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Raymond Boyd’s Unfiltered Images Of Hip-Hop In The ‘80s And ‘90s

“Raymond Boyd has touched your life and you don’t even know it.”

Posted on April 28, 2021, at 10:46 a.m. ET

Raymond Boyd / Getty Images

Run DMC live in concert

Photographer Raymond Boyd has taken some of the most significant images of the Chicago music scene over the last four decades. After his mother bought him a Kodak pocket camera when he was in high school, Boyd began photographing musicians and concerts. “I always had a day job to have steady money," he told BuzzFeed News. "I worked at FedEx for 10 years, but I worked part-time so I still had time to do photography.”

Boyd became friends with an editor at the local newspaper, who hired him to cover concerts and entertainment in the city. To date, he has photographed Whitney Houston, Prince, Michael Jackson, LL Cool J, Geto Boys, Biggie, Eazy-E, and more. He documented hip-hop and R&B between 1983 and 1997, and his images are an incredible part of the American pop culture canon.

His photos are unfiltered, raw, sometimes sweaty — and beautiful. They capture not only history but the sheer energy, talent, and power of these artists. The images serve as a look back at music in Chicago in the 1980s and ‘90s, both at venues and on the street, and in spots that no longer exist, such as George’s Music Room, an iconic record retailer on the city's West Side.

When Renata Cherlise, the founder of Black Archives, began working in partnership with Getty Images earlier this month, she wasn’t sure what she would find in the 11 million-image collection. “He has an incredible archive through Getty,” Cherlise said. “When I came across Boyd’s images, I don't think I had ever seen them before. I was immediately drawn to them, and it had me wanting to learn more about him.”

"Raymond Boyd has touched your life and you don’t even know it,” Cherlise wrote on the Black Archives.

At 62, Boyd is still living and photographing in Chicago, but he stopped working concerts about five years ago because of restrictions and changing access at venues. In the time that he had, he said, “I photographed these artists two or three times a year, so a friendship kind of grew. They could let their guard down and act naturally around me. It made for great shots when everyone was just being themselves.”

Raymond Boyd / Getty Images

Khiry, Tajh, and Bilal of the Boys pose for photos after arriving at Beasley Elementary School in Chicago in May 1989.

Raymond Boyd / Getty Images

Whitney Houston performs at the Assembly Hall at the University of Illinois in 1987.

Raymond Boyd / Getty Images

Michael Jackson performs during the Bad tour in Rosemont, Illinois, on April 19, 1988.

Raymond Boyd / Getty Images

Ice Cube, Eazy-E, and MC Ren (front row) and Laylaw, DJ Yella, Dr. Dre, and the D.O.C. (rear) pose for photos before their performances during N.W.A.'s Straight Outta Compton tour at Kemper Arena in Kansas City, Missouri, in June 1989.

Raymond Boyd / Getty Images

Rapper Too Short poses for photos at Hotel 21 in Chicago in February 1989.

Raymond Boyd / Getty Images

Prince performs at the Rosemont Horizon in Rosemont, Illinois, in September 1988.

Raymond Boyd / Getty Images

James Brown performs at the Bismarck Theatre in Chicago in January 1985.

Raymond Boyd / Getty Images

Salt, DJ Spinderella, and Pepa from Salt-N-Pepa pose for photos backstage at the Holiday Star Theatre in Merrillville, Indiana, in June 1987.

Raymond Boyd / Getty Images

Ice-T poses for a photo after his performance at the Regal Theater in Chicago in 1988.

Raymond Boyd / Getty Images

Rappers Queen Latifah and Monie Love pose backstage at the Genesis Convention Center in Gary, Indiana, in February 1990.

Raymond Boyd / Getty Images

CeeLo, Khujo, T-Mo, and Big Gipp (front) from Goodie Mob poses for photos at George's Music Room in Chicago in October 1995.

Raymond Boyd / Getty Images

Rapper and producer Marley Marl (Marlon Williams) poses for photos at George's Music Room in Chicago in October 1991.

Raymond Boyd / Getty Images

DJ Jazzy Jeff & the Fresh Prince pose for photos with dancer Ready Rock C backstage at the UIC Pavilion in Chicago in July 1988.

Raymond Boyd / Getty Images

Singer Janet Jackson performs during her Rhythm Nation tour at the Cincinnati Coliseum in 1990.



A BuzzFeed News investigation, in partnership with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, based on thousands of documents the government didn't want you to see.