From DJs, to rappers, B-boys and graffiti artists, Sophie Bramly photographed the hip-hop pioneers in the US and in France in the 1980s. Almost 40 years later, her photos are part of the Hip-Hop 360 exhibition at the Philharmonie de Paris.
21-year-old Sophie Bramly left France for the US in 1981. She was at a party in a New York City (NYC) club on Union Square when for the first time she saw some break dancers in action. "That was it, that was really my moment", she told RFI.
Later on, Bramly met hip-hop pioneer Afrika Bambaataa at The Roxy nightclub where he used to perform every Friday.
In 1983, she photographed him in front of the Greene Street studios in NYC where he was recording and producing his songs.
She also met Fab 5 Freddy, famous for his English-French hit Change the beat released in 1982, which would become one of the most sampled songs in music history. The Side-B of the album was performed by Ann Boyle aka B-Side, and produced by French producer Bernard Zekri.
Bramly photographed all the aspects of the early days of the hip-hop scene.
Not only DJs and rappers, but also dancers like Mr. Freeze and Dondi, one of the founders of graffiti.
Building a bridge
The hip-hop scene emerged in Europe in the 1980s, mainly in France because "there was a bridge going on between Paris and New-York".
Back in France in 1984, Bramly was asked to take photos for different magazines.
"All the French trendy magazines like Actuel wanted to talk about hip-hop, while strictly nothing was happening in the US. It was quite disturbing. It was initiated in the US and totally American but nobody wanted to hear about it over there. Including the black media, they didn’t like it at first."
On 14th of January 1984, the now French cult TV show H.I.P. H.O.P. was created, hosted by French musician, rapper and radio presenter Sidney Duteil, also known as Sydney. Bramly was appointed artistic adviser for the show and created the logo.
"Hip-hop really exploded in France when the show started. Advertising was using hip-hop as a tool to sell yoghurts, cars … It was really all around.
Being so underground in the US but so mainstream in France was quite funny," explains Bramly.
"I remember being many times in Sidney’s car and because he was black, often the police would stop him to check his ID.
And then they recognised him and said: 'Oh Sidney, H.I.P / H.O.P' and let him go. It was quite strange."
Also released in the book Yo! published by Soul Jazz Books.