40th Anniversary of Hip-Hop Culture with DJ Kool Herc and special guests: Coke La Rock, Roxanne Shante, Rakim, Big Daddy Kane, DJ Premier, Grand Master Theodore, DJ Red Alert, Marley Marl, DJ Jerry Dee, Skoob from DASEFX, Soul Sonic Force and many more!
Summerstage, Rumsey Playfield
August 8, 2013
Perhaps unlike any other genre, hip hop can trace it’s history to one moment that manages to take on apocryphal and mythical status – to the block party DJ Kool Herc threw on August 11, 1973 when he employed a technique that every single hip hop artist has used since: using two of the same record to create extended break beats. And as hip hop – and in turn, it’s culture – turned 40, hip hop (or perhaps mainstream hip hop, i should say?) is in a very weird place. As its superstars and former superstars approach middle age and older, hip hop heads everywhere have to wonder what that means for a genre that has at times treated those in their 30s as though they were ancient, and has generally been fickle. And what does it mean for a fanbase that has frequently seemed hungry for the next great artist to speak to them in a way that moves their hearts and souls – or hell, their asses?
I’ve been a hip hop fan (and a music fan in generally, really) for almost as long as I can remember, and my relationship to both hip hop and to music in general have changed throughout my life. Perhaps, now more than ever music has a vital and necessary importance to my life, and not because this site depends on it. I say that because at the end of the day, I’m a fan and I never forget that. For me, a life absorbed in music is the only life that really matters or makes sense.
However, my relationship with mainstream hip hop is at best non-existent. I don’t think i can tell you the difference between Drake, Wiz Kalifa, 2 Chainz or even Kendrick Lamar really was beyond the fact that I’ve read about them and heard about them. And beyond once listening to Peter Rosenberg’s show on Hot 97 to catch an interview with Homeboy Sandman, I haven’t listened to a terrestrial hip hop station for more than maybe 10 or 15 minutes in passing. When I do I feel like i can barely understand what’s going on and it barely sounds like anything to me. i’ve been places where they’ve played music on Power 105 and three-quarters of the time, I want to say “turn that bullshit off."
So with Summerstage celebrating hip hop’s 40th anniversary and it’s cultural importance to New York City, naturally going to some of these Summerstage shows not only brings back a lot of memories, and serves as a not too subtle reminder that we’re all getting older – and that for some of us, age isn’t very pretty. The 40th Anniversary of Hip Hop show was meant to be a celebration of all the things that unite hip hop heads but it was on a certain level an odd show without a real sense of flow. With every performer playing extremely short sets – maybe two or three songs at most, before switching to someone else. And there was way too much filler. Sure, I was thrilled to see Herc, DJ Red Alert, DJ Premier Grand Wizard Theodore, and Marley Marl on the 1s and 2s, but having them spin for more than maybe 15-20 minutes felt like it was a bit much and quickly got boring – especially in comparison to the emcees. Although I was in the photographer’s pit during a number of sets, I occasionally turned around to get a sense of the crowd, and it was during these moments when the crowd seemed listless.
As far as the performances – some brief notes.
- Roxanne Shante as the day’s MC was at times goofily funny and charming. Of course, she did "Roxanne Roxanne,” with a member of U.F.T.O. and although it may have resulted in her one major hip hop moment, it did create the extended dis and response on wax trend.
- The Soulsonic Force was a lot of fun although man, age hasn’t been very kind of them. And actually hearing their signature song, with the familiar Kraftwerk sample was a thrill and a half.
- Fonda Rae, best known for the old school single “Over Like a Fat Rat” came out to do her song, and although she looked great for her age and came up with a ton of high energy, her voice (which wasn’t particularly great) wasn’t the same, especially on the high notes. Sigh. What a shame.
- Rakim was typically excellent and he did almost all of his beloved material in a rather short set. He’s arguably one of hip hop’s greatest lyricists with few comparing to him. And although I don’t think he’s released anything new in quite some time, he holds an exalted place in the annals of hip hop.
- Big Daddy Kane was great as well. But where Rakim’s short was set, Kane’s set felt more like a brief appearance. But there was a cool moment where he did a song from the movie that may have truly inspired him to get into hip hop – Wild Style.
- Kool Herc had some pointed comments about how the hip hop community needed to get more involved in politics to start effective change. And he was right.
- Seeing Skoob from Das EFX was pretty cool and he did some solo stuff which was okay. But it was kind of odd to hear him do Das EFX material without Drazy. “We want Das … ”
Check out some photos from the day.
This woman was one of the stars of the day as she looked like she walked straight out of 1973.
Roxanne Shante rocking the 1973 look as well. For someone approaching 50, she looks pretty good for her age.
The man of the hour, DJ Kool Herc.
This kid was the cutest. He was related to the one of the artists and he made a special appearance.
The Soulsonic Force
DJ Marley Marl
Roxanne Shante dressed up as though it were 1987. it was a pretty warm day so I was wondering how she wasn’t burning up with all of that on.
Skoob from Das EXF
DJ Red Alert
The undisputed hip hop champions of the world: Big Daddy Kane and Rakim.
Big Daddy Kane
I was flirting with the blonde before i took this photo – the guy on the right is an artist who had a connection to Herc.
For these photos and the rest of the photos from this afternoon celebrating hip hop check out the Flickr set here: