The year was 1973 and it was summertime in the Bronx, August 11th, to be specific. Then 18-year-old Clive Campbell was getting ready for the back-to-school party he was hosting with his younger sister Cindy. Friends and neighbors flocked to the recreational room in a Bronx apartment building on Sedgwick avenue ready to party.
As the familiar sounds of The Meters, Aretha Franklin, & James Brown filled the speakers of the room, the partygoers swayed their hips and rhythmically moved their bodies to the beat not knowing the magic soon to ensue.
The Birth Of Hip Hop
Indeed, that August night in the Bronx was seemingly like any other party night except it wasn’t. Clive, better know as DJ Kool Herc, did something different. While behind the turntables he used a technique now known as the merry-g0-round. The technique includes making two copies of the same record, moving back and forth between each, from one record to the next, looping the percussion portions of each track to keep the beat alive.
And from this merry-go-round technique, Hip Hop was born.
From Underground To Mainstream
One of Hip Hop’s first records, Sugar Hill Gang’s Rapper’s Delight was released in 1979. To this day, the record remains a classic with lyrics that even a non hip hop fan would recognize: “I said-a hip, hop, the hippie, the hippie to the hip hip hop-a you don’t stop!”
The record instantly propelled hip-hop from an underground movement to a mainstream musical genre with full steam and no signs of slowing down in sight.
Philly’s Hip Hop History
Philly was put on the hip-hop map by the late 1970s. In 1979, one of the first female hip-hop artists, Lady B released To The Beat Y’all. A few years later, in 1985, Philly rapper Schoolly D released his single P.S.K. (What Does It Mean?), helping to define gansta rap.
With each passing decade, hip-hop grew globally and Philly continued to leave its mark. In 1989, The Fresh Prince (Will Smith) and Dj Jazzy Jeff won the first-ever Grammy for best rap performance for their song Parents Just Don’t Understand.
The Roots founders Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson and Tariq “Black Thought” Trotter first performed together during a talent show while they were students at Philadelphia High School for the Creative and Performing Arts in 1989.
The 1990s saw more Philly rappers taking over the mainstream including Eve, Beanie Sigel, Charlie Baltimore, Philly’s Most Wanted, & more!
Today, Philly is home to some of hip-hop’s most trailblazing acts. Anywhere you go in Philly, as soon as the lyrics “hold up, wait a minute, ya’ll thought I was finished” plays on the airways, the city is in unison. At least for while the track plays, people momentarily forget any gripes or hurdles. Meek Mill not only creates anthems for the city, he is an authentic storyteller, painting pictures of what it is like to grow up in the hood and defy the odds. He is also an activist, fighting for prison reform.
Tierra Whack, dubbed “the future of hip hop,” has pushed boundaries and gripped the world with her experimentation of time and genre.
Lil’ Uzi Vert has the whole world wanting to rock. Philly hip-hop continues to influence the genre.
Hip-hop as a whole remains a creative outlet for so many to tell their stories of pain, oppression, social justice, urban strife, dreams, and nightmares.
Celebrate Hip Hop
Throughout the summer, there are hip-hop concerts taking place in the city such as Gospel-rapper, Lecrae at TLA, or Drake & 21 Savage at Wells Fargo.
The culturally iconic Roots Picnic is taking place in May at The Mann Center in Fairmount Park. A Philly tradition, it is sure to be the ultimate celebration of the 50th anniversary of the birth of hip-hop.