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Hip-hop at 50: A history of explosive musical and cultural innovation

Illustration by Jackie Lay

On August 11, 1973, a young innovative DJ rocked a modest party for fellow teenagers in a small community room in a Bronx apartment building. What Kool Herc did behind the turntables at that back-to-school party helped ignite a music we now know as hip-hop. That spark — and the cultural explosion that followed — is what we're celebrating today, 50 years later.

There are so many ways of looking at this history, so All Things Considered has decided to mark the 50 years of hip-hop by zeroing in on moments that illustrate how the genre became a dominant musical force that has infused almost every corner of mainstream culture.

Through interviews and music, this long listen traces significant moments in hip-hop history from that party in 1973, to the first hip-hop record deal, the debut of Yo! MTV Raps, the rise of hip-hop in the South and the new era of music technology that has brought hip-hop direct to fans on the internet.

Click the button above to listen.

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Juana Summers
Juana Summers is a co-host of NPR's All Things Considered, alongside Ailsa Chang, Ari Shapiro and Mary Louise Kelly. She joined All Things Considered in June 2022.
Kat Lonsdorf
[Copyright 2024 NPR]
Patrick Jarenwattananon
[Copyright 2024 NPR]
Noah Caldwell
[Copyright 2024 NPR]