This blog post was updated on June 21, 2019.
When it comes to hip hop, I find it difficult to choose between East Coast and West Coast. Artists from NYC, L.A., and Long Beach have all shaped what hip hop is today. From The Bronx to the LBC, here are some sites every true hip hop fan should visit.
For full-service hip hop tours in NYC, check out Hush Hip Hop tours. Of course, you can also take yourself on your own tour if you know where to look. The Bronx is the perfect place to begin your hip hop tour, because many argue that the origin of hip hop can be traced to 1520 Sedgwick Avenue. This is where, in August 1973, DJ Kool Herc threw a “back to skool” party for his sister in the rec room of this high rise. It was the first time that the sounds of hip-hop as we know it emerged.
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One of the most influential hip-hop clubs of the early 80s was Harlem World, located on the corner of 116th Street and Lenox Avenue/Malcolm X Boulevard. Most hip hop fans know about the 1981 hip-hop battle between the Cold Crush Brothers and the Fantastic 5 (yep, it happened here). The building may now be a Conway discount store, but you can still feel the power of those early days of hip hop.
Love Biggie, Tribe Called Quest, Jay Z and the whole East Coast sound? Head to NYC to hear the freshest sounds booming out from The Big Apple!
While the Bronx is where hip-hop was born, the borough of Queens made some significant contributions in the 80s and 90s to the genre. Major players like Run DMC, LL Cool J, and hip-hop entrepreneur Russell Simmons all grew up in the middle-class neighborhood of Hollis, Queens. Make sure to stop by and take a picture at the corner of 205th Street and Hollis Avenue, which is named “Run-DMC JMJ Way.”
SoHo may not immediately come to mind as a must-visit neighborhood for hip hop culture, but SOB’s (Sounds of Brazil) salsa club (204 Varick St. at W. Houston St.) has played a crucial role in the careers of many hip hop and R&B greats such as Erykah Badu, KRS-One, Nas, OutKast, Drake, Kanye West, and Rick Ross.
South Central LA
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From Eazy-E’s childhood home to Roscoe’s House of Chicken and Waffles (a favorite of Snoop and The Game), there are too many notable hip hop sites to count in South Central LA. Thank goodness for Hodari Sababu (The Game’s stepfather), owner of Hood Life tours. He’ll take you to all the important sites and give you history lessons about N.W.A., Tupac Shakur, Rodney King, and OJ Simpson along the way.
2Pac, Dre, and Kendrick Lamar more your flavor? Head to LA and check out the latest hip hop from the West Coast!
The LBC is full of hip hop history. If you’re up for an adventure, stop by Nate Dogg’s (Nathaniel D. Hale) burial site in Forest Lawn. The staff won’t lead you to his grave, so you’ll have to be resourceful (this video is helpful). Next, head to VIP records in Long Beach, the record store that launched the careers of some of the West Coast’s favorite sons of hip hop. Snoop Dogg even filmed parts of three of his music videos on the VIP roof.
Okay, hip hop fans, what would you add to this list? Let us know in the comments section.