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How Philly Is Celebrating the 50th Anniversary of Hip-Hop in 2023

2023 marks the 50th anniversary of hip-hop, with celebrations planned both nationally and globally — including many here in Philadelphia.

Read on to see how Philly helped define what hip-hop is today, as well as info on 50th-anniversary events and concerts from local and national hip-hop acts, with more to be announced throughout the year.

How Philly Is Celebrating the 50th Anniversary of Hip-Hop in 2023

Hip-Hop History

On August 11, 1973, in the rec room of an apartment building in the Bronx, a new musical form entered the world.

The night in question was a back-to-school party featuring a soundtrack of popular artists like James Brown, Aretha Franklin and The Meters.

The host of the bash, 18-year-old Clive Campbell, took to the DJ booth and queued up heavily percussive, dance-friendly portions of songs, known as breaks, on two turntables.

With a copy of the same record on each turntable, Campbell — better known as DJ Kool Herc — was able to loop these high-energy breaks through a technique called the merry-go-round.

The merry-go-round was the basis for the genre we now know as hip-hop.

Taking hold at block parties and among Black, Latino, and Caribbean American communities, hip-hop spread from the underground to the mainstream, thanks to one of the first hip-hop records, Sugarhill Gang’s Rapper’s Delight, released in 1979.

Philly’s Hip-Hop History

By the late 1970s, hip-hop was thriving in Philadelphia. In 1979, Philly rapper Lady B (one of the first female hip-hop artists) released To The Beat Y’all, putting the city on the hip-hop map.

A few years later, in 1985, Philly rapper Schoolly D helped define gangsta rap with his single P.S.K. (What Does It Mean?).

Through the late 1980s and 1990s, Philly’s hip-hop scene flourished with big-name acts bringing attention to the city. DJ Jazzy Jeff and The Fresh Prince (known these days as Will Smith) won the first-ever Grammy for best rap performance for their song Parents Just Don’t Understand, in 1989.

Blending jazz and live instrumentation with rapping, The Roots have been musical mainstays in Philadelphia since founders Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson and Tariq “Black Thought” Trotter first performed together during a talent show while they were students at Philadelphia High School for the Creative and Performing Arts in 1989.

In the late ’90s, when hip-hop experienced a commercial breakthrough, Philly-born artists like Eve and Beanie Sigel gained mainstream attention with releases on major record labels.

Meanwhile, musicians like Adam Blackstone found notoriety performing with the likes of Jay-Z.

Philly is home to some of hip-hop’s most imaginative and groundbreaking acts.

In addition to his anthemic music, Meek Mill continues to push for criminal justice reform in Philadelphia. Tierra Whack, dubbed the “future of hip hop,” has gripped the world with her boundary-pushing style, experimenting with time and genre.

Hip-hop has always served as a vehicle for identity, a means for artists and listeners alike to share their political beliefs, fashion choices, and social and economic realities and to speak truth to power.

An amalgamation of various art forms — including poetry, breakdancing, MCing, graffiti and storytelling — hip-hop is a multi-discipline art form.

50th-Anniversary Events

Philadelphia Juneteenth Parade & Festival

Sunday, June 18, 2023
Commemorating the end of slavery in the United States, the all-day Philadelphia Juneteenth Parade & Festival features floats, performances and food.

Spectators at this year’s parade should keep an eye out for a float dedicated to the 50th anniversary of hip-hop. (Stay tuned for more details.)

Where: Various locations including Malcolm X Park, 5100 Pine Street

Love + Grit, Visit Philadelphia’s Podcast – Season 4

Visit Philadelphia’s podcast about the city’s best-kept secrets and biggest exports recently returned for its fourth season.

This go-around, hosts Laiya St. Clair, Rachel Ferguson and Justin Pizzi pay homage to the 50th anniversary of hip-hop through interviews with musical changemakers like DJ Jazzy Jeff and Adam Blackstone.

Can’t-Miss Concerts from Philly Hip-Hop Artists

Jedi Mind Tricks at Union Transfer

Saturday, March 18, 2023 | 8 p.m.

Philly underground hip-hop group Jedi Mind Tricks (JMT) has been scratching beats and spitting bars for over 25 years, producing music and collaborating with rap veterans from GZA to Immortal Technique along the way.

Fans can keep up with frontman Vinnie Paz on his Broad Street Breakdown podcast.

Where: Union Transfer, 1026 Spring Garden Street

More Can’t Miss Concerts from Hip-Hop Artists

Key Glock at The Fillmore Philadelphia

Wednesday, March 15, 2023 | 8 p.m.

The protege of the late Young Dolph, Key Glock has largely avoided collabs or features — and relies almost completely on his own prowess as a lyricist.

Where: The Fillmore Philadelphia, 29 E. Allen Street

Epik High at The Fillmore Philadelphia

Sunday, March 19, 2023 | 8 p.m.

South Korean trio Epik High tours behind its recently released EP Strawberry.

For two decades, Epik High has influenced Korean music, with popular K-pop act B.T.S. citing them as an influence.

Where: The Fillmore Philadelphia, 29 E. Allen Street

Future & Friends at the Wells Fargo Center

Friday, March 24, 2023 | 7 p.m.

One of the most prolific artists of the last decade, Future’s signature Autotune trap has come to define the genre.

Not a year has gone by without new music since Future’s first release in 2010.

This year, he heads on a nationwide tour featuring surprise supporting acts for each city.

Any guesses for Philly?

Where: Wells Fargo Center, 3601 S. Broad Street

Young Nudy at Brooklyn Bowl

Saturday, March 25, 2023 | 8 p.m.

Hot off the release of his February 2023 project, GUMBO — which included a rare collab with Key Glock — Atlanta artist Young Nudy hit the rap scene running as a featured artist on several Billboard hits.

(Oh, and despite being related to 21 Savage, Nudy takes a more playful approach to his rap style.)

Where: Brooklyn Bowl Philadelphia, 1009 Canal Street

Cuco at Union Transfer

Wednesday, March 29, 2023 | 8 p.m.

Chicano artist Cuco takes you on a journey with lo-fi hip-hop beats to relax and dance to.

Known for blending bossa nova and indie pop with trap music and smooth rap, the Lo Que Siento rapper creates a euphoric musical landscape as wide as his imagination.

Where: Union Transfer, 1026 Spring Garden Street

Bktherula at the Foundry

Wednesday, March 29, 2023 | 8 p.m.

At this point, TikTok royalty Bktherula is known for her aesthetic as much as she is for her flow and she keeps fans on their toes by bringing a different sound and vocal style to everything she touches.

Basically, she’s in a mood.

Nick Cannon’s Future Superstar Tour at The Fillmore

Wednesday, April 5, 2023 | 6 p.m.

Nick Cannon brings the next generation of musical talent to The Fillmore with his Future Superstar Tour.

The rising stars shaking up the game include Symba, 24kGoldn, Big Boss Vette and many more.

Each ticket also includes access to a youth-focused Future Superstar seminar featuring a panel of entertainment industry leaders.

Where: The Fillmore Philadelphia, 29 E. Allen Street

Legendz of the Streetz at The Liacouras Center

Friday, April 14, 2023 | 7 p.m.

Throw it all the way back as a number of hip-hop legends, including TI, Jeezy, Gucci Mane and Cam’ron visit North Broad Street for an evening of throwback jams and hip-hop anthems.

Cue the DJ air horn noise.

Where: The Liacouras Center, 1776 N. Broad Street

Sean Paul at Brooklyn Bowl

Saturday, April 15, 2023 | 8 p.m.

If you were conscious in the past 20 years, you got down with Sean Paul.

One of the most prolific artists of the era, the Jamaican rapper popularized the dancehall genre throughout the U.S., and has collaborated with Beyoncé, Sia and Dua Lipa.

Where: Brooklyn Bowl Philadelphia, 1009 Canal Street

Lil Wayne at The Fillmore

Monday, April 17, 2023 | 8 p.m.

With five Grammys, 11 BET Awards, four Billboard Music Awards and over 120 million records sold, this artist needs no introduction.

Lil Wayne brings his lyrical prowess and earworm-y hooks to The Fillmore this April.

Where: The Fillmore Philadelphia, 29 E. Allen Street

Rico Nasty at the Theatre of Living Arts

Thursday, April 20, 2023 | 8 p.m.

How many rappers are out there bridging hip-hop with nu metal?

Progenitor of the sugar trap genre, punk rapper Rico Nasty takes her raspy, cutthroat flow and redefines everything you know about rap music.

Where: Theatre of The Living Arts, 334 South Street

Lecrae at the Theatre of Living Arts

Friday, May 12, 2023 | 7 p.m.

Lecrae doesn’t do the most, but he does a lot.

When he isn’t busy being a music producer, a social activist and an entrepreneur, Houston artist Lecrae shows us how he became the first rapper ever to win Best Gospel Artist at the BET Awards.

Where: Theatre of The Living Arts, 334 South Street

Eladio Carrión at The Fillmore

Friday, June 2, 2023 | 8 p.m.

Eladio Carrión has had folks bouncing ever since his Vine days.

The Puerto Rican trap and reggaeton artist has collabed with artists locally and all around the world, including Bad Bunny and Karol G, introducing new generations into the world of Latin hip-hop.

Where: The Fillmore Philadelphia, 29 E. Allen Street

The Roots Picnic

June 2-4, 2023

The annual music festival curated by and named for Philly hip-hop band The Roots always has the most exciting lineup, highlighting both groundbreaking up-and-comers and legendary acts alike — plus a podcast stage.

For the 2023 festival, attendees can look forward to performances from the legendary Ms. Lauryn Hill, the one-and-only Diddy (performing with The Roots!) and Philly’s own Lil Uzi Vert.

Did we mention Busta Rhymes, Eve, Roy Ayers and The Isley Brothers? Whew.

Where: The Mann Center, 5201 Parkside Avenue

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