Ernie Paniccioli’s latest book, Hip-Hop at the End of the World, offers an unvarnished look at rap royalty that's sure to intrigue fans of 80s and 90s hip-hop. Paniccioli, who previously channeled Biggie Smalls with the title of his best-selling Who Shot Ya?, fills his new coffee table tome with more than 250 throwback images that serve both as a career retrospective and a fascinating behind-the-scenes view of of the artists that fueled the evolution of rap. Here, "Brother Ernie" breaks down the stories behind some of his favorite photos from the book:
"Nas with Clouds"
“Shot this walking down W. 42nd Street with Nas in 1996 during a break from the video shoot for 'If I Ruled the World.' I wanted to get a shot of him with the sky and street as backdrop. When an eagle-shaped cloud appeared, we both saw it and he copied it, and the result was my favorite shot of him.”
"Biggie in his SUV"
“It was a cold night in late October 1994 and a man in an SUV was beeping his horn at me in Times Square. When I recognized Biggie, he said 'Get in here, motherfucker, it’s cold as shit out there.’ We talked and the subject of Tupac’s recent murder came up. He said they really had no beef, and that whole thing was mostly media BS. To prove it, he turned up his music, and there was Tupac, loud and clear. Biggie said, ‘If he had lived, we would own the game and work together and no one could touch us. We would run shit.’"
"Lauryn Hill as Princess"
“I was hired to shoot stills at United Palace Theatre in Washington Heights during the 1997 video for 'Hip Hopera' with Jimmy Cliff and Bounty Killer and the Fugees. This shot of Lauryn seemed to capture her essence and made her look larger than life.”
"Tribe Called Quest in Hallway"
“I had a business meeting at the Def Jam office in the early 1990s and ran into Tribe. Took them into a hallway next to the office and shot them raw and uncut, like hip-hop was back then. No contract, no approval from a publicist or manager, no ‘where are the photos going to be published?’ and 25 other questions. Just four men, a hallway, a camera and a photographer.”
"Queen Latifah, Tupac and DJ Kid Capri"
“The Apollo Theater was the place that held the most rap events and concerts on the East Coast, and I spent a lot of time there. Between shows I’d usually hang out in the hallways and stairways. The list of artists I shot there include R. Kelly, Aaliyah, Tupac, Mos Def and Latifah, and too many others to mention. This night in 1991 was no exception. I remember Tupac and Latifah quoting each other’s rhymes as we all laughed.”
"Rakim at the Apollo"
“He was one of many rap artists including LL Cool J, Public Enemy and Will Smith that performed for a Jesse Jackson presidential campaign fundraiser in 1988. Ironically his hit song was 'Eric B For President.'”
"Slick Rick on Throne"
“The curtains parted and there was Slick Rick, in a throne which fit perfectly with his rap moniker ‘SLICK RICK THE RULER’. Beacon Theater, New York City, 1989.”
"Naughty By Nature NY Post"
“Newark, New Jersey. 1993. Vinny from Naughty By Nature was reading The Post and was amused by the sports page that closely reflected the title of one of their most popular songs, 'Hip Hop Hooray.'"
"LL Cool J & Marley Marl"
“I was working at WNBC when LL Cool J performed on Letterman. So during a rehearsal break we went to the prop room and they posed with different items. This one caught our attention because in 1990, Trump was always in the news for some shady business dealing or lawsuit. Ironically things have not really changed much, but the photo is prophetic and funny as hell.”