Hip Hop 50: A Celebration of Culture Around the World

A half century, written down on paper and in our minds, can seem like the far reaches of history to some. However, to those who have been around to experience the rapid technological advances and pop culture shifts, 50 years can seem like the blink of an eye. I won’t say which side of the fence I’m on but will enthusiastically admit to having been there to witness the global impact of hip hop culture on the way we talk, dress and create (to name a few).

From a back-to-school jam in a New York borough to Parisian runways, the four elements of hip hop (rap, breaking, deejaying and graffiti) have permeated cultures worldwide! In honor of 50 years (and counting) of culture, here are some recommended books, music and media.

Ed Piskor’s hip hop history graphic novel series Hip Hop Family Tree chronicles the origins of the culture and features the elements and the early innovators credited with its creation.

Rapper’s Delight by the Sugar Hill Gang, widely considered to be the first mainstream hip hop song on the first label to produce and promote rap as a genre, is one of many groundbreaking songs featured in the compilation The Sugar Hill Records Story.

LL Cool J and Method Man are two of the many music artists produced and promoted by the Def Jam label, now in its 39th year of operation. Check out Def Jam Recordings, an illustrated volume about the first 25 years of this foundational label.

Graffiti writers, b-boys and b-girls (break dancers), rappers and DJs are all showcased in Wild Style, one of the first movies to feature a plot line amplifying hip hop culture.

Def Jam recording artists Run-DMC, Kurtis Blow, the Fat Boys and a young LL Cool J are showcased in Krush Groove, a film loosely based on Russell Simmons and Rick Rubin’s record label and led by Blair Underwood (L.A. Law).

The emergence and impact of west coast hip hop artists on the social landscape of American culture is highlighted in Westhoff's (Dirty South) second title about regional rap, Original Gangstas.

Hip hop culture is as known for its fashion as its music and Fresh Fly Fabulous highlights the evolution of fashion trends from customization to hip hop mogul-owned fashion labels.

In Global Noise, 13 essays highlight hip hop music content across multiple continents.

Be sure to explore 50 years of hip hop music and let us know your favorite era of hip hop culture!