What To Visit, Listen To And Watch To Celebrate 50 Years Of Hip-Hop
Mr Wyclef Jean and Ms Lauryn Hill shooting their “Vocab” video in East Harlem, New York City, 1993. Featured in the “Hip-Hop: Conscious, Unconscious” exhibition at Fotografiska, New York. Photograph © Lisa Leone, courtesy of Fotografiska New York
West Bronx, 1973. Mr Clive Campbell, also known as DJ Kool Herc, and his sister, Cindy, throw a legendary back-to-school bash in the recreation room of their apartment block. Campbell plays a set that will go down in history. Using a groundbreaking technique inspired by Jamaican selectas, he plays the same record on two turntables, switching between them to play the break repeatedly. The party would go on to be remembered as the birthplace of hip-hop. And his turntables trick, which he dubbed “Merry Go-Round” – now widely known as break beat – would serve as the foundation for hip-hop production and as inspiration for many artists.
Half a century on, hip-hop culture is flourishing like never before. “Fifty years ago, a street princess was born to be an icon,” said The Roots MC Black Thought during this year’s Grammys performance. “The art form took the entire world by storm; how she’d do it? Her influence, constantly raising the stakes, each generation.”
From podcasts and spoken word to documentaries and exhibitions, hip-hop tributes have flooded in from newcomers and seasoned artists. Here’s a roundup of things to visit, listen to and watch to celebrate the iconic genre’s 50th anniversary and honour its history and influence on contemporary culture, now and in the coming months.
Where to go
Installation view of “Fresh, Fly and Fabulous: Fifty Years of Hip-Hop Style” at The Museum of FIT, New York. Photograph courtesy of The Museum at FIT, New York
New York’s Fashion Institute of Technology Museum is leading the celebrations with Fresh, Fly And Fabulous: Fifty Years Of Hip Hop Style (until 23 April) – an exhibition dedicated to showcasing the genre’s influence on fashion and dressing. Featuring everything from Dapper Dan’s iconic designer knock-off creations to Mr Karl Kani and classic Air Jordans, it explores themes that have been central to hip-hop culture over the decades, such as Black Pride, sportswear and celebrity style, and how the genre has impacted the wider fashion industry, too.
Elsewhere, Hip-Hop: Conscious, Unconscious (until 20 May) at Fotografiska New York delves into hip-hop’s global impact on visual expression, bringing together the artists that have documented the cultural phenomenon over the years. Similarly, The Culture: Hip Hop And Contemporary Art In The 21st Century at Baltimore Museum of Art (until 16 July) brings together more than 90 works of art attesting the genre’s pioneering innovations in the fields of music, technology, fashion, visual and performing arts.
What to listen to
Left: Image courtesy of Spotify. Right: Image courtesy of Tidal
On Spotify, join Nas and Minya “Miss Info” Oh on The Bridge, a podcast featuring candid interviews and conversations with the legendary personalities that have shaped hip-hop over the years and the new voices who are carrying it into the future. Listen to presenter Ms Julie Adenuga’s Love Letter To Hip-Hop playlist on Tidal – featuring everything from Lil’ Kim to LL Cool J. And keep your eyes peeled for a series of EPs from Nas’ Mass Appeal label, due to be released throughout the year. Billed as the soundtrack to the Hip Hop 50 project (see below), producers include Swizz Beatz, The-Dream and Hit-Boy.
What to watch
The Cold Crush Brothers at the Zulu Nation Anniversary, Bronx River Projects, New York, 1981. Featured in BBC’s “Fight the Power: How Hip Hop Changed the World” documentary production, 2023. Photograph © Joe Conzo, courtesy of BBC Studios
Docu-series Fight The Power: How Hip Hop Changed The World, which premiered on BBC earlier this year, follows the history of the genre from its inception in New York through to the cultural movement that has become a “global force of change and empowerment”. Featuring icons such as Chuck D, Ice-T, and Run DMC, it’s not to be missed.
Rapper Nas and Mass Appeal’s CEO Sacha Jenkins are also kicking off the 50th anniversary with Hip Hop 50, a multi-tier franchise set to run on Showtime for three years. The original programming aims to shed a light on various subcultures that emerged from the rise of hip-hop – documentaries include “Untitled Ralph McDaniels Documentary” (a story about the longest running New York City-based TV show, Video Music Box), “Push It”, which will focus on the journey of hip-hop’s top female artists, and “Rolling Like Thunder”, a showcase of New York’s graffiti culture.