The soundtrack of Queens: From jazz to hip-hop

Katie Couric
Global Anchor

By Alexandra Zaslow

Queens has a very rich music culture that spans genres and decades.

Hidden in Corona is the home of jazz great Louis Armstrong, who lived in the borough and now has a museum named after him. The Louis Armstrong House Museum is a national landmark that has been preserved in such a way that you can almost feel Louis and his wife, Lucille, going about their daily routines.

The house also represents a part of the jazz culture, featuring other iconic Queens musicians like Count Basie, Ella Fitzgerald, Dizzy Gillespie and Billie Holiday. Several decades later, these same neighborhoods would become home to a new wave of musicians — pioneers in the art of hip-hop.

Queens has had a major impact on hip-hop, a sentiment shared by writer and producer, Devon Smith.

“Queens has a history of producing lyricists and storytellers,” Smith said. “There’s really not an element of the culture that someone from Queens didn’t touch and either implement or completely change the game behind.”

The first superstar rap group, Run-D.M.C., and the first hip-hop mogul, Russell Simmons, are both from the borough. Queens has also produced mega acts like LL Cool J, 50 Cent, Nikki Minaj and Nas.