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50 Years of Hip-Hop

A history of hip-hop. Includes interactive links.

The Birth of Hip-Hop

Hip-Hop started as a cultural movement around the year 1970. It is an art, dance, style, and philosophy. The black collective The Last Poets released a self-titled spoken word album. Future artists would go on to use parts of this album in their own songs.

The official start of hip-hop is considered to be the party deejayed by DJ Kool Herc, for his sister's birthday. He kept records playing during the party, and mastered the technique of playing drum solos of multiple songs at the same time, otherwise known as a 'break-beat'.

A Rapper's Delight: Hip-Hop Memorabilia Goes Up for Auction - The New York  TimesIn the 1970s, D.J. Kool Herc and his sister Cindy Campbell were famous for throwing parties in the rec room of their Bronx high-rise at 1520 Sedgwick Avenue, which became known as the “birthplace of hip-hop.” - The New York Times

               Pogrebin, Robin. “A Rapper's Delight: Hip-Hop Memorabilia Goes up for Auction.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 15 June 2022,


Old School Hip-Hop

Old school refers to Hip-Hop from its start in 1970 to the mid 1980s. Artists from this time period include DJ Kool Herc, Funky 4+1, Afrika Bambaataa, and Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five.

Many of the earliest DJs and Rappers did not record in the studio, preferring to perform in front of live audiences. Some hip-hop artists did record their music, but it remained relatively underground until 1979. This is when 'Rapper's Delight' by The Sugarhill Gang was released, and even placed on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.

From there rap and hip-hop started to become recognizable to mainstream audiences. IN 1980, Kurtis Blow was the first rapper to appear on natonal television. In 1982, Afrika Bambaataa, Fab 5 Freddy, and others went on an international tour.

New School Hip Hop

New School hip-hop started around 1984, with the emergence of artists such as mid1980s, Run-DMC, LL Cool J, and the Beastie Boys.

The group Salt-N-Pepa made waves as one of the first major female hip-artists with their song 'Push It' in 1986. That same year, the Beastie Boys released their debut album, 'Licensed to III'.

In 1988, the group N.W.A. released 'Straight Outta Compton', one of the first hits from the west coast. N.W.A. are considered to be pioneers of the subgenre 'gangsta rap'.

21st Century Hip-Hop

As the world moved into the 21st century, hip-hop continued to grow and evolve. Eminem, who had made his major label debut in 1999, continued to gain popularity for his music. Other artists in this on-going era include Nas, Jay-Z, Drake, Kanye West, and Kendrick Lamar.

Hip-hop artists have also continued to experiment and incorporate other genres, with 'Old Town Road' by Lil Nas X being a notable example.


Lusted, Marcia Amidon. Hip-Hop Music. Essential Library, an Imprint of Abdo Publishing, 2018.

Baker, Soren. The History of Rap and Hip-Hop. Lucent Books, 2012.