Fifty years ago today in the Bronx, DJ Kool Herc set up two turntables at a neighborhood party hosted by his sister, an event dubbed the Back to School Jam. Herc, born Clive Campbell, had figured out how to isolate the instrumentals on a song and, using two copies of the same record, switch back and forth between them, chopping and elongating the part that was most fun for dancing. It wasn’t just the birth of a new technique, it would change music forever.
Or so the story goes. In conversation with Consequence, Cypress Hill’s Sen Dog expressed some ambivalence about pegging a whole genre to a single individual. “It’s been achieving more significance as the years have gone by,” he said. “I don’t remember, but at some point I started hearing about Kool Herc being the first guy to start this movement, and then it actually having a year that went along with it. So now we have a character and a year. You know what I mean?”
But even if the conventional narrative is too simple, it still provides an opportunity to celebrate the growth of this essential popular art form. Consequence is celebrating the 50th anniversary of hip-hop by centering artists and their local scenes. So far, Sen Dog broke down his 10 essential hip-hop albums, including some hidden West Coast gems, and Mick Jenkins dived into his 10 favorite albums from his hometown of Chicago. We’ll be rolling out more interviews with a regional focus all August along.
We’ve also rounded up our lists of the 50 best hip-hop albums and 50 best hip-hop songs, and if you’re already familiar with those records, you’ll probably do well at our hip-hop quiz. Also be sure to check out our essay on rap’s 25th anniversary, “DMX, Lauryn Hill, and the Year Hip-Hop Changed Forever.”
Find all our Hip-Hop 50 special features and our hip-hop songs quiz below, and check back for further lists, podcast, and more throughout this celebratory month. You can also grab some of our exclusive Hip-Hop 50 merch at the Consequence Shop, or using the buy-now buttons ahead.
Editorials and Interviews