Sen. Chuck Schumer Celebrates Hip-Hop’s 50th Anniversary And Tells Why He’s A Fan
Remember Rappin’ Duke? Duh-ha, duh-ha. You never thought that hip-hop would take it this far!
That 1994 lyric from the Notorious B.I.G. still stands as an acknowledgement of the growth of hip-hop culture over the past five decades as it marks a milestone on Friday (Aug. 11).
One of the genre’s biggest supporters – believe it or not – took hip-hop all the way to the Senate floor on July 20 and delivered a big announcement.
“I am proud that my resolution commemorating the 50th anniversary of hip-hop has just passed the Senate,” said Senate Majority Leader ChuckSchumer, as he made a valiant effort to contain his joy.
Two years earlier, Schumer spearheaded the Senate’s unanimous approval of Resolution 331, a bill that officially designated Aug. 11 as “Hip Hop Celebration Day,” August as “Hip Hop Recognition Month,” and November as “Hip Hop History Month.”
At a gathering in the Bronx, Schumer and fellow New York Democrat Rep. Jamaal Bowmanpresented the resolution that officially declared the 1520 Sedgwick Ave. in the Bronx as the birthplace of hip hop.
It also recognized that Clive “DJ Kool Herc” Campbel started the hip-hop revolution 50 years ago at a “Back to School Jam” held in the recreation room of the Sedgwick Avenue apartment building.
Schumer told BET.com that it has been a long journey to get hip-hop the recognition it deserves.
He recalled standing alongside hip-hop legend KRS-One for the International Hip-Hop Conference for Peace at the United Nations in 2001. They stood, shoulder-to-shoulder, to reject the perception that hip-hop only promoted violence, sexuality and amorality.
He was also an important ally in the long struggle of Herc and others to save hip-hop’s birthplace when the landlord wanted to sell the building to developers. The majority leader also noted that he used his influence to contribute $5 million of federal funding to support the construction of the Universal Hip Hop Museum in the Bronx.
BET.com asked KRS-One to reflect on hip-hop’s journey and its latest milestone:
“The past half-century has proven that the message is the power,” the ‘Bridge is Over’ rapper told BET.com in a statement. “The truth born from the community room in the Bronx has changed the world. The 50th anniversary is to celebrate a night and location few other people even knew existed when it happened in 1973.”
“Now the world knows what happened and that action and the millions of others that followed since continue to move us forward,” he continued. “The next 50 years will be even more transformative than the last 50 years and the message will only strengthen and grow, it can’t, won’t, be stopped.
Sen. Schumer understood the significance of the room and building. His efforts have helped ensure that future generations will always be able to draw from the room’s critical energy themselves.”
BET.com asked Schumer about his new resolution and his love of hip-hop.
BET.com: Why was it so important for you to push through this resolution?
Sen. Charles Schumer: I think hip-hop is one of the great American music forms. But it doesn’t get the accolades that it deserves.
It’s better now than before. I had to stand up at the U.N. in 2001 and talk about how good hip-hop is.
What people don’t know is that hip-hop has changed lives. People get into hip-hop and decide they’re going to do something for themselves and make something out of themselves. It’s an amazing thing.
This uniquely American art form has become a global movement. So I felt it deserved accolades, kudos, recognition, and tributes.
BET.com:What difference does the resolution make?
Schumer: It says that the whole United States Congress has recognized August 11 as hip-hop celebration day, August as hip-hop recognition month, and November as hip-hop history month.
BET.com: Our readers would be very interested in finding out how you became a hip-hop fan.
Schumer: I heard hip-hop soon after it became more popular. And then I really got into it when I received a call from people who lived at 1520 Sedgwick Avenue in the Bronx. That’s where hip-hop was developed, in a little rec room in a modest apartment building.
Cindy Campbell, and her brother, Clive, were throwing a back-to-school jam. They were going to raise money for people to have decent clothes to go back to school with. That’s when DJ Kool Herc, who was Clive, started spinning records in a unique way that started hip-hop, and it caught on immediately.
Later, the landlord was going to kick the tenants out of the building and destroy the rec room. So I started working with them and KRS-One and some others to save the building. And we did. So that’s when we became sort of brothers, KRS-One and Chuck Schumer.
BET.com: As you well know, there was a time when hip-hop was outside the mainstream and viewed as a lot of noise, promoting misogyny and violence. What motivated you, more than 20 years ago, to champion hip-hop when it was politically risky to do that?
Schumer: I love the music, number one. I am not talented as a singer or dancer. But I love to participate.
And second, I have friends in the minority community who told me what it meant to them and how it changed their lives.
So I became a true believer, as they say, and I was willing to take on the risk to stand by hip-hop. Those risks have proven vindicated because now everyone realizes worldwide what a great art form it is.
BET.com: On a different topic that’s also important to the Black community, namely the Supreme Court’s recent ban on race-conscious college admissions. After such a devastating blow to affirmative action, what can be done to ensure equal access to higher education?
Schumer: First, I think that the Supreme Court has shown how regressive and how MAGA it is. We have seen that they really need to reform themselves in terms of these trips and flights and everything else.
Second, we are going to look at legislative alternatives. We’re going to explore the possibility of legislative alternatives – if not to undo the court’s action, I’m not sure we’d be able to do that, but at least to modify and limit the harm.