Arts, Culture & Entertainment

Hip-Hop’s 50th Anniversary: How DJ Kool Herc’s turntables never stopped turning

Why August 11, 2023 is a significant date for the musical genre of hip-hop.

A photo of Ice Spice pointing to the audience and singing into a microphone.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the birth of the musical genre of hip-hop. How do we know the birthday of a musical genre that took the world by storm?

Let’s take a trip down memory lane.

Hip-hop music first received recognition in the Bronx, New York, on the evening of August 11, 1973. At a back-to-school party in an apartment’s recreational center, DJ Kool Herc spun tracks for his sister who had been throwing the party.

With a quality sound system, the 18-year-old DJed the party. What party-goers couldn’t know was they were watching — and hearing — the foundations being laid for a musical genre that still continues to be revolutionary five decades later.

On that crucial night, Herc spun a series of genres, including jazz,, blues, rock’n’roll, R&B, funk and more. It was not these genres that was most important, however.

It was the way he organized the sound.

He looped the tracks on two turntables in such a way that the beats — and the dancing — never stopped.

Because of the contributions of Herc, the hip-hop space became dominated by DJs. Later, spurred by the release of “Rapper’s Delight” by Sugarhill Gang, hip-hop continued to develop and the spotlight gave way to MCs and musicians on the microphone.

How can you get involved with hip-hop music at USC?

Music 320: Hip-hop Music and Culture

As an undergraduate general education course, USC offers “Hip-hop Music and Culture” taught in the past by Professors Sean Nye and Jae Deal. This course satisfies a GE requirement and can be taken across any majors, minors and program.

Hip-hop dance organizations

USC is home to a variety of registered student organizations (RSOs). These include several hip-hop focused dance groups including Break Through Hip Hop.

USC Glorya Kaufman School of Dance

USC Kaufman offers a minor known as “The Hip-Hop, Street and Social Dance Forms Minor” and they also offer hip-hop dance classes each semester, ranging from beginner to advanced.

Hip-Hop Maymester in Paris

USC Glorya Kaufman School of Dance offers a hip-hop Maymester in Paris each year taught by instructor Edwin C. Hill. The class is formally known as “FREN 318: Global Ciphas: Hip Hop Circles around the World.”

USC Visions and Voices

USC Visions and Voices is “a university-wide arts and humanities initiative that was launched in 2006.” Historically, USC Visions and Voices hosted different arts-related performances and events, including a trip to the “Wake Me When I’m Free” Tupac Shakur pop-up museum experience at The Canvas in downtown Los Angeles.