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50 years of Hip Hop, celebrating the true icons

Updated: Oct 21, 2023

Wow. Are you trying to figure out what to do for the 50 years of Hip Hop Celebration?

Fifty years ago this summer, hip-hop was born during a back-to-school party in the Bronx. With its five elements of DJing, emceeing, breakdancing, graffiti artistry and knowledge, the genre grew into an international sensation, and events all year will celebrate the history—and future—of hip-hop. 

From a photography exhibit to themed music nights, here's how to commemorate 50 years of hip-hop. We'll update this guide all summer as new events are announced, so stay tuned. 


1. [R]Evolution of Hip Hop 

Since hip-hop was born in the Bronx, it only makes sense to celebrate in the Bronx. Head to Bronx Terminal Market for the “[R]Evolution of Hip Hop” exhibit on view all summer. The exhibit is curated by The Universal Hip Hop Museum, which is currently under construction and slated to open in 2024 at Bronx Point.

At "[R]Evolution of Hip Hop," immerse yourself in what's known as the golden era of hip-hop, the years from 1986-1990. The exhibit offers an interactive journey through history using artifacts, multimedia, artificial intelligence and virtual and augmented technologies. It's on view through the end of August. 

2. "For the Love" headlined by Wu-Tang Clan

"For the Love" will celebrate of the 50th anniversary of hip-hop with a day full of events and a show headlined by legendary hip-hop collective Wu-Tang Clan, which started in Staten Island in the early 1990s. The festival, hosted at the Knockdown Center in Queens on August 10, is intended to celebrate the impact and listener love of hip-hop.

The day kicks off with a family-friendly program, "For the Love: Community Giveback" in which local students, families, and businesses can enjoy hip-hop activities and performances to support the Boys & Girls Club of Metro Queens. Throughout the afternoon, breakdancing performances, double-dutch to live, interactive broadcasts of SiriusXM Hip-Hop Nation’s Gray Rizzy and The Heat’s DJ Steel will also take place.

By evening, Wu-Tang Clan will take the stage with every member of the crew.

RSVP to the event is free, and admission will be granted on a first-come, first served basis. The daytime event is 13+ and the nighttime event with Wu-Tang is 21+.  

3. BRIC Hip-Hop 50th Anniversary Weekend

BRIC Celebrate Brooklyn!, the an annual series of outdoor concerts in Prospect Park, will host a Hip-Hop 50th Anniversary Weekend on August 11-12. On Friday, August 11, see Digable Planets and Kari Faux. On Saturday, August 12 it's Film Night: Brown Sugar. 

It's free to attend but if you RSVP, you could score a pair of VIP tickets. 

BRIC Hip-Hop Block Party + Family Day

To celebrate the 50th anniversary of Hip-Hop and 10 years at BRIC House, we’re throwing a Block Party! Head to BRIC House on Sunday 9/10 from 12-6pm for a day of family art making, musical performances, panel talks, and workshops inspired by the building blocks of Hip-Hop.

It's free to attend but if you RSVP, you could score a pair of VIP tickets. 

4. The Book of HOV at Brooklyn Library

From The Marcy Houses to the biggest stages in the world, Jay-Z has always represented Brooklyn. Now Brooklyn is radiating that love back to him with a major, free exhibition called The Book of HOV on view at Brooklyn Public Library.

The exhibit chronicles the journey and impact of Shawn Carter through thousands of archived objects, including original recording masters, never-before-seen photos, iconic stage wear, prestigious awards and videos. Roc Nation created the exhibit as a surprise to the renowned hip-hop star as the city celebrates 50 years of the genre that started right here in New York City. See it at Brooklyn's Central Library along Grand Army Plaza during regular library hours through this fall (an exact closure date hasn't been set).

Here's more about the massive exhibit.

Rendering: Courtesy S9 Architecture

5. Hip-Hop's 50th Birthday Jam

The Universal Hip Hop Museum is hosting a blowout bash to celebrate the occasion on the actual anniversary of hip-hop, Friday, August 11 from 12-6pm. "Hip-Hop’s 50th Birthday Jam" at Mill Pond Park in Bronx (Exterior St & E 150th St.) will bring together Chuck D, Red Bull BC One Cypher, Chill Rob G, Sweet Tee, Freedom Williams and more surprise guests. 

The block party will be hosted by hosted by Original Spinderella, UHHM co-curators Paradise Gray & Pete Nice, Coke LaRock and Sheri Sher. The event will also feature dancers from Red Bull’s BC One Cypher, and live mural paintings done by Thrive Collective Murals. 

I LOVE NY/New York Department of Economic DevelopmentI LOVE NY Summer of Hip Hop series

6. I Love NY Summer of Hip Hop

This summer event series includes concerts, art displays, freestyle battles, dance competitions, silent discos and creative workshops. 

Hosted in partnership with cultural organizations all across the state, including Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts and Radio City Music Hall in Manhattan, The Strong National Museum in Rochester and the Auburn Public Theater in Auburn, the series will feature live concerts, exhibitions, family-friendly programming and other special events throughout July and August. Here's the full rundown.

7. 5X5 Block Party Series

The "5X5 Block Party Series," is a series of free block parties, concerts and events that will take place across all five boroughs this August. Hip-hop icon KRS-One—the Bronx-born rapper behind tracks like "Sound of da Police," "Love’s Gonna Get’cha (Material Love)," and "My Philosophy"—will help curate the series, as well as perform at the block parties. The program is hosted in partnership between the mayor's office and ITSALLBLACKMUSIC PRESENTS. 

Along with live performances, the events will consist of DJ sets, street-art installations, food vendors, educational talks, interactive experiences and drone light shows. The schedule for the free block parties is below, though a full lineup of performances and other activations is still to be announced: 

  • The Bronx: Saturday, August 12, 1pm – 9:30pm | 1520 Sedgwick Avenue

8. Hip Hop Til Infinity at Hall des Lumières

A new immersive exhibit offers a chance to go back in time to the beginning of hip-hop while also speeding ahead into the future of the genre. "Hip Hop Til Infinity," the latest installation coming to the resplendent Hall des Lumières. 

Visitors will be transported through hip-hop's different eras and regions, from skate parks to the stage to the metaverse. Expect to see important moments in hip-hop history represented through state-of-the-art audio-visual technology.

The immersive exhibit is now open in Lower Manhattan with tickets available through September 17. Tickets start at $42/person. 

9. 50 Years 'Til Infinity, a salute to Hip Hop

Stop by the Oculus from August 14-18 for Art on the Ave featuring performances by DJs, MCs and dancers. Each day of the week will feature a different performance by hip-hop artists including Lance Johnson, MC Maniphes and Meccagodzilla.

Plus, see live painting by graffiti artists who will create their own pieces and collaborative pieces you can get in on.

The event's hosted by Art on the Ave with Westfield World Trade Center.

10. Collections of Culture: 50 Years of Hip Hop Inside Libraries, Museums and Archives

Queens Public Library has partnered with more than 30 organizations around the country to commemorate the occasion with an event series called "Collections of Culture: 50 Years of Hip Hop Inside Libraries, Museums and Archives." Participating organizations will host panel discussions, author talks, educational forums and workshops examining the genre’s history and influence on American culture. Here's the full schedule.

Queens Public Library has long been devoted to spotlighting the genre. The library established a hip-hop program in 2015 when it hired its first-ever hip hop coordinator Ralph McDaniels, also known as “Uncle Ralph.” McDaniels, who started the long-running music television show “Video Music Box,” regularly creates programming about the genre. In addition, the library preserves hip-hop's legacy in Queens through a collection of artifacts such as photographs, periodicals, audio tapes, video tapes, writings, news articles, flyers, and oral histories from people involved with the genre from its origins until now.

11. The Rap Up at New York Public Library

Celebrate hip-hop culture at two corresponding events at The New York Public Library’s historic Stephen A. Schwarzman Building on Saturday, August 5. First is "The Rap Up," an immersive experience that will take you back in time to hip-hop’s early years. The event features a series of panel discussions and hip-hop exhibits. Discussions feature VIBE Magazine Editor-in-Chief Datwon Thomas, Wild Style director Charlie Ahearn, Fab 5 Freddy, award-winning hip-hop artist Mickey Factz, fashion icons 5001 Flavors and April Walker, acclaimed author and journalist Vikki Tobak, music by DJ Spinna, and more. 

After that, the party will continue outside on the Fifth Avenue plaza where NYPL will conclude the celebration with a special hip-hop–themed edition of the Library’s annual Dance Party NYC, an intergenerational citywide dance party with a special guest DJ, hosted in partnership with the New Victory Theater and Bryant Park. The dance party begins at 3 PM. Advance registration is closed but walk-ups will be welcome as space allows. 

And be sure to get a hip-hop-themed library card, too! 

12. Trusted Mic Hip Hop Music Nights

Chelsea's Somewhere Nowhere will celebrate hip-hop on Friday nights from 5-10pm. Trusted Mic will feature live music from The Rakiem Walker Project Band. This weekly, after-work celebration of hip hop music leads up to the 50th anniversary celebrations. Expect surprise performances, great vibes, classic cocktails, dinner and dancing. Book a table here.

13. Real Rap: Hip-Hop Star Power on Screen

To commemorate the 50th anniversary of hip-hop, this film series at Museum of the Moving Image in Astoria celebrates the insatiable beats and lyrics of hip-hop. The series will focus on hip-hop artists who have appeared on the big screen, including Queen Latifah, Tupac, and Ice Cube. In addition to the screenings, "Real Rap" will feature special guest speakers, discussions, a spoken word showcase and a summer dance party. 

Titles include Baby Boy, Just Wright, Poetic Justice, Barbershop, 8 Mile, Ghosts of Mars, and other titles to be announced. Real Rap: Hip-Hop Star Power on Screen runs through October 21. 

Photograph: By Janette Beckman | Salt n Pepa Lower East Side NYC (1986) / Courtesy of Fotografiska New York and copyright of the artist

14. Hip Hop at 50 photography exhibit 

Known for her work in the ’80s with hip-hop and an eye for documenting the cutting-edge in urban culture, photographs by Janette Beckman will celebrate the anniversary with an exhibit called "Hip Hop at 50." See her photos on the windows at the corner of Fulton and Front Street in the Seaport through October 31.

Photograph: Courtesy of Children’s Museum of the Arts

15. Sampling, a collaborative public mural

Local kids worked together to create a hip-hop mural that you can view in Soho. The large-scale collage drew on imagery from the NYPL Picture Collection, exploring visual and musical sampling. Like sampling a track in a song, the students of City-As-School took pre-existing media and transformed it into their own collective artwork. The artists incorporated self-portraits alongside cut-out photos of the early pioneers of Hip-Hop like Notorious BIG, RUN DMC, Slick Rick, and TLC.

See Sampling in the windows of The Jerome L. Greene Performance Space at WNYC and WQXR’s headquarters on Varick Street through August. The project's organized by Children's Museum of the Arts.

16. Hip Hop 50 Live at Yankee Stadium

A powerhouse concert is coming to Yankee Stadium on Friday, August 11 featuring some of the genre’s biggest names. Hip Hop 50 Live at Yankee Stadium will feature Run DMC’s "Bottom of the Ninth…The Walk-Off" performance, Lil Wayne, Snoop Dogg, Ice Cube and more to be announced. A "Queens of Hip Hop" set will feature Eve, Lil Kim, Remy Ma, Trina and more.

Additional performers include: T.I., Fat Joe, Common, Ferg, EPMD, Ghostface Killah, Lupe Fiasco and Slick Rick. A "Pillars of Hip-Hop" set will feature Kool Herc & Cindy Campbell, Grandmaster Caz, Kurtis Blow, Melle Mel, Roxanne Shante, Scorpio and the Sugarhill Gang, and a "Legendary DJ" set will have Clark Kent, Marley Marl, Mannie Fresh and Battlecat.

Tickets start at $165. 

17. Lincoln Center's Hip-Hop Week 

Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts will close out its Summer for the City Festival with several days devoted to hip-hop. From August 9-12, expect a wide range of events, performances, and workshops. 

The week kicks off with a dance storytime event, combining beats and books for the whole family. There's also a dance battle, film screenings, silent disco and live music. See live performances from Rakim, DJ J.PERIOD and Big Daddy Kane; take part in outdoor dance parties and silent discos from DJ Spinna; listen to a a trap choir experience and more at Lincoln Center—for free! Here's the full rundown. 

18. Set It Off hip-hop dance party

Set It Off, a beloved Brooklyn-born hip-hop dance party amplifying queer and trans communites, returns to Brooklyn Museum on August 26 for a special night celebrating 50 years of hip-hop. Hear sets by founder Roze-Royze, Boston Chery, DJ Ankia, VICTORIADIDTHAT, DJ LUV, and Kendollaz. Plus, experience dance performances honoring five decades of hip-hop, with a nod to the queer and trans creators who have shaped the genre. The evening also features live performances by Asanni Armon and Cakes da Killa.

Drinks and light bites will be available for purchase.

Tickets start at $15 ($25 after the first 100 tickets are sold) and include after-hours access to Africa Fashion. Tickets at the door are $30.

19. Hip-Hop dance party in Times Square

Bring your dancing shoes to Times Square for an outdoor dance party as part of Ailey Extension's Hip-hop 50th Anniversary Celebration on Thursday, August 10 at 5pm. South Bronx-native and Ailey instructor TweetBoogie will lead a high-spirited outdoor dance party with the help of fellow hip-hop dancers and a live DJ. Learn classic hip-hop moves and let loose, adding your own individual style while staying true to the technique. It's free to attend.

20. Chef Ed's Mixtape Dinner

This edition of Chef Ed's Mixtape Dinner will honor the legendary Ralph McDaniels, creator of Video Music Box. The event mixes '90s hip-hop with culinary art and music by DJ Rob Dinero. Chef Ed will work with Olly Olly's vendors to create the menu.

The event's hosted by Hot 97’s Shani Kulture on Saturday, August 12 in Chelsea. 

21. Circle Line Hip-Hop boat party

Step into the vibrant world of hip-hop and celebrate this groundbreaking cultural movement with a Circle Line dance party. The boat tour company is hosting a "50th Anniversary of Hip-Hop Night" on Thursday, August 10. The event will spotlight the music of Missy Elliott, so get ready to "Work It." Byron from B. Free Dance will teach you signature moves while you sip themed cocktails and take in New York's world-famous skyline views. 

Tickets for the dance cruise—which will sail out of midtown's Pier 83 at West 42nd Street and will cruise for two hours, from 7:30 to 9:30pm—cost $25 and can be purchased at the Circle Line website.  

22. Genius IQ/BBQ

Genius, the world’s biggest collection of song lyrics and musical knowledge, is bringing back its signature live concert event, Genius IQ/BBQ, a free, all-day music festival celebrating Hip-Hop’s 50th birthday. Head to the Knockdown Center in Queens on Saturday, August 19 for live music art and food for purchase.

Pusha T and Malice from hip-hop duo Clipse are set to headline the event. 

23. Park Lane New York Hip-Hop Series

Head to the rooftop of Park Lane New York for fun hip-hop parties in August. From Tuesday, August 8 to Saturday, August 12, Darling, the hotel’s whimsical rooftop bar located on the 47th floor, will showcase a special series of different vinyl-only DJs each evening, as well as an exclusive pop-up cocktail menu inspired by the history of hip-hop. Here's the schedule: 

— Stretch Armstrong: Tuesday, August 8, 9pm-12am— Niles Harris: Wednesday, August 9, 6pm-10pm— Boogie Blind: Thursday, August 10, 9pm-12am— Niks: Friday, August 11, 9pm-12am— DJ Dhundee: Saturday, August 12, 9pm-12am 

There will also be a bespoke Hennessy tasting session and merchandise giveaway taking place on Thursday, August 10.

24. 50 Murals Celebrating 50 Years

Keep an eye out this summer for murals around town celebrating 50 years of hip-hop. Find them all around the five boroughs through Labor Day. 

The mayor's office is partnering with LISA Project NYC to create the murals since the medium of street art is defining aspect of hip hop culture. All locations are being scouted through LISA Project NYC, which will also host five future free block parties and artist roundtables alongside the murals over the course of the year, one for each borough.

Photograph: Courtesy of Universal Hip Hop Museum / A rendering of the Universal Hip Hop Museum, expected to open in 2024.

25. What's next?

The celebrations will likely spill in 2024 with the planned opening of The Universal Hip Hop Museum. As soon as we know more, we'll keep you posted. 

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