When you consider hip-hop’s legacy, it's hard to believe the iconic genre has only been around for 50 years. This past August marked five decades since the conception of the musical style — the likes of which has undeniably changed music and culture on a global scale in countless, outsized ways.
As legend has it, the genre was born in 1976 at a house party in the Bronx, where an artist by the name of DJ Kool Herc worked two turntables simultaneously to mix beats. Since then, hip-hop — and the industry as a whole — has evolved significantly, but one thing has remained a constant: It’s a way of living. “[Hip-hop] is more than just a style of music. It's a lifestyle. It’s influenced the clothes I put on my back, the way I walk, the way I talk, the way I do my hair. It’s taught me how to speak up for myself,” says DJ 9am, an up-and-coming Brooklyn-based DJ. “Celebrating 50 years of hip-hop is celebrating 50 years of Black creativity.”
As an homage to the 50th anniversary of the genre, NOISEY teamed up with DeLeón Tequila to give a platform to rising artists as part of a wild, Brooklyn-based celebration of hip-hop’s colorful history — and its equally promising future. As a brand with a longstanding passion for craftsmanship, the spirits purveyor is proud to be paying tribute to the genre’s enduring influence on popular culture and social change. From the OG pioneers, to the revolutionary artists of the golden age, and the modern-day trailblazers, hip hop has continuously pushed boundaries and defied expectations. Which is why we asked the event’s roster of performers — DJ 9am, alongside DJ Amorphous, and DJ MoreSoupPlease — to weigh in on the momentous impact 50 years of hip-hop has carried for them, personally, as well as for the industry writ large.
Broadly speaking, what does celebrating 50 years of hip-hop represent to you?
“I turned 25 this year — which means I’m half as old as hip-hop is. So much has happened in the world of hip-hop in my lifetime, and so much will continue to happen. Which is to say, celebrating 50 years of hip-hop has allowed me time to reflect on those who paved the way in the genre before my time — while also acknowledging my contemporaries, who are pushing forward to keep creating art in the name of a sound that is so dear to our hearts.” — DJ Amorphous
“For me, the 50th anniversary of hip-hop is really about the longevity of the Culture that has been created around this style of music. You can go anywhere in the world and hip-hop has influenced culture there. That’s a beautiful thing.” — DJ MoreSoupPlease
“This is our opportunity to really acknowledge the longevity of Black creativity. The last five decades of this music have taught me how to be self-reliant, relentless. That was the energy of the Black people who created the genre. And sure, people love to say that hip-hop is dead, or dying, but the truth is, that can never happen. There’s no culture or genre of music that hasn’t been inspired by hip-hop, so it will always be alive and well and thriving through all of these other genres of music or cultures.” — DJ 9am
How has the hip-hop industry changed over time — and how do you think it will continue to change?
“Over the last few years specifically, the industry at large has seen a huge paradigm shift. Artists are speaking up more. Creatives are demanding more control over their visions. We're seeing creatives become their biggest advocates — not the labels, but the people who create the music, themselves.” — DJ Amorphous
“In the beginning, it felt like hip-hop was a genre totally overrun by men. But now, I've seen a lot more women behind the scenes and at the forefront. Back in the day, it seemed like there was one woman per label, one woman per hip-hop crew. And that was all you needed. But now, women are actually running things, and I love watching that happen.
“Another way that I've seen the industry change over time is through the internet and social media. Nowadays, artists don't always need labels to push them. They can get their music out to the masses in other ways, digitally — which can be a great thing because it leaves room for a lot of new voices, but at the same time, it can also be a bad thing because it really oversaturates the scene.” — DJ 9am
How have the past 50 years of hip-hop influenced your music?
“Hip-hop is my backbone, musically. I love it. And over the years, I’ve done my research in terms of the artists that came before me in order to better pass their influence down through my music and preserve the culture.” — DJ MoreSoupPlease
“Hip-hop is probably the biggest influence in my life. Hip-hop and R&B have always shaped who I am as a person and an artist. I've found ways to incorporate inspiration from artists into my music, from rappers in the hip-hop community, to R&B singers like Aaliyah who successfully fused hard-hitting hip-hop beats into the R&B space. Whether it's a futuristic ode to Timbaland, a la my record 'The Wave' with Brandy & James Fauntleroy, or even a house record like my track 'The Vibe' with Bree Runway, hip-hop's influence is always present in my work.” — DJ Amorphous
Looking forward, what are your hopes for the future of the genre?
“My biggest hope for the genre moving forward is that the youth continues to stay educated on the history of hip-hop — it's inception, the OGs, the sub-genres — while simultaneously pushing it forward. One of the most beautiful things that I’m realizing about my fanbase overall, is that it’s incredibly diverse. People from every age speak to me and say how much they love my work, or a mix I made. Simply put, the best music historians are the ones who really change culture, and I implore every new creative to adopt that ideology.” — DJ Amorphous
“My hope is that hip-hop goes back to being about storytelling, and not promoting the secret agendas of the powers-that-be who own the labels.” — DJ MoreSoupPlease
“My hope for the future of the genre is that we continue to evolve, and that we continue to be creative. Like I said before, to me, this isn’t just music. It’s a lifestyle. So I hope that we continue to break barriers, and that the genre continues to inspire great minds to do great things. I hope that we continue to see originality, and that we continue to have conversations through the medium.” — DJ 9am
How has hip-hop influenced you as a person?
“Hip-hop has taught me to never give up on myself, and to be open to change, because hip-hop has changed through each decade, while still staying true to the culture.”— DJ MoreSoupPlease
“The last five decades of hip-hop taught me to continue to let music be an outlet, and to push creativity to the forefront. From DJ Kool Herc spearheading a new technique, to artists of today fighting for their artistic vision in the community, this music has simply taught me to advocate for myself.” — DJ Amorphous
“Hip-hop has taught me to speak up for myself, because I feel like that's what a lot of these artists did, especially in the earlier days of the genre. They put their feelings, and the things that they were going through in their lives in their tracks, and they put them out there for the world. And that brought awareness to certain things we knew about but were afraid to speak on. So, the history of hip-hop has taught me how to speak up for myself. It's taught me strength. It's taught me how to be creative.” — DJ 9am