The Bronx may be hip hop's birthplace, but Hollis zoomed it to the commercial heavens.
This small, family-oriented nook in a far east corner of Queens was the childhood home for everyone from Russell Simmons to Jam Master Jay to LL Cool J to Ja Rule. All those stars played here, went to school here and, even now, return to visit every so often. The trio Run-DMC — which includes Russell's brother Joseph — played their first concerts in Hollis Park, starting a sound that would give hip hop its first platinum breakthrough.
Hip-hop stars aren't the only big names who hail from Hollis. Colin Powell, Mario Cuomo and Al Sharpton also do. Yet, this mainly residential area, which abuts a line of the Long Island Rail Road, takes so much pride in its musical heroes there's a future Hip-Hop Walk of Fame in the works — to run along the main drag, Hollis Ave. between 203rd and 207th Sts. The Walk, which will feature plaques for the stars embedded in the sidewalk, should open in 2011.
1. Jam Master Jay memorial (205th St. just off Hollis Ave.; pictured above): In 2002, days after the still-unsolved murder of the man born Jason Mizell, local artists created this mural to Run-DMC's star DJ. The mural will receive a makeover soon, cleaning up its lines to reassert the community's love for a fallen hero
2. Run-DMC JMJ Way (205th St. and Hollis Ave.): This street sign commemorates both the first mass-market hip-hop group and their late DJ.
3. Hollis Famous Burger and Hip-Hop Museum (203rd and Hollis): Two years ago, owner Orville Hall (above) made it his mission to revive the pride of the neighborhood by creating a gathering place for both food and history. His burger spot both feeds the locals and surrounds them with all the classic totems of the genre, from chunky Adidas to fat gold chains to classic turntables. You'll find things here like handbills for the first major rap fest in the '80s, featuring acts like the Beastie Boys and Whodini
4. Hollis Park (207th and Hollis) provides the lungs of the neighborhood, giving local kids (above) a place to bond and play. It's also where hip-hop stars like the Fat Boys first practiced their basketball skills. This week, the city will begin replanting the park with flowers and shrubs.
5. Mount Olivet Baptist Church (202nd St. and Hollis): A deeply religious community, Hollis features no shortage of churches. But the most popular remains Mount Olivet. This lush tree in Hollis Park is remembered as the first place Run-DMC performed in public.
7. Zafir's Sculpture Shop (194th St. and 99th Ave.): The artist Zafir Coppinson (who goes by just his first name) has been crafting fine drums and objets d'art for 20 years right here in the neighborhood. His wood pieces include abstracts, masks and animal forms, but his specialty remains expertly formed, and resonant, percussion instruments.
8. Orville Hall spearheads the comeback of Hollis. He's overseeing the Hollis Ave. Hip-Hop Walk of Fame as well as lobbying the city to turn local abandoned buildings into places the community can be proud of. More, he's planning a walking tour that will take visitors through all of the formative places in the lives of local hip-hop legends.
9. This modest, two-story Dutch Colonial house (104-16 109th Ave., at 205th St.) was where hip hop's top mogul, Russell Simmons, and his brother Joseph of Run-DMC grew up. Other homes on the route include that of Jam Master Jay (203rd St. between Hollis and 111th Ave.), Darryl (DMC) McDaniels' childhood place (on 197th St., just south of Hollis) and the brick house of LL Cool J's grandmother, who raised the young James Todd Smith (185-02 182nd St., at Ilion Ave.).
10. The Police Athletic League (at 200th St. and 112th Ave.) has done more than any other organization in the area to keep the kids of Hollis on the right track. Orville Hall credits it with giving grounding to all the old-school hip-hop stars back in the day.