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June 20, 2023

New limited-edition Free Library card celebrates 50 years of hip-hop

It is available at all public library branches but must be claimed in person with a photo ID

Arts & Culture Free Library of Philadelphia
Free Library hip hop @freelibrary/Facebook

Philly artist Akinseye Brown created the design, drawing on the city's hip hop culture.

Readers can pick up a new Free Library card featuring a special, colorful design informed by Philly hip-hop culture.

The limited-edition card celebrates the 50th anniversary of hip-hop, which is usually traced to a back-to-school party thrown by DJ Kool Herc in the Bronx on Aug. 11, 1973. To mark the occasion, the Free Library commissioned a design from local artist Akinseye Brown celebrating Philadelphia's unique brand of hip-hop. The card features splatters and streaks of orange, red and blue reminiscent of street art and an iconic city landmark, the Liberty Bell, smack in the middle.

"I wanted it to be bright, have an impact to it, and be daring because I want people to say, ‘Wow…the Free Library went hip-hop. They went to the veracity that’s in the art, the music, dance, and style,'" Brown said.

"The imagery is key because the Liberty Bell is ours as well. That is hometown Philly. The overall design is going to be a talking point for people because no one can claim what we do but us. It represents the bravado and self-confidence that hip-hop gives young people. It represents Philly."

Though New York City is the birthplace of hip-hop, Philadelphia was the second city where hip-hop grew. The first gangster rapper, Schoolly D, and the first female solo hip-hop artist, DJ Lady B, are from Philly, and graffiti, which was integral to early hip-hop culture, was so big here that The New York Times dubbed Philly the "graffiti capital of the country" in 1971.

The card is now available at all Free Library locations, but it can only be claimed in person with a photo ID. Those who already have active library cards can swap theirs out for the new hip-hop cards.

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