In Transit
Season 3
Episode 2

Vikki Tobak’s Inside Account of Hip-Hop’s Early Days

Globetrotter sat down with author, journalist, and chronicler of hip-hop Vikki Tobak on location at Sole DXB in Dubai.
In Transit

Author and journalist Vikki Tobak was only 19 when she started working as a publicist for Payday Records, whose hip-hop artist roster includes Gang Starr, Guru, and Mos Def. So, it all seemed to come full circle when she released Contact High: A Visual History of Hip-Hop (2018), her critically acclaimed book about legendary hip-hop photographers who have shaped the music into the popular subculture it is today.  

Over the years, Tobak has been expanding the book into an ongoing exhibition series. An archive of four decades of hip-hop culture, the photographs have been shown in numerous cities, including Abu Dhabi in 2020.  

In late 2022, Tobak found herself again in the Middle East to attend the 10th edition of the Sole DXB festival in Dubai. “I first came to Dubai in 2018 with Contact High. I hadn’t been here before. I mean, I knew about the region, but I hadn’t really experienced it, lived it, and I came out here and fell in love with the way it’s such a global take on youth culture and hip-hop culture. It really speaks to the way that hip-hop went from a community thing to the world. It is now pop culture, and we see that in the way people look and dress and what they listen to. And I really just fell in love with that.”  

A few months before the festival, Tobak had published another book, Ice Cold: A Hip-Hop Jewelry History. “Ice Cold is really a celebration of hip-hop jewelry and its role in the history of hip-hop culture,” she says. “I thought it was important to tell that story in a deeper way into how the way we adorn ourselves, the way we show out hip-hop’s custom of customization and remixing and all of that, and how it applies to jewelry as a way to really show your identity as much as music does.” 

Like Contact High, Ice Cold has now been turned into an exhibit, which will be on display through January 2025 at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City.

Watch the full interview above or listen to the podcast on Spotify and Apple Podcasts.

Film Credits
Kennedy Ashinze
Producer & Director
Nanda Seth
Ronny Batara
Visual Director
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