NEWARK, N.J. (PIX11) — The Grammy Museum Experience in Newark is celebrating hip-hop with a new exhibit opening this weekend, honoring a legendary photographer and his iconic pictures of hip-hop superstars.
The exhibit, called “A Hip Hop Life,” showcases the photographs of Ernie Paniccioli. He is as authentic and he is earnest and not exactly the type of guy you would expect to roll with the titans of hip-hop. But that he did.
“It was a narrow field back then. There weren’t 50 photographers. There was one maybe two. They were just grateful to have the light shine on them and that made all the difference,” said Paniccioli.
During his career, the Jersey City native has taken over 200,000 photographs, so the exhibit is just a snippet of his incredible collection.
“I felt an energy and the energy stimulated me. I didn’t feel right unless I had a camera and people in front of me. There was a spirit, something going on, and I wanted to capture it,” Paniccioli said.
The legends allowed him into their inner circle, capturing candid and personal moments. That included artists and groups such as Salt-N-Pepa, Tupac Shakur, Flava Flav, the Notorious B.I.G. and Naughty by Nature.
“It all carries from legendary photographers. They really capture all the moments that we forget because we’re busy doing us and having fun,” said Naughty by Nature rapper Treach.
The exhibit features a photo of singer Melba Moore in the collection. “To have the museum here is such growth for Newark. It’s always in the shadow of New York. We have our own Grammy Museum. We have our own artists. We have our own everything,” Moore said.
The museum also gives due respect to the many Grammy-winning artists from New Jersey. “It’s a big part of our learning experience and a part of our inspiration knowing they were from New Jersey,” said Dennis Diken, drummer in the Smithereens. “I was born in Newark, so it hits home for me.”
“Brother Ernie,” as he is called by some of these stars, is a hip-hop historian. Walking through the exhibit dedicated to his work is like walking through music history.
“The Grammy Museum offers an opportunity for our young people to learn about the rich history of artists from the city of Newark and the surrounding areas of New Jersey,” said Nicole Butler with the Prudential Financial.
The exhibit officially opens June 3 and runs through Oct. 30.