But for all the glorification of hip-hop’s early days in the South Bronx — the brilliant improvisation, the block parties — there isn’t a whole lot of supporting documentation. A lot of what we know is from the fading memories of aging b-girls and b-boys who were present at the creation.
Some of the most important surviving documents from that period were the party flyers. You may remember the story our colleagues at NPR music did on the party where hip-hop was born and the flyer advertising the jam at 1520 Sedgwick Avenue at a cost of 25 cents for the “ladies” and 50 cents for the “fellas.” That flyer consisted of some scribbled writing on lined paper.
The party flyers of Lemoin Thompson — a.k.a. Buddy Esquire — were much more sophisticated than that. Esquire created more than 300 flyers over a half-decade that were handed out around the neighborhood to advertise the parties. He called his style “neo-deco” — it borrowed heavily from the Art Deco styles of old movie posters. That was on purpose: he wanted to “class up” the proceedings, which were often held in rec rooms and high schools. Esquire told Cornell University graduate student Amanda Lalonde, “That’s what I tried for, you know: give it a level of class even though it was just a ghetto jam.”