Locals Divided Over Hip Hop Bus Tours

(Photo by er Guiri, Creative Commons license)

At $75 per adult, Hush Tours takes tourists on a “Birthplace of Hip Hop” tour through parts of Harlem and the Bronx, including the Hip Hop Blvd. street sign in Morris Heights that faces the front door of Sonia Vazquez, 68, who lives at 1520 Sedgwick Ave. She said to Hunts Point Express reporter Andee Tagle, “They’re making money from this but what’s going to happen to us?”

Her sentiments echo those of some residents who feel that the tour group, which also offers other tours on hip hop and street art, is making money off of local communities.

The Hush Tours tour company, distinct from other tours of the outer boroughs, offers its patrons an insider’s perspective through its employ of local hip hop pioneers. While the company’s pride for these areas is real, community members outside the doors of the bus question the company’s commitment to the neighborhoods they tour.

Hush Tours’ presence has sparked debate about whether community visibility at the expense of its residents is better than no visibility at all.

“His family is struggling or whatever and you’ve got people who are profiting off of that,” said Derrick Johnson, 42, gesturing at the “Big L” memorial mural behind him on the corner of 140th and Malcolm X Boulevard in Harlem. Johnson was childhood friends with the slain rapper, and sees tour buses frequent his neighborhood often. “I think that’s kind of wrong,” he said.

Go to Hunts Point Express to read what the Bronx-born CEO of Hush Tours said in response to the concerns, and also hear from a member of graffiti group Tats Cru – “whose work appears prominently throughout the ‘birthplace’ tour” – and a small business owner whose store wall bears Tats Cru’s “I Love the Bronx” mural.

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