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Janette Beckman has taken some of the most iconic photos out there not only of hip-hop, but of music and youth culture as a whole. She got her start in Britain in the late 1970s, using her art-school education to take photos of the then-burgeoning punk movement. But in 1983, she saw the very first international hip-hop tour, and was so taken by the music and culture that she hopped on a plane to New York City and never left.

She has taken classic photos of LL Cool J, Salt N’ Pepa, NWA, Slick Rick, Big Daddy Kane, Afrika Bambaataa, and tons more. She’s also shot famous album covers for the likes of EPMD, Ultramagnetic MCs, Run-DMC, the Police, Gang Starr, and others. And if that wasn’t enough, she’s also done popular photo series on Mexican street gangs, Harlem bikers, and underground fight clubs.

We talked to Janette about the entirety of her life and career, and got the inside stories behind tons of her iconic photographs and album covers. You can see her hip-hop work for yourself through September 13th at the Museum of the City of New York in Manhattan, as part of the exhibition Hip-Hop Revolution: Photographs by Janette Beckman, Joe Conzo, and Martha Cooper. On June 3rd at 6:30 PM, Janette, past Cipher guest Bill Adler, and upcoming Cipher guest Cey Adams will be part of a panel called “Hip Hop’s Visual Style: A Look Behind the Scenes” at the Museum.

NOTE: To see Janette’s photos that we talk about on this episode, you can scroll through the pictures on Imgur or watch the episode on YouTube.

Tracks featured in this episode:

  1. The Who, “Won’t Get Fooled Again”
  2. Madness, “One Step Beyond”
  3. The Clash, “The Guns of Brixton”
  4. The Polecats, “Rockabilly Guy”
  5. Siouxsie and the Banshees, “Jigsaw Feeling”
  6. The Undertones, “Teenage Kicks”
  7. 1982 ! - Grandmixer D.ST and the infinity rappers - grandmixer cuts it up. Hiphop.
  8. Slick Rick & Doug E. Fresh, “La Di Da Di”
  9. Push It, It’s what you do, Geico
  10. The Monkees, “Mary, Mary”
  11. Run-DMC, “Mary, Mary”
  12. NWA, “Just Don’t Bite It”
  13. Cameo, “Word Up”
  14. NY SEE

Show notes:

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