LeRoy McCarthy and rap's battle to reclaim the streets

A New York activist is fighting to see signposts erected in honor of the Beastie Boys, Biggie and Wu-Tang

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LeRoy McCarthy

LeRoy McCarthy Photograph: Melissa Sinclair


One New Yorker wants to “Fight for Your Right” to look up at a Beastie Boys street sign on the Lower East Side. TV and film location manager LeRoy McCarthy began a petition in December to have the corner of Ludlow and Rivington Streets—which appears on the trio’s iconic Paul’s Boutique album cover—rechristened Beastie Boys Square. “The Beastie Boys always represented NYC with passion,” says the Brooklyn-based activist.

McCarthy is also behind the stalled push to co-name a Clinton Hill street Christopher Wallace Way, after the Notorious B.I.G., who grew up there. “I always thought there should be some sort of marker that he’s from here,” McCarthy says. “And that was how I got started.” The area’s community board members objected due to concerns about the misogynistic nature of Biggie’s lyrics, his drug-related arrests and his corpulent size (yes, really). As for the Beasties? Local residents voted against the initiative last week, citing the band’s lack of connection with the LES community. McCarthy isn’t to be disuaded, though, and continues to  reach out to the Manhattan Borough President’s office, despite the fact that he’s banned from reapplying for the name change for another five years.

His ultimate goal: for there to be a street sign for a rap act in each borough. “If you didn’t know that jazz is from New Orleans, you’d be reminded of that everywhere you looked when you got there,” he says. “Just like jazz in NOLA, hip-hop is indigenous to New York City.” So he hopes to someday see a Wu-Tang District in Staten Island and a Big Pun Street in the Bronx. “Hopefully this is the year that the city of New York will recognize the art and culture of hip-hop that grew from its streets,” he says.


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