You have not experienced hip-hop in its purest form until you have seen all of its elements on full display. Juels Pierrot, Founder and Curator of the Juice Hip-Hop Exhibition series, understands this. He observed hip-hop, the culture in its entirety, lacks a platform on which to collectively celebrate and combine its original elements; graffiti/art, style, beat makers, emcees, b-boys/b-girls and deejaying. So he launched the Juice Hip-Hop Exhibition to celebrate the culture in all its forms.
As Mr. Pierrot puts it, “[I]f we do not celebrate these elements, we will lose the true essence of the culture.” He added, “Even though rap is the vocal point and the cash cow, the culture was birthed from all the original elements that came before rap, and we cannot forget that. We are all brother and sisters, and need to be put in the mainstream to grow the entire culture as a whole.” It is for this reason Mr. Pierrot puts on for the culture, putting all the elements under one roof, for one night, and this time he will do it in a church.
In an interview with the with The Breakfast Club in 2011, Steve Stoute compared hip-hop to religion. “Hip-hop has very similar qualities,” he said, then continued by saying, “There’s hierarchy, there’s code, there’s language, there’s dialect, there’s a core belief …” Mr. Pierrot agrees. He said, “From my perspective I am not saying hip-hop is a religion like Christianity, but I agree we carry the same camaraderie within the community as a religion. Hip-Hop is a lifestyle itself. We have our codes, set beliefs, and ethic just as a religion. Our emcees are our pastors. They spread our gospel that we live everyday to the world.”
To those who may have trepidation for coming to a hip-hop showcase in a church, Pierrot says, “I will tell them to go to the youth around my way, and speak to the kids. They are not referencing the bible for guidance.” They are referencing rap lyrics. We have to meet them where they are at.” He continued, “I understand the church is sacred by all means. But first, this church is vacant, and if i can use this vacant cathedral as a metaphor to say this is where hip-hop is celebrated, and where we all can come together in peace and harmony to tell each other stories, celebrate and build with each other with no harm coming from any directions I am going to do that.”
Juice movies beyond the commercialization of the mainstream, and gravitates toward the authentic components of the culture. Launching in Alabama in 2013, the exhibition has made its way to Brooklyn (Brooklyn Hip-Hop Festival), and now seeks to tackle New Jersey, in large part because the vibrance of New Jersey’s hip-hop scene is often overlooked. To this end Pierrot said, “Being so closed to New York we were always looked like the step brother, and us knowing that we had to bred the best talent to even be noticed. Our criteria to even touch a mic was so high, because the entry point into the music business was so slim. So an artist can be B or C level in talent in New York, and get a break due to subpar talent and connections. With Jersey it started with the talent being A+ first, because if you are not there is no chance for you to even touch the mic and say that you rep Jersey. If one person is not A+ caliber talent it messes it up for everyone coming from the Garden State.”
Nevertheless, New Jersey rose to the challenge and produced some of hip-hop’s luminaries: Queen Latifah, Lauryn Hill, Redman, Naughty by Nature, Joe Budden, Poor Righteous Teachers, Karen Civil, et al. Next month, the Juice Hip-Hop Exhibition seeks to showcase the next crop of New Jersey’s talent: Tsu Surf, Moruf, Dougie F, Quiana Parks, Dj Midnite, Dj Shy, Asha, et al. On April 1, 2017, the Juice Hip-Hop Exhibition will showcase some of the best creatives this state has to offer. Get tickets to the Juice Exhibition Garden State Edition here.