Here Are 15 of the Best Events Celebrating Hip-Hop’s 50th Anniversary

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Hip Hop Hooray
Words: Trent Fitzgerald
Editor’s Note: This story appears in the Winter 2023 issue of XXL Magazine, on stands now.

Hip-hop has been the cornerstone of New York City’s culture since its evolution in the Bronx in the 1970s. Since then, the world has been exposed to a cultural movement that has expanded beyond the initial four elements of hip-hop: MCing, DJing, breakdancing and graffiti. Before Aug. 11, 2023— the date marked the 50th anniversary of hip-hop and— celebrations were held throughout the year in the U.S. to honor the genre’s global impact. Museums, concerts, festivals and awards shows have paid homage to hip-hop’s half-century legacy in 2023.

The year started right with the Grammy Awards Hip-Hop 50 medley at their ceremony in February. The 15-minute-long segment featured both current and past rap stars like LL Cool J, Busta Rhymes, Lil Uzi Vert, GloRilla, Lil Baby, Public Enemy and more. The 2023 BET Awards also saluted hip-hop with all-star medley performance featuring veteran and new rhymers alike, including DaBaby, T.I., Doug E. Fresh, Trina, Soulja Boy, Sexyy Red and more.

Of all the exhibitions curated this year, the Book of Hov exhibit at the Brooklyn Library in Brooklyn, N.Y. was the most talked about. Fans were able to see an amazing collection of Jay-Z‘s legendary rap career. From his records to his clothes to a full-scale replica of Baseline Studios, where he recorded most of his classic albums, this exhibit was seriously impressive.

Through these events, hip-hop has been celebrated in grand style as it continues to be appreciated and experienced by everyone. Here are 15 of the best events that showcased the music genre’s rich history in 2023. Hip-hop, and you don’t stop.

See the Best Events Celebrating Hip-Hop’s 50th Anniversary

The exhibit also features dozens of rare and iconic black-and-white photographs of rappers such as Nas, Big Boi, Queen Latifah, Eazy-E, Tupac Shakur and more, which are a highlight for all viewers. For the true hip-hop fan, this is something to bookmark on a web browser and go back to look at again.

Hip-Hop: Conscious, Unconscious at Fotografiska New York

New York City’s Fotografiska Museum showcased some of the best hip-hop photography the culture has seen. Displayed from January to May, their Hip-Hop: Conscious, Unconscious exhibit chronicled hip-hop’s five-decade history. The images documented the genre’s early days as a local movement in the Bronx to its global phenomenon from 1973 to today. “The exhibition’s lifeblood is the period before hip-hop knew what it was,” said Chief Creative Officer of Mass Appeal Sacha Jenkins, the exhibition’s co-curator with Sally Berman, Visual Director at Hearst Magazines.

Street scenes of young B-boys and B-girls to glossy magazine images of rap heavyweights like DMX, Megan Thee Stallion, Future, Jay-Z, Lil’ Kim, Diddy, Snoop Dogg, Eminem, 21 Savage and more decorated the walls across two floors. A standout included Geoffroy De Boismenu’s floor-to-ceiling black-and-white photograph of The Notorious B.I.G. smoking a joint. This is hip-hop through the lens of photographers.

Mixtape Documentary Explores the Impact of Its Music-Sharing Contributions

It isn’t easy to imagine hip-hop without the advent of the mixtape. To celebrate the 50th anniversary of hip-hop, Paramount+ released on Aug. 1 a documentary titled Mixtape. The film, described as “the story of hip-hop refusing to take no for an answer,” recounts how a cassette tape symbolized youth culture, community and music sharing. “The mixtape DJ showed what hip-hop is supposed to sound like,” said KRS-One, who appears in the doc.

Mixtape giants like DJ Kid Capri, DJ Drama, DJ Clue, DJ Green Lantern, DJ Whoo Kid and others offered their insight on mixtapes’ global impact on popular culture. On the flip side, they also point out the legal risks of putting recorded music on tapes, which eventually upset the record labels. Mixtape, directed by Omar Acosta, is available to watch on Paramount+.

Rakim and Big Daddy Kane Perform a Live Mixtape at Lincoln Center

There were plenty of concerts honoring hip-hop’s 50-year legacy this year. Still, none was quite as interesting as J.Period’s Live Mixtape: Gods & Kings Edition on Aug. 9. The event, held at New York City’s prestigious Lincoln Center, wasn’t a typical rap show. The Brooklyn DJ and producer presented rap icons Big Daddy Kane and Rakim as if he were recording a 1990s-era mixtape with them.

The most memorable moment during Kane’s performance was the reunion of the Juice Crew, with Talib Kweli filling in for the absent Masta Ace as they performed their classic posse track “The Symphony.” Rakim also came through and performed his timeless hits, but J.Period flipped the script and had the rap god spit rhymes over instrumentals by the Wu-Tang Clan, James Brown and the classic breakbeat, Soho’s jazz mix of their 1989 tune “Hot Music.”

Amazon Music 50 & Forever Concerts

Amazon Music marked the golden anniversary of hip-hop with 50 & Forever, a series of curated experiences, playlists, livestreams and original content celebrating the genre’s legacy and influence. Rick Ross, Clipse, Curren$y, Joey Bada$$, Wale and The LOX were among the artists who participated in the concert livestreams this past summer.

The one must-see event was the Atlanta show on Aug. 3, which featured trap music kings T.I. and Jeezy. Fellow ATL rhymer Young Dro kicked off the event and hyped the crowd with “FDB” and his dance anthem “Shoulder Lean.” Tip followed with a performance encompassing his string of hits during his venerable rap career. Afterward, the Snowman delivered his “Thug Motivation 101” to the audience. The show concluded with T.I., Jeezy and Dro performing together, leaving fans with the message that hip-hop is about peace, unity and having fun.

Grammy Museum Hip-Hop Dedication 

In October, the Recording Academy opened a phenomenal retrospective on hip-hop at the Grammy Museum in Los Angeles. Their expansive installation, Hip-Hop America: The Mixtape Exhibit, features a wide array of memorabilia explicitly col- lected for the museum. There are various items, including a junior high essay by Tupac Shakur, handwritten lyrics for Public Enemy’s “Fight the Power” and Wyclef Jean‘s lyrics for the Fugees“Ready or Not.”

There’s also a special section in the exhibit dedicated to the business of the genre. Rap acts like Wu-Tang Clan are featured for the members refusing to be signed to one record label. Instead, they grabbed individual deals. Artists-turned-entrepreneurs like Jay-Z, Diddy, Master P and the late Sylvia Robinson, the founder of Sugar Hill Records and producer of “Rappers Delight,” are also honored. The 5,000-square-foot exhibition will run at the Grammy Museum through Sept. 4, 2024.

50 Years of Hip-Hop at National Hip-Hop Museum

The National Hip-Hop Museum, the world’s first hip-hop museum in Washington, D.C., opened its 50 Years of Hip-Hop exhibit on Aug. 14. The collection displays artifacts from 1979 to 2000. Among the items featured in the retrospective include rare hip-hop fliers designed by the late Buddy Esquire, Rakim’s Gucci jacket designed by Dapper Dan, a fabricated Death Row Records chair with restraints, DJ Jazzy Jeff & Fresh Prince’s boombox and a replica of The Notorious B.I.G.’s famous chair and crown.

There are collectible toys, sneakers, and gold and platinum plaques from many rappers in the game. The exhibit aims to take visitors through a time capsule of the genre’s storied history. As a museum touting itself as a leading organization in hip-hop preservation, history and education, its tribute to the last 50 years is remarkable

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