When I think about my love for Hip Hop, it all goes back to a moment from my childhood. In 1989, my family had just moved to the United States, and my dad bought me a boombox from a man down the street whom we all called “Blue Eyes”. The boombox had one cassette tape inside: Run-D.M.C.’s “Raising Hell” album. After inspecting the cassette tape, I popped it back in, pressed play, and heard the most transformative lyrics of my youth.

My Adidas walk through concert doors

And roam all over coliseum floors

I stepped on stage, at Live Aid

All the people gave and the poor got paid

And out of speakers, I did speak

I wore my sneakers but I’m not a sneak

My Adidas touch the sand of a foreign land

With mic in hand, I coldly took command.

The hard-hitting beats and braggadocious lyrics literally rocked my world. Growing up on a small island in the Caribbean, Hip Hop was not part of my world. “Margarita, Ven Aca” by Freddy Beras Goico Ft Boruga was the closest thing we had to rap in the Dominican Republic. So, as you can imagine, this moment and song were responsible for my lifelong love affair with Hip Hop.

The way Run-DMC talked about the Adidas sneakers really moved me. Beyond simply rapping about sneakers, they were celebrating the rich culture and vibrant community that rap and Hip Hop had created. Their impact was undeniable, as in 1986, Run-DMC achieved a historic milestone by becoming the first rap group ever to receive a Grammy Award nomination for this very song. And later, Run-D.M.C. secured an endorsement deal with Adidas, marking the first time a major corporation collaborated with a rap group.

1986 was a big year for Hip Hop. Its impact transcended the boundaries of the music industry, reaching into mainstream culture and reshaping the way we view art, fashion, and social expression. Its influence is so transformative that it turned a young Dominican immigrant from Merenguero to a Hip Hop head.

Why am I telling you this? Because this year marks the 50th anniversary of Hip Hop – and that’s something to celebrate.

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Original flyer from DJ Kool Herc’s party in the Bronx in August 11, 1973

Hip Hop’s official birth is often credited to August 11, 1973, when DJ Kool Herc hosted a party in the Bronx, New York, where he used two turntables to extend the instrumental sections of songs, pioneering a new style of music and dance. If we fast forward from 1973 to 2023, we reach the 50th anniversary of Hip Hop this year.

Although the creation of Hip Hop is often credited to DJ Kool Herc, the debate has long raged on regarding who, if anybody, can be certified as the true founder of the culture. Crazy Legs, from the legendary Rock Steady Crew, had a lot to say about this in a recent interview. This is what he had to say about DJ Kool Herc being the Godfather of Hip Hop: “He plays a certain role, and that role is very, very important. I would never play his role down, but you have to look at everyone all around The Bronx and see what everyone was doing.” And I agree. I personally feel the founding fathers should include DJ Kool Herc, Afrika Bambaattaa, and Grandmaster Flash.

The truth is that it doesn’t matter when and who created Hip Hop. What matters is that Hip Hop has been part of our lives for 50 years, and it is stronger now than ever.

Here are 10 interesting facts about Hip Hop (published initially by toptenz.net):

  1. Hip Hop culture has roots in music but existed before rap music, with elements dating back to the late 1960s in New York City.
  2. Hip Hop’s official birthday is recognized as August 11, 1973, when DJ Kool Herc threw a party in the Bronx, marking the first time all elements of rap music came together.
  3. The formative recordings of Hip Hop were not rap songs but breaks from various genres, such as funk, rock, disco, and early electronica.
  4. The term “hip-hop” originated when an MC named Keith “Cowboy” Wiggins used it while mocking a friend who joined the Army.
  5. DJ Grandmaster Flash invented the DJ mixer’s crossfader and performed the first rap when MCs were not yet prominent.
  6. In the early days of Hip Hop, DJs were the stars, while MCs and dancers were secondary attractions.
  7. “Rapper’s Delight” by the Sugarhill Gang is not the first rap recording; “King Tim III” by The Fatback Band predates it.
  8. Before samplers, live bands played a significant role in early rap recordings.
  9. The first hit single to feature rap was Blondie’s “Rapture,” and later, Run-DMC’s collaboration with Aerosmith on “Walk This Way” made a significant impact.
  10. The New York City Blackout of 1977 catalyzed the Hip Hop scene’s growth by providing aspiring DJs with access to free, high-end stereo equipment.

Bonus: The Five Elements of Hip Hop include: emceeing, deejaying, breakin’, graff, and beatboxing.

Hip Hop has been an integral part of my life ever since that moment in 1989 when I first listened to Run-D.M.C.’s “Raising Hell” on my dad’s boombox. Its hard-hitting beats, powerful lyrics, and celebration of culture and community resonated with me, making me a devoted Hip Hop head.

As we celebrate Hip Hop’s 50th anniversary this year, it’s essential to recognize the impact it has had on music, art, and society as a whole. While the debate over the true founder of Hip Hop continues, what truly matters is that this cultural phenomenon has thrived and evolved over five decades.

The journey of Hip Hop, from its origins in the Bronx with DJ Kool Herc’s pioneering party to becoming a global cultural force, is awe-inspiring. From humble beginnings, it has grown to encompass various elements, from music and dance to fashion and visual arts. The best part – Hip Hop’s journey is far from over.

Happy Birthday, Hip Hop!

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