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The Most Iconic Photographs in Hip-Hop: Opening Night at ‘Contact High’

12:36 PM PDT on April 30, 2019

    [dropcap size=big]I[/dropcap]t was opening weekend for the biggest hip-hop photography event in L.A. and every hip-hop head was on their way to the Annenberg Space for Photography to witness CONTACT HIGH: A Visual Story of Hip-HopA 10-year anniversary exhibit with Photoville LA, the show features black & white portraits, a display case for Biggie’s $4 crown to vinyl records, short films, and high-profile celebrities. CONTACT HIGH gives behind the scene access to over 75 original, unedited contact photos of the greatest rappers known today captured by legendary photographers.

    Whether were talking Salt-N-Pepa and Run DMC representing New York in the 80s, Tupac and Snoop Dogg running LA in the 90s, or Outkast and Lil Wayne breaking ground down South in the early 2000s, these iconic images take you to the exact moment they were captured and undoubtedly transcended the test of time. The exhibit is filled with Hip-Hop’s best photographers including Mike Miller,Ricky Powell,Estevan Oriol,Janette Beckman,Jamel ShabazzJorge Peniche, and more.

    We had a chance to sit down and chat with a few photographers regarding their favorite shoots and here’s what they had to say.

    “My favorite picture was with Run DMC on the Europe Tour. I just said, ‘Oh shit Jay turn around real quick.’” — Ricky Powell / Photographer


    “Tupac was on the top of my list so when he requested me to shoot the cover of Thug Life, that was an honor for me. And to find he was so graceful and cooperative and easy to work with really surprised me.” — Mike Miller / Photographer


    “I shot 2 frames of my girl and at first I didn’t think much of it. Then I stepped back and saw the frame and I was like woah.” — Estevan Oriol

    What started off as an Instagram account in 2016, quickly turned into a column for Mass Appeal and later became a book in 2018. The collection of photos, videos, and memorabilia were all made possible by Vikki Tobak. She is the mastermind behind the Contact High Project who found her origins as a journalist in the 80s and 90s.

    Now in 2019, the Contact High Project is displayed as a massive exhibit that will be on view for months. And from the looks of the cultural phenomenon it has created, buzz for the show should not be slowing down. On opening night, Flying Lotus lead the performance segment with a DJ set, followed by rapper Dreezy (photo above), and Anderson Paak & the Free Nationals (photo above) to close the night with a bang.

    For more information visit the CONTACT HIGH: A Visual Story of Hip-Hop website. The exhibit is FREE and open to the public until August 19, 2019.

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