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”). Continue reading