Thursday, December 11, 2014
Bill Adler with a young LL Cool J
Bill Adler (center) with LL Cool J (left) and Fab 5 Freddy at LL's mother's house in 1988.
Adler was the founding publicity director of Def Jam Records. One of his first assignments was getting pop music critics at daily newspapers to cover one of the label's new artists, LL Cool J. He worked at Def Jam for six years, before going independent and later running a gallery devoted to hip-hop photography. From these ventures, he accrued a massive archive, which now lives in a storage space in the basement of his building. Soon, however, it will also live online.
Adler sent Cornell University 500 vinyl recordings, as well as an impressive collection of books about rap music in several languages. One — in Polish — is a 600-page encyclopedia of rap. Another is a collection by French photographer Sophie Bramly.
"These are stupendous," Adler says, looking at a picture of Rick Rubin with Afrika Islam from the Zulu Nation. "Rick didn't even have a beard."
By the 1990s, music critic Jon Caramanica was writing for hip-hop lifestyle magazines like Urb and Vibe. Today he's a pop music critic for The New York Times. He says Adler recognized from the beginning that hip-hop culture was something worth archiving. npr