By Dylan Deprey
If Antonia Anderson could travel back in time to give herself one piece of advice, she’d probably tell herself to stock up on milk crates because there’s no way she’d tell herself to stop collecting vinyl records.
Taking a stroll through Anderson’s house is like traveling through history. Guests are greeted with red carpet and some of hip-hop’s most legendary acts. From Run-D.M.C. and Wu-Tang Clan, to Tupac Shakur and N.W.A., the walls are covered in memorabilia. Records are stacked to the ceiling. Cassette and VHS tapes line the walls. Anderson’s house is a hip-hop history museum.
It started with one Motown vinyl and turned into a decade of rummaging through record bins and scouring online for collectables. Whether it’s her Public Enemy comic book series or the KRS-One “Stop the Violence” educational program—Anderson’s got it all.
“You can’t just buy one vinyl record, I don’t care who you are,” Anderson said. “If you don’t want to run out of room, don’t start collecting albums. I’ll need a truck just to move all them.”
Every pillar of hip-hop culture is showcased in her collection. Breakdance themed movies and instructional b-boy VHS tapes are displayed alongside graffiti art and used spray paint cans. A turntable is set up in front of some of hip-hop’s influential emcees.
“I just started collecting whatever,” she said. “You can find anything on eBay, there’s always something floating around out there.”
Anderson works as a social worker’s assistant at Marshall High School. She checks in with students at home and in the classroom. She said that sometimes it’s easier to connect with students through hip-hop.
Her collection, “Antonia’s 365 Hip-Hop Museum,” was transformed as a way to help teach Milwaukee’s youth.
“It’s all good art, a good way to escape,” she said. “It’s a creative way to get kids educated. It keeps them engaged because let’s be real, it’s hard to keep them interested.”
As Congress officially declared November, “National Hip-Hop History Month,” Anderson decided to give local Milwaukee acts their flowers while they were still here.
“We hear about New York this, Atlanta that, but we have a lot of talented artists here, that have been here for quite some time,” she said
Coo Coo Cal, J Billa and Baby Drew cassettes hung next to posters and magazine cut outs of Milwaukee native, Speech, from the Tennessee-based Arrested Development. A framed Kali Tribe T-shirt and cassette tape gave props to Milwaukee’s first rap group.
“I put this all up for hip-hop month because we don’t really get to celebrate Milwaukee. There’s a lot of people that move with the culture, but it’s not as recognized in the Midwest,” she said.
The holidays are here, and Anderson is curating a more festive take on the collection. She’s already bringing out everything from Kurtis Blow’s “Christmas Rappin’” to Mariah Carey’s “All I Want For Christmas Is You.”
Though COVID-19 has slowed the process of moving her collection into a dedicated building, she said it will happen in the near future. As for now, Anderson said she will host small events to keep the culture moving forward.
“I celebrate hip-hop-history every day,” she said. “We talk about it 365 days a year in this house.”
Check out her collection at https://milwaukeehiphoppopup.com/