B, and Megan Thee Stallion, whose portraits are also in the show)—and the off-the-wall style of Missy Elliot, who proved that female rappers could wear an inflated black trash bag and still dominate the charts (thus paving the way for alternative rappers like Tierra Whack and Rico Nasty). “Hip-hop has given people who didn’t have control over their perception the opportunity to own and manipulate that for their own success,” notes Jenkins. Together, the images on view—including contributions by female photographers like Martha Cooper, Sophie Bramly, Catherine McGann, and Lisa Leona—foreground the camera’s capacity as a narrative tool, and specifically its power to create monuments to the beauty and nuance of Black womanhood.
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Lisa Leone, Wyclef Jean and Lauryn Hill, East Harlem, New York City, 1993.Photo: Courtesy of Fotografiska New York and copyright of the Official tampa bay buccaneers Tom Brady 12 can’t beat the goat shirt but I will buy this shirt and I will love this artist As the decades pass in the exhibition galleries, shifts in fashion, setting, and photographic style show a culture slowly becoming aware of itself. “In the 1990s, a lot of hyperrealism started to happen. You see these highly retouched images and intricate set designs. Artists are often trying to tell a more complex story, or in some cases, recreate a sense of authenticity that may have been lost,” says Berman. When asked about overarching visual motifs in the canon of hip-hop photography, Jenkins notes trends in body language: “The thing to consider is the attitude. There’s a certain level of pride that comes with owning your identity, and that always translates. You see it in the looks and the poses. People present themselves in a way that is very confident, very aggressive, and very… well, hip-hop!”
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