NPHM music room will tell the untold story of public housing’s influence on American music and culture
Chicago, Illinois (February 15, 2023) – The National Public Housing Museum (NPHM) today announced that the most influential and iconic female DJ in hip-hop music, DJ Spinderella, will enter new territory in an already-storied career by joining the Museum as Curator of the music room, which celebrates the historic role public housing plays in the development of the American musical landscape. Located in the historic Jane Addams Homes building on Chicago’s Near West Side, the NPHM is set to open to the public in early 2024.
“The story of public housing’s influence on American musical tradition and culture is largely untold,” said DJ Spinderella. “The National Public Housing Museum will finally tell this story, which is deeply personal to me. This history is also crucial to understanding how American music as a whole, from Country to Rock, Soul to Hip-Hop, evolved and grew out of the close-knit communities within public housing. Music tells us about our history, helps us survive the present, and inspires us to imagine the future.”
Before becoming known the world over as DJ Spinderella and a member of Salt-N-Pepa, Deidra “Dee Dee” Roper grew up in a three bedroom apartment in Brooklyn’s Pink Houses with her parents and five siblings. Spinderella recalls memories of a home and community infused with music, thanks to her father’s closets full of records and 45s and the sounds of DJs playing hip-hop on the streets outside the projects.
“Curating the music room at NPHM is important to me, not only because I believe in the museum’s purpose, but because my home is my foundation and music is in my DNA,” continued Spinderella. “My vision for the exhibit and experience will evoke the nostalgia, the vibe, and the environment that shaped our shared musical culture over decades.”
The NPHM music room will explore the soundtrack of America, from Brooklyn to Los Angeles, Houston to Chicago, Minneapolis to Memphis. From Country to Klezmer to Jazz, Hip-Hop to Latin Rock, the music that has emerged from public housing projects represents a range of popular sounds that have defined, expanded and challenged our idea of American culture and American identity. Artists as diverse as Elvis Presley, Barbra Streisand, Curtis Mayfield, the Neville Brothers, Mary J. Blige, Jay Z, Nas, and Prince, reveal that the song of America is beautifully diverse.
“It is impossible to understand the American musical landscape without acknowledging and exploring the role public housing played in its development,” said Dr. Josh Kun, Professor at the University of Southern California Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, author of Audiotopia, and one of the foremost experts on popular music and its place at the intersection of arts, culture, and politics. “The song of America is endlessly hybrid, heterogeneous, and enriching – a source of comfort and strength for populations who have been taught that their lives do not matter. Spinderella’s engagement with the National Public Housing Museum is a unique opportunity for that story to be told in a way that honors the experiences of so many artists putting people so often marginalized and overlooked into the spotlight.” Kun has also served as an advisor to the music exhibit.
“Spinderella is a legend. Her vast knowledge of music and ability to bring people to the dance floor make her the perfect collaborator as we imagine joyful ways to engage visitors to the Museum,” said the Museum’s Executive Director Lisa Yun Lee. “The National Public Housing Museum is the only cultural institution in the United States dedicated to preserving and sharing the stories of public housing, and the story of America’s rich musical history that emerged from the projects promises to surprise, educate, and delight.”
The National Public Housing Museum’s permanent home is currently under construction at the historic Jane Addams Homes (1322 W. Taylor, Chicago) on Chicago’s Near West Side, and is set to open to the public in early 2024.