When D.J. Kool Herc and his sister Cindy decided to throw a party for the young people from their neighborhood in the Community Room at 1520 Sedgewick Ave., little did they know that it would be the spark for a global movement in music. They only wanted a safe place where kids could go party and not have to worry about getting chased out of the parks by cops or random gunfire.
Last Fridays show at Yankee Stadium was a loud and resounding testament to the enduring legacy of Hip Hop. It was also a clear reminder to anyone who hasn’t already been listening that a few of the artists involved in the genre have done quite well for themselves. From trips on private jets around the globe to private school for their children, not to mention the always aforementioned cars, clothes and jewelry, Hip Hop has provided nicely for some. However, for every Lil Wayne, T.I., Lil Kim, Remy Ma, Ice Cube, Snoop Dog and Nas, there are those artists who’ve had to struggle to get by much the same as the Founders have. Any keen observer of the genre understands this and remains supportive and highly respectful of those who blazed the early trails of Hip Hop. For it is often those trailblazers who left the proverbial pot of gold in their wake for those who came behind them to scoop up in abundance.
Hip Hop 50 Live reminded them and us that the true value in their early efforts was being an inspiration and example of what could be accomplished if you put your heart and soul into something without concern for the economic outcome. You can create a legacy of excellence that will resonate in the lives of generations to come. Something money can’t easily buy.
Hip Hop 50 Live at Yankee Stadium was an evening filled with tributes to the genres Founders, Inspirers and ultimately the culture itself. Of all the tributes given, none were timelier and more well deserved than the one given to Kool Herc and Cindy by Video Music Box’s Uncle Ralph McDaniels. A man who by merging the creative art of rap to visual content further solidified rap history by giving it its own platform and showing the world Hip Hop was here to stay. With Herc seemingly in less than perfect health, he and Cindy were met by thundering applause as they received awards of recognition for their pioneering role in the founding of Hip Hop.
Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five and the Sugar Hill Gang took the stage early in the proceedings just as they had led the Hip Hop charge during the genre’s early days. They paid tributes to lost members Cowboy and Big Bank Hank.
The tributes continued throughout the day as artists lavished in the love and admiration shown them by the audience as they tore through their top hits with vigor and gusto. For many their proudest moments came when they brought out other acts who either inspired them or were examples of the possibilities of a life well lived through Hip Hop music. Snoop Dogs set featured a rendition of “La Di Da Di” with Dougie Fresh and Slick Rick that had the crowd in a frenzy, especially when Dougie went on a Beat Box rant that seemed to last for hours. Snoop, having also brought out EPMD and West Coast Legend Too Short, during his set was a continuance of the tone of camaraderie and tribute that permeated the evening. Fat Joe would not be outdone as he welcomed Remi Ma, Peter Gunz, Ashanti and KRS-1 to bless the stage. The ladies of Hip Hop reminded folks how they had to put the culture on their backs at times and carry it along their journey as Trina and Lil Kim commanded the stage like the Queens they are.
D.J. Clark Kent did a nimble set while paying tribute to Hip Hops loss soldiers including Big Pun, Heavy D, Mobb Deep’s Prodigy, Pop Smoke, J Dilla, Phife Dog, Tupac and Biggie. When Kid Capri brought the Yankee Great and former Captain Derek Jeter out to confirm their bond during both their early days and to send his regards to Hip Hop and the proceedings took on an official feeling of being approved to be held in the place where Captain Jeter once ruled.
Nas’s set was already shaping up to be one of the hi-lights of the night, having brought out Queens Gangster Rap Legend Cool G Rap, when he beckoned Lauryn Hill to join him onstage. At that point it felt as if the world was revolving around Yankee Stadium and Hip Hop.
A lot of young adults could be seen hanging with their parents as Hip Hop showed its profound impact and ability to span generations. This in and of itself was the real tribute to Hip Hop. With the genre being a true American art form originated by young Black people, this 50th year celebration could not have come at a more crucial time. Black family life in America is under strain by many forces. The ability of Hip Hop to bridge the gap via music provides a platform for communication and bonding. Therein lies the true value of a journey well worth documenting.
By Special Correspondents to the 50th Anniversary of Hip Hop, Brandi Ellis, Lisa Ray and Kamell Ellis