When I had first heard about Lyle Owerko's The Boombox Project, I was relieved to find some validation that I wasn't the only over-the-hill b-boy fascinated with suitcase-sized portable cassette stereos. While vintage portables routinely show up in commercials and retro-styled music videos, seeing a boombox on YouTube today versus having owned one back in the day are two very different things. Now, thanks to Owerko, a New York-based writer and photographer, everyone can catch a glimpse of these massive urban sound machines, which many consider to be one of the centerpieces of early Hip Hop culture.
Through interviews and retrospectives from artists and cultural icons from the era (including Spike Lee, Fab 5 Freddy, Lisa Lisa, LL Cool J and others), Owerko chronicles the role boomboxes played in the democratization of urban music.Indeed, these ear-shattering relics do still exist and, like Kurtis Blow told us years ago, there are 8 million stories behind them. The Boombox Project weaves some of those stories together in a single, well-documented archive to ensure that they are not lost forever. Grade: A