Ernie Paniccioli

KALAMAZOO, Mich.—August 2023 marks the 50th anniversary of the birth of Hip Hop, an influential music genre that continues to impact everything from popular culture to politics. Western Michigan University and Kalamazoo Valley Community College are partnering to recognize the historic milestone by bringing Ernie Paniccioli, the "Hip Hop Historian," to campus.

"We are so excited to have Ernie Paniccioli here in Kalamazoo as we honor and uplift the 50th anniversary of Hip Hop," says Dr. Luchara Wallace, director of Western's Lewis Walker Institute for the Study of Race and Ethnic Relations. "Hip Hop is a cultural phenomenon that transcends age, race, gender, socioeconomic status, and religion. Hip Hop has influenced every aspect of … who we are, what we do, how we perceive things. And Ernie has chronicled it all through his lens." 

Known in the industry as Brother Ernie, Paniccioli has had a front-row seat to Hip Hop history. He began photographing graffiti art in New York City in 1973 and captured the evolution of the genre over the next five decades, gaining unprecedented access to artists from Grandmaster Flash and Public Enemy to Queen Latifah and Jay Z. 

“We’re always pleased to collaborate and this is a particularly exciting endeavor,” says Kalamazoo Valley Community College President L. Marshall Washington, Ph.D. “Hip Hop music and photographer Ernie Paniccioli have an important place in history, and it’s time to shine a light on them.”  

Paniccioli's vast body of work, including some pieces from the Grammy Museum, will be on display at the Kalamazoo Valley Community College Center for New Media and Arcus Gallery from Friday, Sept. 1, through the end of October. Check here for the hours of operation for the exhibit. The community will also have the opportunity to hear from the legendary Hip Hop photographer himself during an evening with Paniccioli at Miller Auditorium on Thursday, Sept. 28, at 6:30 p.m. Tickets for the free event are available online.

Western's recognition of the 50th anniversary of Hip Hop extends beyond this exhibit. Dr. Khalid el-Hakim, founder and creator of the Black History 101 Mobile Museum, will teach a course on Hip Hop history at WMU in fall 2023. Students will have the opportunity to learn about the evolution of Hip Hop as well as hear from some surprise industry guests. Items from El-Hakim's Michigan Hip Hop archives will also be on display in the Mosaic Affinity Suite at the new WMU Student Center and Dining Facility.


Paniccioli, one of Hip Hop's most prolific and legendary photographers, was born in Brooklyn, New York, in 1947 to parents of Cree Native American and Italian descent. He spent his teenage years immersing himself in the arts and music scenes of Greenwich Village and began experimenting with photography on his 35-millimeter camera after being honorably discharged from the U.S. Navy in 1971.

Paniccioli is the best-selling author of "Who Shot Ya? Three Decades of Hip Hop Photography" and "Hip Hop at the End of the World;" a Hip Hop Hall of Fame inductee; recipient of the Zulu Nation Human Soul Award; creator of “The Other Side of Hip Hop,” named best documentary in 2007; and his works are featured in the Cornell University famed Hip Hop Collection.  

 Please join us as we honor a legend.  GET YOUR TICKETS TODAY!”