In The Place To Be (NYC, 1981)  

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Grandmaster Caz and JDL at Club Negril. Credit: Joe Conzo, Jr.

Note from the editor: In our continued celebration of 50 years of Hip Hop Culture, 206 Zulu News is taking time to look at moments along the timeline of Hip Hop’s evolution, both big and small. Knowing that sometimes small instances can tell the biggest stories, staff writer Camilo Almonacid has taken on the task of looking deeper into those single moments that contain the people, places, politics, and power of day to day life in this vivid and dynamic culture. Using historic photos as prompts, this series aims to expand on these seconds and minutes, drawing out how deep the answer can be to the question, ‘what’s in a moment?’

In the first four installments, Camilo will explore the stories found in the spaces and settings in this series of remarkable photographs…

Photo #1: The Notorious Two at Club Negril (Photographer: Joe Conzo Jr.)

Over 40 years ago, on a night when pelting rain distorted the geometry of the city, when the shadows and the silhouettes of electrified bodies gathered in dark spaces, Club Negril was the place to be. A space intended for 200 people would be packed beyond its capacity, body next to body. Negril may not have had clearly marked exit signs, but it did have clearly marked potential and clearly violated safety codes. A hidden basement in the East Village where Bob Marley and the Wailers frequented, Club Negril hosted weekly parties where youth from the Bronx and Harlem intermingled with the Downtown Manhattan denizen. On this night, The Notorious Two, a group made up of emcees JDL and Grandmaster Caz, before they joined the Cold Crush Brothers, entranced a crowd with their rhymes and harmonized routines.

The Hip Hop night at Club Negril, was organized by a British expatriate known as Kool Lady Blue. She was on a quest to show off this new and extraordinary art form known as Hip Hop to the world. She was introduced to Fab Five Freddy and he introduced her to a lot of the talent coming out of the Bronx like Rock Steady Crew, DJ Jazzy Jay, and many other local legends. The rest is history. 

At Club Negril there was a mixture of NYC kids, musicians like Madonna, and artists such as Andy Warhol and Basquiat, hanging out under one roof. Negril started in October 1981 and was closed by the fire department by April 1982. Kool Lady Blue would soon go on to start one of New York’s most popular clubs where the Hip Hop elements would be on full display, The Roxy, and without a shadow of a doubt, The Notorious Two, like light against a silhouette, would go on to get their shine.