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Celebrating 50 years of hip-hop

image of DJ Kool Herc's turntable

Hip-hop has defined American culture for the last 50 years, ever since DJ Kool Herc threw a back-to-school bash with his sister in the rec room of a Bronx apartment building on August 11, 1973. From 1520 Sedgwick Avenue to the world, hip-hop’s brilliance and ingenuity has transformed our society. It has provided voice and visibility for Black and Latino communities, served as a vital conduit and catalyst for our youth, evolved with us over the course of generations, opened up countless pathways and opportunities, and sparked inspiration and innovation across industries including business, entertainment, education, fashion, tech, politics, sports and more. Hip-hop has not only provided the soundtrack for our lives, it has also transfigured the way in which we move through the world and the way that the world moves through us. As the nation’s Cultural Center, The Kennedy Center has the honor of serving as a home for this uniquely American art form; celebrating the genius of the culture, artists and communities that created it.

For hip-hop’s golden milestone, we worked with Google Arts & Culture who partnered with hip-hop experts and institutions across the board to create a “cultural sampler” honoring the impact the genre has on American culture, from social equity to fashion, music videos to local city pride, old school to trap.

With 30+ curated stories and 960+ high resolution photographs and videos from 9 cultural organizations, you can get a taste of the key elements of hip-hop. Read on for 7 must-see stories.

  • A color photograph of performers from the I Am Woman hip hop celebration. In the photograph, five women stand together, each holding a bouquet of flowers, facing a crowd of people you can slightly see at the bottom. The women stand on a stage, with musical equipment, such as a piano and drums, behind them.

    "I Am Woman: A Celebration of Women in Hip Hop" by The Kennedy Center | The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts on Google Arts & Culture

  • A color photograph of DJ Kool Herc in a white frame. In the photograph, which is slightly yellowed at the top right corner, DJ Kool Herc is standing in the middle of the frame with his arms crossed, wearing sunglasses with jeans and a t-shirt, looking directly at the viewer.

    Photograph of DJ Kool Herc with sound system at T-Connection by Unknown | The Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture on Google Arts & Culture

  • A color photograph of a turquoise Adidas wedge sneaker. The upper is constructed with a combination of suede and synthetic materials in turquoise, featuring the iconic Adidas three stripes on the sides in a contrasting white color. The sneaker sports a wedge and the Adidas logo on the side in gold.

    Adidas Basket Profi wedge sneakers by The Museum at FIT | The Museum at FIT on Google Arts & Culture

  • The yearbook of Dana Elaine Owens, better known as Queen Latifah, features her on the bottom row of a page of yearbook photos. Her yearbook photo shows her from the shoulders up, smiling against a gray background with short hair.

    Dana Owens (Queen Latifah) Yearbook by Rock & Roll Hall of Fame | Rock & Roll Hall of Fame on Google Arts & Culture

  • A painting with a pink background serving as a wall. On this pink wall, there is a white poster of Lil Kim, squatting, wearing a fur coat and a short black bob. Her name appears over her in cursive red letters. Sitting by the wall, on the floor, is a woman with a short, black bob, wearing a pink two-piece shorts and cropped cami set with black polka dots. She has long, yellow nails and a smile on her face as she holds an off-white landline phone that sits on a stool next to her.

    Setta's Room 1996 by Tschabalala Self | Baltimore Museum of Art on Google Arts & Culture

  • A colorful blue, red, and white sticker of a stylized woman riding a motorcycle with a long braid. The motorcycle and woman are stylized to look like graffiti writing.

    OLGA Sticker by OLGA | The Bronx County Historical Society on Google Arts & Culture

  • The logo for YouTube’s “50 Deep” project is gold against a black background. The words “Fifty Deep” are supporting a series of blocks or records stacked on top. The whole logo is a deep gold designed to look like an older artifact.

    50 Deep | YouTube

  1. Celebrate women in hip-hop and the multihyphenate with The Kennedy Center. Watch performances from pioneers like MC Lyte, Maimouna Youssef, and Queen Latifah, and learn about their hard-won achievements on the nation’s stage.
  2. The hip-hop collection from the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture takes us on a journey across the US, spotlighting key objects across hip-hop’s geography, from original concert posters of Atlanta’s Goodie Mob to the Minimoog synthesizer from Detroit’s J Dilla.
  3. Go back in time to hip-hop’s early style and how it fused practicality with aspiration, or learn about the genre’s female fashion icons and how they pushed hip-hop style forward with the Museum at FIT.
  4. Start at the beginning with the vanguards who created hip-hop, and the moguls who pushed it to new heights. The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame’s Hip-hop at 50 project is a treasure trove of videos, interviews, and insights — if you want to dive deeper, learn about the complicated nature of rap lyrics and the way women in the industry pushed back on misogyny.
  5. Visit the Baltimore Museum of Art to learn more about hip-hop's resounding influence on art and fashion.
  6. Meet leading graffiti artists from the Bronx and learn about the intimate connection between hip-hop and graffiti, thanks to the Bronx County Historical Society’s oral history project to document their borough’s art form.
  7. (Re)watch iconic music videos with YouTube’s “50 Deep” playlists, and learn about their impact

Shaheem Reid is one of hip-hop’s most respected voices, with a multi-decade career in hip-hop journalism and an industry mover and shaker. Shaheem has contextualized a series of YouTube music video playlists from the Fifty Deep Library writing explainer pieces that dive into themes like Lyrical Anthems and Queens of Rap.

Hip-hop has profoundly changed music, art, fashion, and society as a whole. From the South Bronx to every corner of the world, hip-hop's enduring spirit continues to inspire, unite, and celebrate the human experience. Celebrate hip-hop’s 50th birthday with Google Arts & Culture at

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