Best Hip-Hop Photography of the Last 20 Years

Photo: Gordon Parks: The Greatest Day in Hip-Hop History for XXL

A photograph speaks a thousand words without ever making a sound—and when it comes to music, it does exactly the same. The rhythms and beats, harmonies and melodies play on although the single frame freezes just a fraction of a second in time. When it comes to Hip Hop, the challenge is even more intense: how to convey one of the greatest African American art forms which has taken the globe by storm, and capture the nuances, complexities, and conflicts that every MC, DJ, or producer faces through the course of their career. How do they stay true to themselves in a culture that has been commodified and repackaged for popular consumption?

The best Hip-Hop photographs look at the culture from a wide array of perspective, paying tribute to the past, honoring the present, and embracing the future. Crave has compiled a list of the best made over the last 20 years.

Gordon Parks: The Greatest Day in Hip-Hop History for XXL

Fifty years after Art Kane’s iconic “Great Day in Harlem” photograph was published in Esquire magazine, the legendary Gordon Parks recreated the shoot for the October 1998 issue of XXL. It was the magazine’s seventh issue and it put them on the map by hosting 200 Hip-Hop artists and personalities over a three-page fold-out cover on the same exact stoop where 57 jazz legends posted for Kane back in 1958. Check out the three-part YouTube video about the making of the shoot, which begins here.

Jonathan Mannion: Mos Def for The Fader

Jonathan Mannion rose up to dominate the music photography scene, creating a body of work that has been iconic in every way. For the November 2004 issue of The Fader, he takes it back to the old school, with Mos Def styled as a Brooklyn cat from the 1970s, standing in front of a piece by CYCLE.

“My story begins in the streets. There you have it: however street people live around the world, I can identify with that. That’s where I am from; I’m a person…

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