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25 years on, a look back at one of the most iconic photographs in hip-hop history


New York City — Friday will mark the 25th anniversary of one of the most iconic moments in music history — when 177 of the greatest artists in hip-hop gathered together on a city block in Harlem for a cover photograph for XXL Magazine.

The photograph, taken on Sept. 29, 1998, included musicians Rakim, Common, Mos Def, Fat Joe, Busta Rhymes and Questlove, among countless others.

“I knew it,” Fat Joe, one of rap’s first Latino superstars, told CBS News on whether he was aware at the time the image would become historic. “On that day, seeing so many of my peers, so many people that I looked up to…we knew that was history.” 

25 years on, a look back at one of the most iconic photographs in hip-hop history
177 of the greatest artists in hip-hop gathered together on a city block in New York City’s Harlem on Sept. 29, 1998, for a photograph that appeared on the cover of  XXL Magazine. The iconic picture was taken by photographer Gordon Parks. 

The Gordon Parks Foundation


At the time, the photo was a recreation of another iconic photograph taken in the same spot by photographer Art Kane in 1958 that featured 57 of the world’s greatest jazz musicians. That photo was used in Esquire Magazine to mark the end of the golden age of jazz.

“Just to pay homage to the jazz legends, and basically, their children in hip-hop, you know, all these artists basically came out of that jazz, came out of that genius,” Sheena Lester, who was the XXL editor-in-chief at the time the photograph was taken, told CBS News.


How one of the most iconic photos in hip-hop came together

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Lester said the idea for the photograph was brought up in an editorial meeting.

“Once it was brought up, I couldn’t let it go,” Lester said. “It was too good an idea to not follow through.”

The photograph was made magical when Lester convinced famed photographer Gordon Parks, who was 86 years old at the time, to snap the picture into history.

Lester said Parks initially turned the magazine down until she spoke to him directly and conveyed their vision.

“Once I basically told him that we had determined that nobody else could take this photo but him,” Lester said. “…We knew that he should take the picture because of who he was, and because of what this was, nobody else could take it. And then he said yes. Because I think he knew then that we knew what we were asking for.”

This year marks hip-hop’s 50th anniversary, a music genre born out of struggle that grew all the way up into a multi-billion-dollar industry.



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