If a picture is worth a thousand words, images dating back to hip-hop's inception must be worth millions. Throwback photos of Kool Herc, The Sugarhill Gang and Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five keep the spirit of hip-hop alive. They remind true fans of where hip-hop has been and set a precedent for where we're going. In its 47 years, the artists representing hip-hop have experienced highs and lows, but more wins than losses to create music and memories to last a lifetime.
On Aug. 11, 1973, hip-hop was born on a hot summer's evening thanks to Bronx native DJ Kool Herc, who turned his sister's back-to-school party in a rec room at 1520 Sedgwick Ave. into a jiggy jam as he spun records. Herc popularized “the break” within records, and had a major impact on the dance scene at the time—b-boys and b-girls would breakdance during this part of the music he was playing.
From there, hip-hop culture was created and history was made. Herc became a founding father of hip-hop. A godfather to a culture that gave impoverished Black and Brown youth a place to belong in music. As time shifted, hip-hop went from playful storytelling to gangsta rap and boom-bap that spoke to the struggle. While the sound of the culture evolved, the community was split into an East and West Coast battle that divided rap, which culminated in plenty of beefs and stellar music.
The different eras of hip-hop were all captured by photographers who immortalized rappers big and small, from awards show wins to fashion flexes. The Kodak moments were all caught on camera before "shake it like a Polaroid picture" was an identifiable OutKast reference. Black-and-white photos from the 1970s and 1980s eventually led to the vibrant photographs of the 1990s and 2000s. From Lil' Kim dressing up in a Victorian gown decorated with breasts to Jay-Z smiling with gold teeth beside his mentor Jaz-O and Queen Latifah to Nas posted up with the late Aaliyah and Missy Elliott, there are plenty of gems.
In honor of hip-hop's born day, take a look at some classic hip-hop throwback images from the genre's golden years.
Here Are Hip-Hop Throwback Photos You Need to See