This year marks the 50th anniversary of hip-hop. There have been six decades featuring countless rappers and sounds that have contributed to the ever-evolving culture. So, when is hip-hop’s official 50th anniversary?
How Did Hip-Hop Begin?
Fundamentally, hip-hop started in a rec room at 1520 Sedgwick Ave. in the Bronx, N.Y. on Aug. 11, 1973. DJ Kool Herc, born Clive Campbell, and his sister, Cindy Campbell, were throwing a back-to-school party to make some money. There was a famous flyer created to get the word out for the historical event, which can be viewed below.
Herc was famous for playing long DJ sets in which he would isolate the percussive sections of popular funk and R&B records that are considered a “breakbeat” in the song. While people danced to rhythm breaks from James Brown, Herc would grab the microphone and chant words to get people to sing along.
“[The power of the DJ] is to motivate the crowd, man. It’s to have the insight to motivate the crowd,” Kool Herc told Red Bull Music Academy in 2018. “To have the crowd at your fingertips, to control the crowd, that’s the best f**kin’ power, man.”
When Did the Word “Hip-Hop” Start Being Used?
A year later, in 1974, the late rap legend Lovebug Starski, born Kevin Smith, who is considered the first MC and DJ from the Bronx, coined the phrase “hip-hop” while trading lines with Cowboy of the Furious Five.
“That was one of my rhymes when I would get stuck for words and I used to go ‘hip, hop, the hip, the hip, hip the hopping,” he said in 2017. “You know it was just a nursery rhyme that coincided with the music, and that’s the God’s honest truth.”
On Lovebug Starski’s song “Gangster Rock”—which he recorded under the rap alias Little Starkey—he raps the phrase “hip-hop, hippity, hop, hip-hop, she-bop, bang.” The “hip-hop” phrase would later be popularized by the first successful rap song in the genre: “Rapper’s Delight” by The Sugarhill Gang in 1979.
DJ Kool Herc‘s parties helped shape the foundation of hip-hop, including the DJ culture. Fellow hip-hop pioneers DJ Grand Wizard Theodore and DJ Grandmaster Flash would introduce scratching and the technique of looping two records together on two turntables. Essentially, making the turntables a musical instrument within itself.
In its 50 years of existence, hip-hop has been an inventive force in arts, music and culture.
Celebrating 50 Years of Hip-Hop
With 50 years of hip-hop to celebrate, now is the time to honor some hip-hop icons. XXL has shown love to several rap greats as part of the Legends cover series. Bronx legend Fat Joe received the Legends cover treatment in March. In an expansive interview, the 30-year rap veteran told a few iconic stories in hip-hop history and reflected on his late friend Big Pun.
Lil’ Kim was also honored as a cover girl for the Legend series in May. The Brooklyn rhymer discussed her classic album, Hard Core, the late Notorious B.I.G. and the new book she’s working on.
Women’s contributions to hip-hop date as far back as the late 1970s with MC Sha-Rock recognized as hip-hop’s first female MC. Take a look at 15 women rappers who made hip-hop history and listen to a playlist of 60 essential songs from women in the game.
Hip-hop wouldn’t have been able to get this far without the contributions from many pivotal producers. From RZA to Kanye West and more, check out 23 of the most impactful producers in hip-hop and take a look at the best beats created by many of them.
Check out some of the visual content in celebration of hip-hop’s 50th anniversary below.