Hip-hop anniversary events in NJ, NY feature pioneers like Englewood’s Sugarhill Gang

Hip-hop started in the Bronx 50 years ago, and it has since had an impact everywhere. That includes the other side of the Hudson River, a short drive across the George Washington Bridge.

With the 50th anniversary date of this art form fast approaching (Aug. 11), there are events happening in New Jersey and New York starting this Friday to commemorate its birth and recognize its importance. And the celebration will continue beyond the summer and into the fall.

There will be concerts, block parties and other public displays showing appreciation for hip-hop.

New Jersey

Kurtis Blow at NJPAC

When you think about the early days of hip-hop, you can’t do so without the name of Kurtis Blow coming to mind.The legendary rapper of such classics as “The Breaks,” “Christmas Rappin,'” “If I Ruled the World” and “Basketball,” is coming to the New Jersey Performing Arts Center, 51 Park Place, in Newark on Aug. 10 at 6 p.m.

It’s a free outdoor performance in NJPAC’s Chambers Plaza as part of the Horizon Sounds of the City concert series.

The New York native (real name Kurtis Walker) will take the stage after an opening performance by NJPAC Arts Education alumni, faculty and students.

Jersey City celebrates hip-hop

North Jersey residents looking to mark the 50th anniversary of hip-hop can check out the event in downtown Jersey City on Aug. 12.

The free event will take place from 12 to 7 p.m. in the parking lot behind the Morlees store. There will be music provided by 4 DJ’s as well as several MCs from the Jersey City area. 

Also, performances by local dance groups, poetry readings and live art presentations. And there will be vendors selling art and clothing with the proceeds going to the Jersey City Police Athletic League.

Juan Vasquez, a local artist and business owner who is one of the organizers of the event, said he organized this celebration to pay homage to the music and culture that shaped his life as well as those of his friends starting in the 1980s.

“Growing up, we were breakdancing outside City Hall and doing graffiti. We had a DJ spinning in my house on Mercer Street,” Vasquez said. “When people were saying hip hop was not going to last, I said ‘Ya’ll crazy.’ I always fought for it because it saved my life. I have my own shop because of it, and I have my own movement … Hip-hop has saved a whole lot of lives.”

Newark spotlights art and hip-hop

In the fall, the Newark Arts Festival will not only put a spotlight on the artist community in New Jersey’s largest city, but there will be a special focus on the Newark-area rappers who helped grow hip-hop.

From Sept. 27 to Oct. 1, the free four-day festival will span across Newark’s five wards, kicking off on the 27th at The Newark Museum of Art. 

Some of the famed rappers who hail from Newark include Redman, Lords of the Underground and Rah Digga.

More:And they don’t stop: NJ’s Sugarhill Gang to play NJPAC as hip-hop celebrates 50 years

More:Hip-hop photographer ‘Brother Ernie’ shows no signs of stopping after five decades

The famed rap group the Sugarhill Gang, formed in the late 1970s by Englewood resident and record producer Sylvia Robinson, will be performing at Yankee Stadium on Aug. 11 as part of the Hip Hop 50 Live concert.

New York

Hip-hop at Yankee Stadium

Not far from the Bronx apartment building that is credited as the birthplace of hip hop is Yankee Stadium, where a quarter-century later hip-hop will be celebrated with a huge blowout concert.

“Hip Hop 50 Live at Yankee Stadium” on Aug. 11 will cover all the bases by featuring rappers and DJs who have played a part in the growth of the music and the culture around it. 

They include the progenitors of the hip-hop DJ Kool Herc (real name Clive Campbell) and his sister Cindy Campbell, whose back-to-school party on Aug. 11, 1973, in the community center of the Sedgwick Avenue building where they lived, is cited as the seminal event in the creation of hip-hop.

Other star performers that will grace the stage are pioneers such as Englewood’s own Sugarhill Gang and Melle Mel, veterans like RUN-DMC, Ice Cube, Eve, Remy Ma, and young stars including Wiz Khalifa and A Boogie Wit Da Hoodie. Tickets are still available from $95 and up.

Another Bronx hip-hop celebration

Like DJ Kool Herc, Grandmaster Flash was there when hip-hop began, spinning records at block parties in his native Bronx while also coming up with innovative DJ’ing techniques.

Grandmaster Flash (real name Joseph Saddler) will be going back down to memory lane when he hosts “Birth of a Culture: The Four Elements Block Party” this Friday in Bronx’s Crotona Park starting at 5 p.m.

The heralded DJ will be joined by other pioneers and longtime champions of hip-hop including Jazzy Jay, DJ Charlie Chase, Pete Rock, GrandWizzard Theodore, Tony Touch and Stretch Armstrong. Also scheduled to perform are Funk Flex, DJ Mell Starr, Scram Jones, DJ NABs, Chuck Chillout and others to be announced.

The event is free. For those who are not able to attend in-person, there will be a live stream of the event available on Grandmaster Flash’s YouTube and Twitch channel. 

Ricardo Kaulessar covers race, immigration and culture for NorthJersey.com. For unlimited access to the most important news from your local community, please subscribe or activate your digital account today.

Email: kaulessar@northjersey.com

Twitter: @ricardokaul

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