Glen E Friedman's photographs from the births of hip-hop and hardcore punk – in pictures

American photographer Glen E Friedman witnessed first-hand the birth of skateboarding culture, the rise of hardcore punk and the golden age of hip-hop. Here he chooses some of his favourite shots from a new book and exhibition

Public Enemy Glen E Friedman
Photograph: Glen E Friedman

Public Enemy, California, 1987

I knew Chuck D (right) and Flavor Flav before Public Enemy became Public Enemy and we were very close. They came out to California in 1987 – the year they released their first album, Yo! Bum Rush the Show – and I showed them around town. They were filming a rock show on MTV called IRS Records Presents the Cutting Edge, which I might have helped them get on – I helped a lot of hip-hop acts get rock press back then. I persuaded Chuck and Flavor that [punk band] Minor Threat were an important band with similar ideals and that they might want to wear these shirts – the black sheep was an image I thought they could identify with. They were like, “We trust Glen, we’ll put on the shirts, all good.” Punk-rock and hip-hop were interchangeable to me, but not everybody saw it that way, so it was necessary to do things like this.

Fugazi Glen E Friedman
Photograph: Glen E Friedman

Fugazi, Irving Plaza, New York, 1995

This shot was taken at a time in the mid-90s when hip-hop was beginning to become generic and things in music generally, for me at least, weren’t as exciting as they had been. Fugazi were a big exception. They are one of my favourite bands of all time – for their music, their integrity, for their stamina at sticking to their ideals. This particular gig is a blur, but I remember that they were playing at Irving Plaza three nights in a row and we had a wonderful time. It’s always a great emotional outlet when they play. I did a whole book on the band called Keep Your Eyes Open; this is the only image that appears in both that book and the new one.

Slick Rick Glen E Friedman
Photograph: Glen E Friedman

Slick Rick , New York City, 1989

This was taken on the set of a video he was doing in New York. I’d already shot the cover for his first album, The Great Adventures of Slick Rick, which had been a big success on Def Jam the year before. Here he’s wearing my ski jacket turned inside-out because he thought it looked cool – at that time a lot of people were wearing their jackets inside-out because of the crazy patterns. I can’t remember if it was me or him who suggested that he wear all of his gold chains at the same time, but that’s what ended up happening. He had all his gold with him – he was carrying it around in a plastic bag – and it was all real gold. It was a pretty crazy shoot, but we had a lot of fun.

Glen E Friedman LL Cool J
Photograph: Glen E Friedman

LL Cool J, Madison Square Park, New York, 1985

People didn’t really know who LL Cool J was when I took this. His music had only come out in the generic Def Jam burgundy covers, with no visuals, so I was brought in to take some publicity shots. It was the first day I ever met LL in person. We walked from the Def Jam office to Madison Square Park. It was nearly dusk – the park lights were on but you still see some daylight – and in the main publicity shot he looks tough, cool and hard, which is what we were trying to present. But in the book there are a couple more photos of him where you see the big smile and the softer kid he really was. They show a little more of the reality of that day.

Glen E Friedman Beastie Boys
Photograph: Glen E Friedman

Beastie Boys, Washington Square Park, New York, 1986

I had shot Beastie Boys the previous year in LA, when they were opening for Madonna, and there was this one photo where I got Adam Yauch to run up a palm tree and push himself off, and everybody loved it. So when I came to shoot them in New York, I was like, “Let’s do that again on your home turf.” We were in Washington Square Park, the centre of everything in lower Manhattan. I’ve got about five or 10 photos of him in the air – this was the best one. The composition is right, the attitude in everyone’s face is right… the only problem was that Mike D wasn’t wearing his sunglasses, which [Def Jam label boss] Rick Rubin thought was a shame.

Glen E Friedman Bad Brains
Photograph: Glen E Friedman

Bad Brains, A7, New York City, 1981

This was an incredible moment. A7 was a small bar in the East Village where a lot of hardcore punk bands played in the early 80s. The energy that Bad Brains exuded could fill an arena, so imagine what it was like when they played in this room, which was just 20 feet across. You can see how low the ceiling is – [singer] HR’s fist is nearly touching it – and the stage is only six inches off the ground so the crowd is almost on the same level as the band. I’d been following Bad Brains for a while – I probably saw them first in 79 and had seen them play plenty of times before this. I rarely shoot a band the first time I see them – you’ve got to find what they’re about and whether they inspire you.

Glen E Friedman Jay Adams
Photograph: Glen E Friedman

Skateboarder Jay Adams, West Los Angeles, 1976

This was a great day – a lot of photos came out of it. It’s a typical backyard pool session: everyone gets out of school at three o’clock, someone finds out about a pool that’s been drained and you skate it before the owners get back at six. You hop over the fence or sneak through the side gate and there’s this amazing empty pool waiting for you. The guys were skating so aggressively, they knocked the coping right out of the pool. You can see the block that Jay’s just hit – it weighs 20 to 30 pounds and he hits it up so hard that it still hasn’t dropped back into its place by the time he’s on to the next piece of coping. That’s why you see that look on his face – he’s grinding it so hard. It’s pretty intense.

Glen E Friedman Run DMC Jam Master Jay
Photograph: Glen E Friedman

Run-DMC, Hollis, Queens, New York, 1985

I’d met Run-DMC when they came out to California, but this was my first time to shoot them on their home turf. They flew me over to New York to help with publicity for their second album and brought me out to Hollis, Queens, where they grew up. We hung out and walked around the neighbourhood for two days. This picture was taken in a place called The Buildings, which was the only urban-looking, multi-dwelling structure in Hollis. That’s where they used to hang out and smoke and do graffiti and battle each other. The album, King of Rock, went on to become the first hip-hop record to go platinum.

Glen E Friedman ICE-T
Photograph: Glen E Friedman

Ice-T, Hollywood, 1986

I knew Ice-T before he had a record deal. At the time, rappers from California weren’t recognised at all – this was a few years before NWA. Ice-T was going to be the first one to break out from LA. He had moved away from South Central, leaving his hustling days behind, and got a place in Hollywood. Later I took shots for his debut album and in one of them he’s leaning against a Porsche with his girlfriend at the time, Darlene, with a gated mansion in the background. In reality, he and Darlene were living in an underground garage in Hollywood for $400 a month. The LA guys were all about opulence, so we had to exaggerate what he had. It was accentuating the California. The car was his, though – it was the only thing he had left from his gangster days.

Glen E Friedman Rollins Black Flag
Photograph: Glen E Friedman

Black Flag, West Los Angeles, 1983

This was taken at a party I threw in LA for punk band Suicidal Tendencies, whose album I’d just produced. For the album cover, I wanted to have pictures of all the kids wearing Suicidal Tendencies shirts, to show people there was a tribal thing going on, so we decided to gather everyone together and I asked Black Flag to play. They had already been doing huge gigs but they were up for playing anytime, anywhere – it was just another rehearsal for them, and having an antagonistic crowd made it that much better. It happened in a garage in west LA in the middle of the day, and it was an incredibly wild show. Suicidal Tendencies came on and they couldn’t even get through a whole song, the crowd went so berserk – the drums kept getting knocked over. But when Black Flag played, people kept their distance.

To buy Glen E Friedman’s My Rules book for £28 (rrp £35), click here


Interview by Killian Fox

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Beats, punks and stunts: the photography of Glen E Friedman
American photographer Glen E Friedman witnessed the births of skateboarding culture, hardcore punk and hip-hop. He talks to Killian Fox about being in the right place at the right time

Killian Fox

29, Nov, 2014 @11:00 PM

Article image
Baron Wolman's Woodstock photographs: 'I thought, There'll never be anything like this again'

Photographer Baron Wolman was assigned to take pictures of the bands at Woodstock. But his shots of the crowd were far more revelatory, writes Tom Lamont

Tom Lamont

21, Jun, 2014 @11:05 PM

Article image
25 years of Def Jam: how the sound of New York's streets rose up to rule the world
From humble beginnings in student digs , the record label Def Jam is credited with bringing New York's street culture and music to the masses. Gareth Grundy examines its legacy

Gareth Grundy

03, Sep, 2011 @11:05 PM

Article image
Adam Yauch remembered by Sarah J Edwards
The US rapper, film director and human rights activist was a funny, inspiring and dependable friend, writes Sarah J Edwards

Sarah J Edwards

23, Dec, 2012 @12:07 AM

Article image
Another side of Amy Winehouse: intimate photographs by her friend Blake Wood
Blake Wood’s previously unseen photographs reveal a natural, more carefree side to the troubled singer

Tim Lewis

30, Jun, 2018 @3:00 PM

Article image
The best films and books about music to watch out for in 2015
From a Kurt Cobain documentary to Grace Jones’s autobiography, Observer pop critic Kitty Empire chooses the forthcoming film and book highlights of the year

Kitty Empire

25, Jan, 2015 @9:00 AM

Article image
Extract: The Beastie Boys hit London, 1986 - ‘Yauch taught Mick Jones how to play Clash City Rockers’
In this extract from Beastie Boys Book, Adam Horovitz recalls three young rap hooligans on the loose in the UK capital

Adam Horovitz

21, Oct, 2018 @8:00 AM

Article image
Sleaford Mods: ‘The thing is, there really is no future for a lot of people out there’
Nottingham duo Sleaford Mods are Britain’s angriest band, their sweary rants a brutal stream of working-class disaffection. And at 44, singer Jason Williamson makes an unlikely pop star…

Sean O'Hagan

05, Jul, 2015 @8:45 AM

Article image
DJ Shadow: soundtrack of my life

The Californian hip-hop artist and record-digger extraordinaire tells Gareth Grundy about his love of James Brown, his thirst for new music, and why Dr Dre sounds like home

Interview by Gareth Grundy

01, Sep, 2012 @11:05 PM

Article image
Chuck D and Melle Mel on Something From Nothing: The Art of Rap - video

Chuck D of Public Enemy and his mentor, hip hop originator Melle Mel, tell Matt Hall about a new documentary that charts the rise of rap as a respected art form

Matt Hall, Christian Bennett, Josh Strauss and Henry Barnes

20, Jul, 2012 @8:24 AM