At a party in the Bronx fifty years ago, DJ Kool Herc was in charge of the music. That night, he tried something new. Instead of playing songs straight through, he played the instrumental parts while his friend Coke La Rock freestyled into the mic. This party at 1520 Sedgwick Avenue is largely cited as the birth of Hip-Hop. This weekend, New York City will host a variety of events, concerts, art installations, and more to celebrate the milestone!
1. Play Music with an Interactive Boom Box Art Installation
The birthplace of hip-hop is celebrating 50 years of music with a new interactive art installation at Lou Gehrig Plaza. At the site, right next to a newly installed Big Apple bench, visitors will find a small ramp and platform that leads to a wall of boom boxes. When you turn the crank at the center, the piece lights up and music spills out of the many speakers. On the backside, graffiti writing against black background reads “Celebrate Hip-hop 50th Anniversary.” This piece of art is presented by the 161st Street Business Improvement District (BID) in partnership with LeMonde Studio. The boom box art will be on display through September.
The 161st Street BID will also host movie nights at Lou Gehrig Plaza to celebrate the hip-hop anniversary! Made possible by NYC’s Department of Transportation’s Open Streets initiative, the screenings will include Beat Street on Friday, August 25, and Black Panther: Wakanda Forever on Friday, September 15th. Seating will also be allowed on the steps to Joyce Kilmer Park.
2. Attend the Universal Hip-Hop Museum’s Block Party
The Universal Hip-Hop Museum in the Bronx will hold a block party on August 11th from noon until 6pm at Mill Pond Park. At the event, street artists Tats Cru, Lady Pink, Will Power, and Queen Andrea will create graffiti murals. There will also be a rap battle hosted by Rapmania creator Van Silk and performances by world-renowned breakers and local talent. This event is free and open to the public! For the month of August, you can also visit the Museum’s exhibit [R]Evolution of Hip Hop for free.
3. Visit the Book of Hov Exhibit at the BPL
The Brooklyn Public Library’s main branch has completely transformed for a large-scale exhibit on the music of Jay-Z. “The Book of Hov” exhibit honors the Brooklyn-born musical artist by displaying thousands of personal objects from Jay-Z’s career, never-before-seen photos, a life-sized replica of the recording studio where he recorded some of his first hits, and massive art installations on the facade and inside the building. Admission to the exhibit is free and it will be open throughout the summer. Visitors can also get one of 13 limited-edition library cards, each featuring art from one of Jay-Z’s albums.
4. Lincoln Center’s Hip-Hop Week
All weekend long Lincoln Center’s Summer for the City will be celebrating the 50th anniversary of hip-hop with a packed schedule of performances, dance classes, and more events. You can see the full lineup here. Highlights include the final dance routine of the winning Step It Up NYC competition teen dance group, a pop-up experience on bodega culture with food and drinks, and a finale concert headlined by Rakim.
5. Grab a Limited Edition Metro-Card
LL Cool J, Pop Smoke, Rakim, and Cam’ron are the four hip-hop artists featured on the MTA’s limited edition MetroCards made to celebrate the musical milestone. There are only 40,000 of the cards available and you can only get them at MetroCard vending machines. The LL Cool J cards will only be available at the Forest Hills E, F, M, R stations, while you can only get Pop Smoke at the Canarsie-Rockaway Pkwy L and New Lots Av 3 stations. Rakim and Cam’rom cards are available system-wide. These limited edition cards are made possible by a partnership with Universal Music Enterprises and Hip Hop At 50 – Honoring 50 Years of Hip Hop: A Legacy of Rhythm, Revolution, and Soul.
6. BRIC’s Hip-Hop Weekend
On August 11th and 12th, BRIC will host two days of exciting events from performances and games to film screenings and talks. Performers include Digable Planets, Kari Faux, Wiki, Donwill, and Quinnette and the film screened will be Brown Sugar. These events are free and open to the public, but if you RSVP in advance, you’ll have the chance to win win two VIP tent passes. RSVP and learn more here!
7. Attend a Hip-Hop Event at the NYPL
Throughout the summer, multiple branches of the New York Public Library will host different events to celebrate the hip-hop anniversary. Participants can watch a documentary, create a graffiti tag, take part in an open mic, join a dance class, and more. You can see a full calendar of events here! The New York Public Library (NYPL) and Queens Public Library (QPL) are also giving out limited-edition library cards emblazoned with a “Wild Style” mural from the original 1983 film by the same name and art by the legendary streetwear trailblazers, the Shirt Kings.
8. Attend a Concert
There is no shortage of concerts happening throughout the month of August to celebrate the hip-hop anniversary. The biggest concert, Hip Hop 50 Live, will take place on August 11th at Yankee Stadium. There are still some tickets left to see Run DMC, Snoop Dogg, Lil Kim, Ice Cube, and more. In September, Madison Square Garden will welcome Wu-Tang Clan, May J. Blige, Mariah Carey and more stars for Hot 97 and WBLS’ Hip Hop Forever Concert. Other concerts will take place at Summerstages and the 5×5 Block Party Series across the five boroughs.
9. Hip Hop til Infinity at the Hall Des Lumires
Immerse yourself in the sounds and visuals of hip-hop’s history at the Hall Des Lumires’ latest show, Hip Hop til Infinity. Inside the historic former landmarked Emigrant Industrial Savings Bank at 49 Chambers Street, this digital installation produced by Mass Appeal will take guests through the various stages of hip-hop’s evolution, traveling to different cities in the process. The show will also be accompanied by virtual concerts, live panels, listening parties, and more. You can purchase tickets and learn more here.
10. Hip-Hop Film Festival: 50 Years of Culture
The Hip-Hop Film Festival is a hybrid event that takes place both virtually and in person at satellite locations across the city, including the NYPL’s Schomburg Center. Running through August 20th, the festival is produced in collaboration with Harlem Film House. Movies screened at the Schomburg Center will include Maurice Hines: Bring Them Back and Althea: The Life of Tennis Champion Althea Gibson. Register for tickets here!
Next, check out 11 Must-See Art Installations in NYC