Bronx Born Hip-Hop Turns 50 Years Old Today

Teenagers breakdancing next to a wall covered in grafitti, Brooklyn, New York, April 1984.
Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

If you’re a music fan, you’ve probably jammed to a hip-hop song a time or two. Did you know that hip-hop music celebrates its birthday each year on August 11? This year is a big one as the genre so important to so many people turns 50! On this day in 1973, a woman named Cindy Campbell asked her younger brother Clive to be the DJ for a back-to-school party she was throwing in the Bronx. You might not recognize those names, but you may know Clive’s DJ name DJ Kool Herc.

Of course, similar music had been around for decades but it was Kool Herc that began playing beats from different songs in a continuous loop so that the dancing would never end. Historians consider what he did at that party the invention of hip-hop and it only grew from there. One of the first hip-hop songs to gain popularity around the country was Sugarhill Gang’s “Rapper’s Delight” in 1980.

As hip-hop started to evolve into rap, MTV even joined in on the fad with a show strictly related to the genre, Yo! MTV Raps in 1988. Initially hosted by Fab 5 Freddy, later Dr. Dre and his pal Ed Lover joined the crew and it ran all the way until 1995. It featured in-studio performances and interviews as well as videos from the freshest faces in the scene with the likes of Run-DMC, The Beastie Boys, Eric B. & Rakim, Public Enemy, LL Cool J, and N.W.A. (Eazy-E, Ice Cube, Dr. Dre, and Arabian Prince) just to name a few. Ed Lover even created his own dance that became a regular dance move in the clubs.

It wasn’t just a boys club either, there were many ladies who held their own with the likes of MC Lyte, Roxanne Shante (who was only 14 when she burst out in 1884), Salt-n-Pepa, Queen Latifah and JJ Fad paved the way for the ladies like Missy Elliott and Lauren Hill that followed.

Of course, then came the East Coast vs. West Coast rivalry that stemmed from each respective coast believing they were superior. Whether it was just a promotional/media ploy to sell records it ended up becoming very real after the deaths of 2-Pac and The Notorious B.I.G., both sides had since supposedly made a truce in the late ’90s.

Back to the roots of it, Detroit producer Apollo Brown said about the early days of hip-hop, “I remember back in the ’80s when everybody thought that hip-hop was a fad and they thought it was going to die out. It was like, ‘Oh, let our kids just have their fun for a little bit and then it will be all over with.’ Like, no. Hip-hop rules the world. Hip-hop is in every commercial you see. It’s in every movie … it’s on every billboard. It’s obviously not a fad anymore.” Hip-hop is not just about music but lifestyle, fashion, and art.

Fans are celebrating the anniversary and looking back on hip-hop’s rich history. Many consider four different elements to be crucial to be labeled hip-hop which includes emceeing (rapping or talking over a beat, much like a poetry jam), Deejaying, B-boying or break dancing, and graffiti. It truly is a culture, ultimately all about self-expression.

Here’s a nod to some of our favs, who is your favorite artist?

 Oh What A Year: 1980
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Oh What A Year: 1980

January 2020

Take a look back at our retrospect of the year 1980 where we celebrate the hottest in movies, music and TV.

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