50 Years of Hip-Hop: Artists, producers from North Alabama talk about genre’s impact

(WHNT) — Hip-hop has been a staple in many music lovers’ childhoods. The genre itself has many branches and subgenres, including rap and R&B. August 11, 2023, marks 50 years of hip-hop, which has brought listeners together since its inception. 

In the hot August of 1973, Cindy Campbell was promoting a back-to-school party that her brother Clive, or DJ Kool Herc, would emcee.

According to PBS’ “History Detectives,” Clive tried something new by extending an instrumental beat. Doing this isolated the part of the record that dancers liked best by playing twin records and changing between record players. This allowed people to dance for a longer amount of time. During the extended break, he began MCing.

Herc would continue to add to the blueprint of hip-hop in the years following. 

Today, the popularity of trap music and female rappers has entered the realm of mainstream media. In 2017, rap usurped rock as the “most consumed musical genre.” 

The genre has evolved all around the world and created several subgenres, including reggaeton and J-rap, and has overlapped with existing genres like kwaito and afrobeat.

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However, most people don’t think of Huntsville, or North Alabama, as a hub for hip-hop.

After over 44 years of experience within the genre, Codie Gopher said about Huntsville, “It breeds a sense of duality. Even with a full-time job, after day job hours, Huntsville has enough going to nurture the creative space.”

Artist and producer Ben Carruthers, or Big Body, said, “The music scene here [Huntsville] has always been lowkey, and even more so with hip hop. There has been a marked increase in the local music scene recently, and lots of people are starting to network and branch out outside of the separation in genres.”

Carruthers said that something he does to balance his every day and music lives is to just “sit down and vibe.”

“Not always creating, but listening, considering, and thinking about projects,” he added. 

Many artists in the area have been exposed to hip-hop since childhood. Geoffrey “G. Mane” Robinson said that he spent time with his father, a club and radio DJ, as a child. As he aged, he started making his own beats and even DJing. 

“I’ve worked various jobs but music has always been ‘my thing,’” Robinson said. 

When asked how local artists handle “the industry,” the answers were all the same: exposing people to the music.

Marcus Nelson, who goes by DJ Siza Hanz, said, “Recording, exposing people to your music… Give people something unique and unforgettable.” 

Gopher likened his experience to team sports. “We would go to places, present the music, and say ‘This is Huntsville hip-hop.’” 

In Huntsville, there are a few venues that highlight hip-hop culture. The Camp at MidCity hosts Mixx Madness twice a month. The event is for all ages and free to the public. Jeff & Blues at the Orion Amphitheater will also be hosting Majesty, an all-female DJ experience, on September 9.

Music lovers in the area can also check out local hip-hop artists at any of the Huntsville-Madison County Public Library branches through the Blast program. It features artists of every genre throughout the Tennessee Valley – and adds new ones every year.

Sounds and genres will continue to evolve and expand as artists come and go, as hip-hop has in the 50 years since its conception. Artists of all ages, races, backgrounds and genders have continued to add to the growing culture.

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