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A shout-out to what should be Hip-Hop Appreciation Day on its 47th birthday

The musical innovation and the culture around it catalyzed at a block party on August 11, 1973, and people are ready to party.

A shout-out to what should be Hip-Hop Appreciation Day on its 47th birthday
Teenagers breakdancing next to a wall covered in graffiti, Brooklyn, New York, April 1984. [Photo: Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images]

It’s hip-hop’s 47th birthday!

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On August 11, 1973, DJ Kool Herc and his sister Cindy threw a party in the Bronx at their building—which is now a landmark—at 1520 Sedgwick Avenue. Herc tried out a new technique where he rotated two copies of the same record. It was a way to extend a short section of music so that people could dance longer. As one record ended, he cued the second record and repeated the process.

This technique and that party became the blueprint for what we call hip-hop today.

It wasn’t called hip-hop just yet, but the founding five elements—DJ-ing, breaking, MC-ing, graffiti, and beatboxing—were swiftly emerging as a unique culture. There are multiple stories about how the actual term hip-hop came to be, and they’re all interesting. However, Grandmaster Caz—another hip-hop pioneer—has the most interesting turn of events, which most hip-hop aficionados believe to be true.

In a 2015 interview with DJ Vlad, Caz explains that hip-hop was initially a derogatory term. According to Caz, people would see kids practicing various elements and say things like, “When are y’all going to stop that hippity hop stuff?” He goes on to say that the term was officially defined by Keith Cowboy, a flashy emcee who was at a club celebrating a friend who was getting ready to leave for the army. Cowboy got on the mic and started chanting, “hip, hop, hip, hop,” in an army marching cadence as a way to make fun of his friend. That evolved and became a chant that the popular MCs kept doing. Lovebug Starsky fine-tuned it, and “Hip hop to the hip hip the hop” emerged as a rhythmic chant he started to use in his rhymes.

In 1979, Sugar Hill Gang released “Rapper’s Delight,” which is credited as the first commercial rap song. Everyone knows the opening line of that song.

At that time, neighborhood rappers weren’t really interested in actually recording songs. They looked at rapping as a fun party thing, so Sugar Hill came along and gave the world a new perspective. It’s alleged that the members of Sugar Hill Gang stole a lot of their lyrics from the grandmasters, but that doesn’t negate Sugar Hill’s influence in helping hip-hop go global. This was also around the time that people began referring to MCs as rappers and also using rap as another word for the culture.

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Hip-hop is a genre that has seen many changes and spans multiple generations. It’s being taught in colleges around the world and continues to evolve.

Today, people have taken to Twitter to show love by posting interesting facts and cool throwback photos and sharing stories about when they got their first album. (Insert your favorite hip-hop birthday anthem here.)

Here’s a quick rundown of how people are celebrating hip-hop’s birthday with #HappyBirthdayHipHop and #DJKoolHerc.

The Historians

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Throwback Pics

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Pure Joy

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