via NY Times
On a nondescript street corner in Hollis, Queens, a small — and quite affordable — burger joint opened recently.
The place, Hollis Famous Burgers, offers mini-burgers for $1; for that price diners get a complimentary viewing of the Hollis Hip Hop Museum. The word “museum” might be a bit of an overstatement, given the space, but the collection and what it celebrates are not, at least not to the people behind it.
There are more than 100 items on the walls testifying to the neighborhood as a fertile ground for hip-hop artists. Along with a helping of chicken wings, washed down with a cup of “Hollis Famous” lemonade, customers can examine the hit CDs of local rap legends, like Ja Rule, LL Cool J, and Irv Gotti, the founder of Murder Inc., the hip-hop record company that launched several careers.
“Hollis is our Motown, our Nashville, our Beale Street,” said Orville Hall, 42, the owner of the restaurant, and a childhood friend of the members of Run-DMC, which happens to be the best-represented rap group in the burger joint — rather, museum.
At the grand opening on Thursday afternoon, Mr. Hall explained that there was something about Hollis “back in the day” that seemed to nurture hip-hop artists. There was a keen desire for live D.J.’s and M.C.’s at local parties.
It was a working-class black neighborhood that was tough but not bleak. The rap lyrics from neighborhood artists had swagger but were clean enough to be offered to the mainstream.
Mr. Hall decided that Hollis, and perhaps his own business interests, would be best served by pairing a burger restaurant with the museum. On Thursday his venture got the blessing of DMC, whose real name is Darryl McDaniels and who recited a few of his famous lyrics.
Standing near his gold and platinum records, Mr. McDaniels said he wanted people in the neighborhood to use them as proof of the power of persistence to succeed, whatever the odds.
“Because we did something good, people in hoods all over the world were able to look at us and say, ‘Yo, I know what I can do, and I know what I can be.’ If you don’t believe it, then history is on the wall, homie.”
Mr. McDaniels donated one of his gold records (“Run-DMC”) and a platinum one (“Raising Hell”).
The location of the museum, at Hollis Avenue and 203rd Street, is not a glamorous one. Neighboring storefronts are shuttered with metal roll-down barricades tagged with graffiti and across the street, the windows of a building are boarded up.
Amid the celebration there was poignancy. Jam Master Jay, Run-DMC’s turntable master, did not live to see it. He grew up a few steps from the restaurant, on 203rd Street, where he was, earlier in life, known as Jason Mizell. He was shot and killed in 2002 in his recording studio on nearby Merrick Avenue. His murder remains unsolved.
The most prominent display in the museum is a large portrait of Mr. Mizell looking solemnly downward. The portrait bears the words “From Hollis to Hollywood.” A turntable and a display case with a pair of Adidas sneakers draped with a fat gold chain hang alongside.
Mr. McDaniels, dressed in jeans and a T-shirt with the logo of the rock band AC/DC, arrived in a black Lincoln Navigator. He hugged the people he recognized.
There was Kenny Thompson, 41, who was once known as Kenny Krash for his flair on turntables when he played with — and worked for — Run-DMC. Now he drives a New York City Transit bus in Manhattan; he arrived straight from work, wearing his blue uniform.
There was Douglas Hayes, 44, who was known as the rapper Butter Love and who performed with Run-DMC on the single “It’s the Beat.”
There was Shannon Dennis who said he was a D.J. from Queens; he arrived with Run-DMC blasting from his 1980 canary yellow Cadillac. He was dressed as a member of the band, complete with black bowler hat and thick gold chain.
Mr. McDaniels said he hoped the museum would help heal the wound created by Mr. Mizell’s murder.
Mr. Hall said his desire to open a tribute to Run-DMC stretched back to the early 1980s when he first heard his friends performing “Sucker MCs” on the radio.
“I was shocked,” he said, “that local guys we knew could take their talent and make something of themselves, which is what rap is all about.”