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50 years of Hip-Hop: 6 moments that have made its history

50 years of hip hop evolution, from parties in the Bronx to conquering mass culture, we review 6 key moments in its history.

Hip-hop, which has become a billion-dollar industry, is celebrating its 50th anniversary. From a fringe genre to a cultural mainstream, hip-hop is one of the most prolific artistic movements of our time. Today, we look back at 6 moments that have marked its history.

1. DJ Kool Herc & the blockparty where hip hop was born

On August 11, 1973, DJ Kool Herc and his sister hosted a blockparty at the 1520 Sedgwick Avenue building in the Bronx. Kool Herc, who presided over the party, did something that would change music history forever. The DJ used two turntables to separate the breakbeats from the songs, which were the parts the crowd enjoyed the most. By moving the needle, he managed to extend the “break”, which led to breakdancing, a cultural alternative that would begin to unite the communities of the Bronx and mitigate the violence in the streets.

2. Run-D.M.C., game changer in the industry

Run-D.M.C.‘s eponymous debut album marked a before and after in music history. The group’s work became the first rap album to go gold, and this would only be the first of a few milestones the group marked in their career. The trio of Joseph “DJ Run” Simmons, Darryl “D.M.C.” McDaniels, and Jason “Jam-Master Jay” Mizell forever changed the look of the rappers, who were coming from a more disco register. Their hard-edged, b-boy style led them to be forerunners of an aesthetic that today defines hip-hop.

His third studio album, “Raising Hell” became the first hip hop album to go platinum in less than two months. It was also the first Rap album to be recognized by the Grammy Academy. In 1987, although in the R&B category (because rap did not yet exist), Run-D.M.C. was recognized for breaking the mold. Precisely one of the songs on the album, ‘Walk This Way’ with Aerosmith climbed the general sales charts, as well as the rock and rap charts. The crossover managed to unite two completely different and until then separate musical genres.

The first single from this work, “My Adidas”, became a mass anthem, which led them to partner with the brand in an unprecedented union in the paradigm of both music and fashion.

3. Tupac vs Notorious B.I.G conflict

Tupac Shakur& Notorious B.I.G. began their history as friends, but soon that friendship would lead to the most significant conflict in the history of Hip-Hop. After 2pac accused B.I.G. and Diddy (Bad Boy Records) of being part of the attempt on his life in 1994, the war between the two sides began. Following Shakur’s accusation, Biggie wrote ‘Who Shot Ya’ to declare his innocence. Far from calming the waters, this further provoked Tupac, who responded with ‘Hit’ Em Up’.

From this moment on, the two rappers would become the image of a fervent fight between the East and West Coasts of the United States. The media would take advantage of this rivalry to increase their visibility and it also served the record labels Death Row and Bad Boys to capitalize on a conflict that transcended the commercial and became very personal.

Among conspiracy theories, myths and opinions, many believe that this whole conflict was really created and orchestrated by Suge Knight, creator of Death Row as a marketing strategy. Undoubtedly, this turf war increased the fame and visibility of both rappers, but it also claimed their lives with a long career ahead of them.

4. The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air comes to TV

In September 1990, NBC premiered “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air,” starring Will Smith. The series was an instant hit that not only boosted the young man’s career as an actor and singer, but also opened doors for future rappers-turned-actors.

The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” allowed the general audience to see Hip Hop culture in a different way. With the program, it was possible to highlight the rich culture of the phenomenon beyond the violence and crime in the streets.

5. Slim Shady is born

Until Eminem came on the scene, white rappers were not taken seriously in a predominantly black industry. Marshall Mathers III, aka Eminem, was able to make a name for himself with his fast rap and hard rhymes, bringing a fresh air to the Hip Hop scene of the time.

His single ‘My name is’, and debut album ‘The Real Slim Shady’ broke the charts and earned Eminem Grammy Awards for Best Rap Album and Best Solo Performance in 2000.

Eminem also took his life story and the Hip Hop scene to the big screen. The movie “8 Miles” awarded Eminem the Oscar for Best Original Song for ‘Lose Yourself’.

6. Kendrick Lamar becomes first rapper to win Pulitzer Prize

In 2018, Kendrick Lamarbecomes the first rapper to win a Pulitzer Prize for music. The album that made Lamar won the Pulitzer was DAMN.

The valuable award, usually given to musicians considered “cultured,” i.e., contemporary classical music, opera or, at most, jazz, went to a rap work for the first time. Considered one of the highest honors for accomplishment in journalism, music, literature and theater, Lamar’s award marks yet another achievement in hip-hop’s history.

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