Celebrating 50 Years of Hip Hop: The Formative Albums and Songs of the 1970s

Kool Herc forever transformed the ideology of music on August 11, 1973.

The day that changed music and culture forever was August 11, 1973. A young Clive Campbell, later known as DJ Kool Herc, threw his sister, Cindy, a back-to-school party at 1520 Sedgwick Avenue. On this day, Kool Herc also created the break-beat by simultaneously playing a record on two turntables. This ground-breaking method formed the basis for what is known today as hip hop. The roots of hip hop began to firmly embed themselves into the cultural fabric of New York City, with speakers repeating the beats and the crowd immersed in the rhythm.

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The 1970s, bolstered by Kool Herc's innovative approach, saw the genesis of hip hop. From block parties in the Boogie Down Bronx to the birth of breakdancing, the decade was alive with creativity, resistance, and community. 

As we mark the 50th anniversary of hip hop and celebrate the day hip hop was born, invites you to journey back to this foundational decade and remember the albums and songs that became the pillars of a cultural revolution.

  • "Rapper's Delight" - Sugarhill Gang (1979)

    • Pivotal Facts: This track, often regarded as the first commercial hip hop record, introduced rap to a global audience.
    • Artist Milestone: The Sugarhill Gang's breakout success made them the face of early commercial hip hop.

  • "The Breaks" - Kurtis Blow (1979)

    • Pivotal Facts: As one of the first significant hip hop singles to drop, "The Breaks" became the first certified gold rap song.
    • Artist Milestone: Kurtis Blow's status as the first rapper to sign a major record deal showcased hip hop's budding commercial viability.

  • "King Tim III (Personality Jock)" - Fatback Band (1979)

    • Pivotal Facts: Released shortly before "Rapper's Delight," this song is often debated as the first commercial hip hop recording.
    • Artist Milestone: Fatback Band's transition from funk to rap emphasized hip hop's fluidity and genre-blending potential.

  • "Superrappin'" - Grandmaster Flash and The Furious Five (1979)

    • Pivotal Facts: This early classic underlined the group's electric energy and lyrical mastery.
    • Artist Milestone: Grandmaster Flash's innovations in DJing, coupled with The Furious Five's group dynamic, were instrumental in shaping hip hop's live performance culture.

  • "Christmas Rappin'" - Kurtis Blow (1979)

    • Pivotal Facts: A festive merge of the holiday spirit with emergent rap rhythms.
    • Artist Milestone: This track proved hip hop's capability to embrace mainstream themes and attain mainstream success.

  • "Jazzy Sensation" - Afrika Bambaataa & The Jazzy 5 (1981)

    • Pivotal Facts: Though technically from the '80s, the essence of this album is firmly rooted in the '70s Bronx hip hop scene.
    • Artist Milestone: As the "Godfather of Hip Hop," Afrika Bambaataa's influence in organizing early hip hop events was unparalleled.

  • Early Battles and Cyphers

    • Pivotal Moments: The decade witnessed the emergence of DJ battles and a rise in MC cyphers, where artists flaunted their skills in impromptu settings.
    • Significance: These foundational events emphasized hip hop as a community-driven art form, spurring innovation and rivalry.

  • DJ Innovations

    • Pivotal Moments: Pioneers like Kool Herc introduced groundbreaking techniques, including the "breakbeat."
    • Significance: These DJ'ing techniques were crucial in evolving hip hop's musical landscape.

  • The Birth of Breakdancing

    • Pivotal Moments: The emergence of B-boys and B-girls, showcased new dance styles that were visually stunning as they embodied the true essence of hip hop.
    • Significance: Breakdancing became a key component of hip hop culture, symbolizing its vibrancy and communal energy.

  • The Advent of Graffiti Art

    The 1970s might not have had the exhaustive discography of later decades, but this era's significance in the annals of hip hop is undebatable. It was the period when hip hop formed its voice, rhythm, and soul.

    Celebrating 50 years of this powerful genre, we recognize the 1970s as the era that lit the spark–a time of invention, defiance, and cultural metamorphosis.

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