Harlem Hip Hop Tours
By Dialogue Magazine
For our Business Spotlight this month we caught up with Adrienne Smith, founder of Harlem Hip Hop Tours.
Dialogue Magazine: How did you come up with the idea for a Hip Hop tour in Harlem?
I was brainstorming with a friend of mine over the holidays, and we were both kinda looking to get into the corporate world and just start something on our own that would be fun. Both of us love to travel, and I have experience running tours from when I worked in Japan. So it kind of came together: we were living in Harlem, we both love Hip Hop, we both love Harlem culture and showing people around when they came to visit us in New York City. So, we kinda put all of them together and came up with a tour company that focused on some of NYC’s best products: Harlem’s African American culture and Hip Hop. So that was the start of Harlem Hip Hop Tours.
DM: What can passengers expect to experience when they take the tour?
We do a variety of different activities. On the educational side with our school groups, we focus on anywhere from 3rd grade all the way through college. They can get what we call “Edutainment”: It’s education through entertainment so they can learn some of the behind-the-scene careers such as producing music and Hip Hop music studios. We actually take them to live music studios where they can learn about production. We also have exclusive partnerships with Hot 97, the radio station here in New York City, where students and youth groups can learn about the history of Hot 97 or the fields of study they want to pursue in college in order to get a job. We’re offering internship opportunities as well. We have a set up with Source Magazine where the students can learn about journalism. We’re really trying to educate young people through Hip Hop culture and encourage them to strive to be more and do more… to go and get that college degree and education to raise themselves up and appreciate what Hip Hop culture was originally designed for: To bring people together and express the positive attributes of a community. Whereas, now, there are so many negative stereotypes surrounding Hip Hop.
Now in terms of our 21 and older crowd, we do offer more purely entertainment tours such as trips where we’ll take our tour bus up to Foxworth or Mohegan Sun casinos in Connecticut and take guests up there to do some gambling, etc., and then to see a concert. For instance, when Jay-Z was performing up in Connecticut (or Beyonce or T-Pain), we would do those types of just pure entertainment trips for our guests.
DM: What are your thoughts on the state of Hip Hop music today as opposed to back in the day?
I think everyone is waking up to what the culture has become. Sometimes when a lot of money can be generated in any given area, it can take away from the purity. With sports, you have these athletes making millions of dollars and sometimes that money can taint the purity of the sport itself. Nowadays, slowly but surely, everyone is waking up to going back to that purer form of Hip Hop.
As long as we keep moving forward and realizing the power that Hip Hop has throughout the world…I used to live in Japan and I saw the effects of Hip Hop music and the videos, the whole style of dress, the language…I saw the impact from the farthest corner of the planet where the people didn’t speak English, but they knew every single word to any Biggie Smalls song. So I think we definitely know the tremendous power, economically and socially, that Hip Hop wields. It’s a matter of everyone recognizing that and pulling together to say we’ve got all of this strength and this energy and this influence — let’s make sure we keep it directed in a positive direction.
DM: What are your future plans for the tour?
We are going to just continue to grow. We continue to reach out and create new tour products. We will continue to reach out and partner with other established Hip Hop brands and venues, and just really make NYC the tourism destination for Hip Hop. I mean, if you envision Graceland is the draw for Elvis out in Memphis, we want Harlem Hip Hop Tours to be the complete, utter destination for experiencing Hip Hop on a variety of different levels.