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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Visit the Baltimore Museum of Art to learn more about hip-hop's resounding influence on art and fashion.
- 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.
- (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 goo.gle/hiphop50.