A Hip Hop journey from Old School New York to Chapeltown, Leeds

Leeds, Yorkshire

Hip Hop is more than a music genre (and don’t call it rap). But what’s Leeds got to do with it?

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The latest exhibition at Leeds City Museum is co-curated by the Hip Hop Historian Society, founded by Monk, a Leeds MC, graffiti artist and educator. A Hip Hop Journey: 50 Years of Kulture charts Hip Hop in Leeds, West Yorkshire’s unlikely home of rhyme.

Old School Hip Hop

Hip Hop as a style was first officially on the scene on America’s east coast in 1974, though rapping, “throwdowns” and social commentary had long been part of African American music (check out Talking Blues, Black Power Poetry and reggae, if you’re interested in hearing more). The exhibition sets out to trace the elements that were pulled together in the first Block Party 50 years ago in New York, and uses stories and memorabilia to bring the journey alive – you’ll see a reconstruction of a record store, and a full-size replica of graffiti-covered New York subway train.

Graffiti New York subway car

More than music

Though MCs throwing down lyrics and deejays keeping the beat are integral to the movement, Hip Hop is not just about music. Its five core elements are defined by the Universal Zulu Nation (an International Hip Hop awareness group) as Emceeing/beatboxing, Deejaying, Aerosol Art, Breaking and Knowledge.

Hip Hop Museum

Leeds: A Hip Hop haven

This multi-pronged movement captured the mood in post-Industrial Leeds, particularly in Chapeltown, where racial tension and protests erupted in uprisings in 1974, and again in 1981. Hip Hop’s positive ethos and values of justice, peace, respect, self-worth, community, and having fun, are fundamental to the success of UK Hip Hop and the wealth of homegrown talent in Leeds: the scene here has catapulted acts like Nightmares on Wax, Breaking the Illusion, LSK, Braintax, Skinnyman, Tommy Evans, Jehst, Part2ism, and New Flesh to fame.

Hip hop Museum

Culture (and kulture) at the City Museum

The impressive City Museum is a Victorian-era landmark building with six galleries across four floors. Some of it is dedicated to Victorian curios and curiosities, with a modern, hands on feel, while the first floor is the huge Leeds story galleries (here you’ll find out more about how the city has been shaped by its landscape and people). The top floor temporary Hip Hop Kulture exhibition is part of Leeds 2023 (a year-long celebration of culture), though the exhibition runs as long as 24 March 2024.

How to get there


The museum is on Millenium Square, a 5-minute walk from Leeds train station.

Where to eat


The usual high-end restaurant chains like Gaucho’s and Bill’s are nearby, plus the museum holds the family-friendly Herbarium Cafe (outdoor seating on sunny days).



The museum and exhibition are fully accessible to all visitors.

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