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.”

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.”

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