“Hip-hop fever” invades the Lehman Center


MELLE MEL JOINS the Sugar Hill Gang onstage Saturday, April 30, 2022 at the Lehman Center for the Performing Arts in Jerome Park.
Photo by Miriam Quinones

“It’s me, killer Chuck – top MC, back in the Bronx – this is the place to be!” Tonight is the night – move and dance! It’s also the night we say: ‘Thank you Ruben!’ »

US Senator and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer’s rap intro was one of many remarkable sights and sounds audiences were treated to during a recent show at the Lehman Center for the Performing Arts in Jerome Park.

On Saturday, April 30, nearly all of the Lehman Center’s 2,276 seats were filled for “Hip-Hop Fever,” a hip-hop show dedicated to former Bronx Borough President Ruben Díaz Jr., now Senior Vice President of Strategic Initiatives at Montefiore Health System. . During the show, a video tribute put together by BronxNet and Sal Abbatiello, President of Fever Records, was played to recognize the former borough president’s contributions to the hip-hop community and his support of the arts at Lehman Center. .

Eva Bornstein, the center’s executive director, presented a plaque to Diaz Jr., while Bronx Borough President Vanessa Gibson, New York State Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie and Schumer accompanied the former borough president on stage for the presentation.

Evening speakers at the Hip-Hop Fever concert pointed out that as borough president, as reported at the time Norwood NewsDíaz Jr. helped secure more than $15 million for the 2017 renovation of the Lehman Center, an iconic cultural institution in the Northwest Bronx.

Last year, as reported, the former borough president received Lehman College’s Presidential Medal at the college’s annual commencement ceremony.

Completed in 2019, the renovation brought Lehman Center a visually impressive new glass front entrance and lobby, new theater seating, new walkway ramps that make the venue fully ADA compliant, a redesigned ticket booth, an elevator to the balcony, and additional event space and toilets.

The center also received a major boost ahead of its reopening on October 2 last year, after securing more than $1.1 million in public and nonprofit funding for the 2021-2022 fiscal year, and marked the center’s first season since the pandemic caused it to dim its lights in 2020.

BLACK SHEEP PERFORMS “The Choice Is Yours” on Saturday, April 30, 2022 at the Lehman Center for Performing Arts in Jerome Park.
Photo by Miriam Quinones

Built in 1980, according to center officials, the concert hall has been hailed as “acoustically perfect” by critics and has featured hundreds of classical, popular and folk dance, music and theater companies and acts/ ethnicities around the world. world.

The Lehman Center, currently the largest entertainment venue in the Bronx, also received $760,095 from the Shuttered Venue Operators Grant, a $16 billion federal fund that has helped independent performance venues, museums, theaters and arts organizations to rebound from economic losses suffered during COVID-19. pandemic.

At the April 30 event, speakers also touted the former borough president’s support of the arts through his groundbreaking work from the Universal Hip-Hop Museum in the South Bronx.

As also reported Norwood News, the transformation of the South Bronx continued Thursday, May 20 with the groundbreaking ceremony for the new museum that will commemorate the borough’s hip-hop history, part of a $349 million development known as the name of Bronx Point.

The 22-story building is expected to accommodate 1,045 apartments, 542 of which will be dedicated to affordable housing, while the museum itself will occupy the ground floor. Rising along the Harlem River at 50 E. 150th St., the development will feature 2.8 acres of public space with access to a playground, barbecue area and a plaza along the shore. The units will be reserved for low to middle income households.

During a telephone interview with Norwood News, Abbatiello spoke about Díaz Jr’s role in the project. “What he did for hip-hop was he was a big advocate for it to be done on the freeway on the west side,” the case manager said. “He was instrumental in securing most of the funding and making this dream come true for all of us.”

Abbatiello hosted the show Hip-Hop Fever at the Lehman Center to showcase the pioneers of hip-hop and carry on their legacy. Many of the hip-hop artists in his lineup released their biggest hits in the 80s and 90s. “I always go back to the original guys because it’s been like 40 years,” Abbatiello said. “A lot of them aren’t very reserved. I give them the opportunity to perform once a year in the Bronx and bring their family and friends.

PlayGirl Ari, on the other hand, is not an OG [“original gangsters”] of hip-hop. Abbatiello explained his thought process behind his inclusion in the series. “In almost all of my shows, the first act is a new artist,” he said. “I gave him the opportunity to rap in front of a large audience, to give him a taste of what it takes to get where these OGs have gone.” He added: “She has the eye of the tiger!”

Ari was indeed the opening act of the night and exuded confidence as he rapped on “Why Did You Do Me Wrong?” His breakdancers dazzled, performing the worm, multiple heads and other moves that seemingly pushed the limits of the human body’s capabilities. The rapper’s performance set the tone for a night filled with memorable moments and plenty of nostalgia.

Grandmaster Caz poetically touched on several trends that evolved over the years, such as cell phones, Reaganomics, and Metrocards, which hip-hop preceded when it launched in the early 1970s. the MC uttered the iconic line, “My name is Hip-Hop………..and I’ve always been around!”

LEHMAN CENTER FOR The Performing Arts 40th Anniversary grand reopening on September 20, 2019 with Lehman representatives joining lawmakers, past and present, taking part in a ribbon cutting.
Photo by Adi Talwar

Later, Black Sheep electrified the crowd with their 1991 hit, “The Choice is Yours” and lead singer Andres “Dres” Vargas-Titus then shared a beautiful moment with Abbatiello, saying, “He got us all helped advance the [hip-hop] culture in many ways. I love this brother so much.

For her part, with her narration and musical selection, rapper Roxanne Shante transported the public to Disco Fever, the Abbatiello dance club which opened in 1976 on Jerome Avenue and 167th street in the South Bronx and closed a decade later. The audience nearly fainted when Shante asked hip-hop DJ Grand Wizard Theodore to play Meli’sa Morgan’s “Fool’s Paradise,” released in 1980.

When Sugar Hill Gang was invited on stage, many spectators rose in anticipation. They were the first commercially successful rap group worldwide, and their 1979 hit “Rapper’s Delight” was the first hip-hop track to chart on the Billboard Hot 100.

Another seminal hip-hop track released in 1982 was “The Message” by Grandmaster Flash & the Furious Five. Like the Sugar Hill Gang hit, it introduced the Hip-Hop genre to a wider audience. In an interview in Classic Hip Hop Magazine, Melle Mel, lead singer and songwriter of the Furious Five, said it was the first socially responsible hip-hop track.

Melle Mel and Scorpio then performed the game-breaking move, while, in unison, everyone in the room belted the line, “Don’t push me cause I’m close to the edge. I try not to lose my mind. » The crowd erupted as the pair were then joined on stage by the Sugar Hill Gang to perform “Rapper’s Delight.”

U.S. Senator and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer raps alongside former Bronx Borough President Ruben Díaz Jr. Saturday, April 30, 2022, at the Lehman Center for Performing Arts in Jerome Park.
Photo by Miriam Quinones

At one point during the show, Nice & Smooth’s Greg Nice jumped off the stage and danced briefly with a woman who was already dancing in the aisle. Later, rapper Rob Base asked the public if he was ready to return in 1988, before performing “It Takes Two”, the Top 40 hit that Stephen Thomas Erlewine, American music critic at AllMusic, called ” the greatest hip-hop single ever cut.The entire crowd roared their approval when Base wrapped up the number.

Throughout the show, people, mostly over the age of 50, poured out while singing. Those of us who didn’t grow up listening to these beats were swept away by the wave of nostalgia that permeated the room. Indeed, it was hard not to envy the baby boomers who were able to spend a night at Disco Fever.

*Síle Moloney contributed to this story.

Editor’s note: In the latest edition of the Norwood News, Eva Bornstein, executive director of the Lehman Center is referenced as Ava Bornstein. We apologize for this error.

Corina C. Butler