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Culture Re-View: Happy 50th Birthday to Hip-Hop!

Celebrate hip-hop's 50th with some stellar facts
Celebrate hip-hop's 50th with some stellar facts Copyright Canva
Copyright Canva
By David Mouriquand
Published on
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It’s been 50 years since hip-hop was born.

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It’s nigh on impossible to encompass half a century of a musical genre, especially one as rich and which has an entire universe. It’s not just about the music, but also a language, an attitude, politics, literature... An entire culture – a broad, innovative and polyglot one, which is in constant flux.

So, while you appreciate our chronological attempt to look back at the 50 years of hip-hop through the genre’s greatest albums, here are a few cheeky facts which may make you wiser to the enthralling fount that is the world’s biggest genre of music.

Yes, hip-hop has a birthday

Astrid Stawiarz / Getty Images for Tribeca Film Festival
Clive "Kool Herc" CampbellAstrid Stawiarz / Getty Images for Tribeca Film Festival

A 16-year-old Jamaican boy from the Bronx named Clive Campbell, nicknamed “Hercules” (or “Kool Herc”), was the first to experiment with isolating drum breaks from popular records and switching back and forth between two turntables to repeat the same musical phrase. He did this for his community to get people dancing in the street. On 11 August 1973, Herc threw a “back to school jam” and this party would spark a grassroots musical revolution years before the term ‘hip-hop’ entered the common lexicon.

The term “hip-hop” has a definitive origin story

Hip-hop encompasses rapping, DJ’ing and break dancing, but the genre itself didn’t have much of a name for its formative years. Not until a young MC made fun of one of his friends. Robert Keith Wiggins aka: Keef Cowboy, a member of group Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five, mocked one of his friends who had just joined the army and began chanting “hip hop” to mimic the cadence of marching soldiers.

The first hip-hop hit

It is generally agreed that The Sugarhill Gang’s song ‘Rapper’s Delight’ was the first hip-hop song to achieve commercial success. Released in 1979, the track became a top 40 chart hit. The iconic bassline is a sample from ‘Good Times’ by Chic, and the producer of the Gang’s first album ‘Sugarhill Gang’ was none other than Sylvia Robinson, the famous former R&B singer.

High debit: The most words in a hit single

Eminem’s track ‘Rap God’ is regularly lauded as one of the most technically impressive rap tracks. The song uses the most words of any hit single, with the artist packing in 1,560 words into 6 minutes 4 seconds. For those of you who love them a bit of maths, that's a tongue-twisting average of 4.28 words per second. If that wasn't impressive enough, one 15-second segment alone has Eminem spitting 97 words - which is 6.46 words per second. Let that blow your mind.

Grammy records

AP Photo
Jay Z and Lauryn HillAP Photo

The male rappers with the most Grammy awards are Kanye 'Ye' West and Jay-Z, who each hold 24 Grammys. For reference, the male artist with the most Grammys is Georg Solti, the Hungarian-British orchestral and operatic conductor, who has won a total of 31 trophies. The female rapper with the most Grammy awards remains neo-soul hip-hop artist Lauryn Hill, holding 8. The female artist with the most Grammys overall is Beyoncé, with 32.

Money records

AP Photo
Jay Z and Nicki MinajAP Photo

The richest male hip-hop artist worldwide is Jay-Z, with a net worth of $2.5 billion, thanks in large part to his liquor businesses, music catalogue and fine art collection. The top spot used to be Kanye 'Ye' West’s. The controversial rapper peaked with a net worth of approximately $2.5 billion in 2022. However, at the time of writing, his worth is now “only” $410 million. As for the richest female hip-hop artist worldwide, that title goes to Nicki Minaj, with a net worth of $150 million. Cardi B and Queen Latifah trail behind her with approx. $80 million and $70 million respectively.

Happy birthday, hip-hop. Here's to the next 50.

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