The Original Hip-Hop Photographer releases 5 new books


by GJ

Ernie Paniccioli is the legendary photographer behind the 2002 Hip-Hop classic book “Who Shot Ya” (ISBN 0-06-621168-9). Temple of Hip-Hop leader KRS-One says about the book, “Mr. Paniccioli documented the only true representation of authentic Hip-Hop history to date.” A member of the influential Zulu Nation, Ernie states, “I invented the very term ‘Hip-Hop Photographer’, before me there were some ‘rap photographers’ and ‘rock photographers’ who shot rap, but I was the first in Hip-Hop to do this.” In 1973 Ernie began to capture the New York graffiti scene with a 35mm camera and over the next 3 decades would be the only person to document the birth of all 4 Hip-Hop elements: graffiti, break dancing, emceeing, and deejaying – recording the entire evolution of this American cultural phenomenon. The Chief Photographer for Word Up magazine from 1989, Ernie’s work has also appeared in Time, Rolling Stone, Newsweek, MTV, VH1, and numerous published books. Currently, Ernie is releasing a slew of self published work accumulated over 40 years as a visual artist and his latest book Deeper has just hit the streets.

Were you recently awarded for your film "The Other Side of Hip-Hop"?

Yes, the film is a look at my life, struggles, childhood, work, art, photography, and my political activism. We won Best Documentary 2007 in The Big Apple Film Festival, a first for Hip-Hop and a first for a Native American.

December 17th I saw a story that said the Lakotah tribe has dissolved all US
treaties in effect. As a Native American how do you feel about this development?

We are still looking into this one we do not know all the actual details. The fact is that 80% of all US land is documented in treaties as originally belonging to the Native Americans. But to dissolve any of these treaties would require a meeting of an Elder Council, which has not happened here. This particular announcement is from a small group who has chosen not the consult the Elders at this time.

I read that you were homeless as a kid. How did that come about?

No father, welfare, no hope and circumstances. It was the most educational time of my life.

From the pictures I've seen it looks like you were basically right in the
streets for most of this work. Did you have any trouble?

No trouble at all. I was born and raised in the streets of Brooklyn and it is my comfort zone. I am more comfortable shooting in the streets than in a million dollar studio.

Where the streets much different then?

Yes and no, now gangs are more visible and there seems to be less hope among the youth, so the streets are more volatile now, plus back then we carried knifes, now they carry 45's, Mac 10's, Desert Eagles, and enough firepower to carry on a war.

Did have any idea how important your early photographs would be to
Hip-Hop historians when you were in the mix shooting photos in the 1970s?

No, I did not, but I always shot with love and respect and somehow those things added something special to my work that has helped it be truly reflective of those times.

Some writers, such as Lady Pink, insist that graffiti is not an element of Hip-Hop, do you agree?

As a member of The Universal Zulu Nation we believe it is a positive, strong, and essential element of Hip-Hop.

Do you still work with Kevin Powell?

No, but it was a learning experience for the both of us and we were able to create a Hip-Hop classic "Who Shot Ya" which gave the world a look at decades of my Hip-Hop imagery and let the rest of the planet see what only folks in the world of Hip-Hop had seen up to that point.

Did you decide to self publish after your experience with that first book?

"Who Shot Ya" was to me a huge success and is known and respected around the world. Since that book came out the economics and dynamics of book publishing dictate that in order to maximize profit and retain control one needs to either self publish or establish an equitable relationship with a major publisher that respects and shares your values and vision.

What are the challenges with putting out a coffee table book
as opposed to a paper back?

They are the same, a strong title, deep content and some degree of autonomy.

When you do a photo shoot what equipment do you use and what is your process?

I shoot film and digital and seek the best of both mediums. It depends on the situation and the environment. Usually I shoot very little but think very hard and try to absorb the actual spirit of my subjects. I love wide angle lenses but again it depends on my mood and circumstances. Even the most hard core, elusive rappers felt my vibe and were open to me, my ideas, and my visual style.

Do you feel that modern day Hip-Hop has lost its freedom?

Yes, especially Rap. It has been colonized and controlled by those that do not love us and may actually hate us.

What 5 records have you listened to most recently?

A lot of Gil Scott heron, Mos Def, John Coltrane, Marvin Gaye, even the painful songs of Amy Winehouse, and the poetic songs of Bob Dylan.

Are you hard to impress?

Not at all, humble people, kind people, strong people, deep people, and sweet people are the ones I am most attracted to.

Tell me about your newest releases.

Actually there are 5 new books, all done in the last 5 weeks;

"Four Decades of Artwork by Ernie Paniccioli"-1966-2007 which contains 50 drawings I did during that period of time and is in a limited edition of 25 copies world wide.

" Ernie Paniccioli Four Decades of Color Artwork" which covers my paintings, watercolors and color drawings from 1962-2007.

"Rap Pop and Soul Headshots" (Volume 1 and Volume 2) which contains up close and personal headshots of Janet and Michael Jackson, Andy Warhol, The Dalai Lama, Sting, Blondie, 50 Cent, Britney Spears, Alicia Keys, Grandmasters Flash and Caz, Afrika Bambaataa, Bootsy Collins, Lil Kim, KRS1, Common, Mos Def, Chaka Khan, James Brown, Real Roxanne, Aaliyah, Mary J Blige, Lyte, Latifah, Jay Z, LL Cool J, Ice Cube, Fat Joe, Big Pun, Ricky martin, BIG, Tupac, Kane, Rakim, Method Man, Ghostface and many others.

“Deeper” will make you get goose bumps. I’ve gotten the specs and technical babble of self publishing down pat. “Deeper” is the best book or piece of art/history/photography I have ever done.

I intend to do a series of 10 books in 10 weeks. That's some real hard body output. Self publishing also means self promotion and with my work load I'm spending 14-15 hours a day photoshopping and designing these books and don't have any time to e-mail folks and let them know these books are collectors items and are available for less than a blouse or shirt.

All 5 books can be purchased at


Popular Posts