in the late 1980s, photographer Sue Kwon was living in downtown Manhattan, soaking up the sounds of the city. “I was going to clubs like Madame Rosa’s, Milky Way, and 1018, where they were playing all the greatest vinyl,” she recalls, mentioning three long-lost nightlife landmarks. “I would stay home to record DJ Red Alert’s [radio] show and then run down to Vinylmania the next day to buy the music I had heard.
When I started seeing these artists that I loved on album covers, I immediately thought, ‘I want to shoot these covers.’ ” She went on to lend her distinctive eye to dozens of hip-hop’s top artists, capturing the strikingly intimate portraits collected in her new book, Rap Is Risen: New York Photographs 1988-2008. “When I first envisioned this book, I was also planning to include shots of skateboarders and New York City street scenes,” Kwon adds. “But it quickly became obvious hip-hop deserved the whole book.”