On August 11, 1973, Hip Hop was born when DJ Kool Herc spun a back-to-school jam in the rec room at 1520 Sedgwick Avenue in the Bronx. Entrance was 25 cents for the ladies, 50 cents for the fellas, and the spot could only hold 40 or 50 people—but from the footage shot, you could tell they put the Boogie Down in the Bronx.
So what made this Hip Hop and not a regular jam? Well, Herc was the first person to spin just the breaks, the drum (or drum and bass) solo on classic soul and funk records. He brought two copies of each record so he could set them up on the turntables and extend the break just as long as he wanted to. Herc not only created a style and a sound: he turned the turntable into an instrument all its own.
The thing about Hip Hop was, it was the sound of the streets. It was created, innovated, and updated by cats who had music in their blood and a need to dominate. Hip Hop’s formative years were an underground phenomenon; back in the days most stations wouldn’t play it on the radio let alone on MTV. But its isolation gave it strength and integrity—there was no selling out inside the community.
Hip-Hop Evolution, a stellar four-part series documenting the first two decades of Hip Hop from the South Bronx to South Central, is an undeniable history of the culture as it came to global prominence. A Netfflx Original created by Banger Films, the series is hosted by Canadian rapper Shadrach “Shad” Kabango, who is as charming as he is knowledgeable.
Shad has gained access to the homes of some of Hip Hop’s most elusive cats; the fact that he got Herc on the show is significant in and of itself. Through the four episodes, which take us from “The Foundation” when the DJ was king and “The Underground to the Mainstream,” when MCs first started to rock the mic at parties and drop mixtapes, sparking the release of “Rapper’s Delight” to “The New Guard,” when Russell Simmons and Rick Rubin joined forces to create Def Jam, sparking the “Golden Age of Hip Hop” and “The Birth of Gangsta Rap,” when Hip Hop hit LA and the world would never be the same.
Hip-Hop Evolution sets the record straight, making it one for the history books, with vintage photographs, footage, and facts coming straight from the horse’s mouth: Afrika Bambaataa, Grandmaster Flash, Coke La Rock, Grandmaster Caz, Melle Mel, Kool Moe Dee, Kurtis Blow, Fab 5 Freddy, Russell Simmons, LL Cool J, Marley Marl, DJ Premier, Rakim, Ice T, Ice Cube, MC Eiht, B Real, and so many more.
Hip-Hop Evolution more than makes up for where The Get Down fell off, restoring the integrity, authenticity, and authority to the history of Hip Hop. The show’s anthropological approach to music as a form of art, culture, and politics makes it one of the best documentaries on the subject. It is accessible and down to earth while being on point and unafraid to tell the truth. Hip-Hop Evolution is the perfect introduction to those out of the loop—and a gift to those who are well-versed.
Miss Rosen is a New York-based writer, curator, and brand strategist. There is nothing she adores so much as photography and books. A small part of her wishes she had a proper library, like in the game of Clue. Then she could blaze and write soliloquies to her in and out of print loves.