While I was photographing what is quite possibly the most unusual building in Detroit, I spoke with two folks from the neighborhood about it. One man, who was scraping ice off his car in the driveway across the street said his family has been here long before that building. “It was built in the ’70’s”, he said. “Used to be a Chinese Restaurant then a Church”. Another man, walking down the street, saw me photographing the structure and yelled out “RHYTHM KITCHEN!”
“Rhythm Kitchen, man! Used to be an old Chinese Restaurant. I’d sneak in and watch the Temptations practice back in the day.”
Once I got home and started working through my photos, I began to research the building online. At first, I found NOTHING. Then I came across this:
This probably won’t be very interesting unless your are familiar with or fascinated with the ’90s Detroit hip-hop scene (isn’t everyone?). The Rhythm Kitchen was the original epicenter of the rap music club scene in the early ’90s in Detroit. Founded by clothing designer, clothing company owner, The original Hip-Hop Shop creator and Detroit music scene impresario Maurice Malone in (I’m guessing) 1991, The Rhythm Kitchen was Malone’s Detroit version of New York’s legendary Soul Kitchen. This weekly function was held at a Chinese restaurant called Stanley’s Mania Cafe in the New Center Area. They cleared out all of the tables, brought in a heavy sound system and continued selling take-out Chinese food along with 40’s of Colt45. The Rhythm Kitchen was the real inspiration for using The Chin Tiki as a hip-hop club in 8 Mile.
This Rhythm Kitchen scene (which came before The Hip-Hop Shop, but was open concurrently with St. Andrew’s Hall “3 Floors of Fun”/The Shelter) spawned the modern Detroit rap movement (Phat Kat, Black Milk, Guilty Simpson, etc.) as well as Eminem, Proof, D-12, Slum Village, etc. and earlier legends like Dope-A-Delic, 5th Chapter and my own Rhythm Cartel, of course (sorry to anyone I left out but this isn’t meant to be exhaustive). More on the Detroit Hip-Hop scene to come here on Rosenblog… http://bunyanchopshop.blogspot.com/2008/01/rhythm-kitchen-flyer.html
Then I found a photo of a flyer on a web forum. The poster says this is from the 1967 Yellow Pages confirming that the structure was built sometime in 1968:
Here’s a postcard featuring the restaurant:
And, finally, I found proof that it did, indeed, serve as a Church for some time:
This city is a most fascinating place to photograph. It’s even more fascinating when you know what you’re shooting.
To see more, visit: John Natiw Photography