50 years ago this month, the art of hip-hop was brand new, just beginning to take shape.
At the time, the underground art form was dominated by artists like DJ Kool Herc, a DJ who gained notoriety for his “merry-go-round” technique. In the last five decades, the art form has changed with artists like Drake and Megan Thee Stallion dominating the industry.
In a new book called “Ode to Hip-Hop: 50 Albums That Define 50 years of Trailblazing Music,” music journalist and culture critic Kiana Fitzgerald documents the history of the art form and how it went from underground pioneers to become dominated by modern superstars.
She joined Texas Standard to discuss. Listen to the interview above or read the transcript below.
This transcript has been edited lightly for clarity:
Texas Standard: Could you say a little bit more about hip-hop’s origins?
Kiana Fitzgerald: Absolutely.
So DJ Kool Herc is kind of at the very beginning of hip-hop’s creation. Of course, things were kind of churning in the early seventies, which is when he kind of started to experiment with his techniques. And as things started to transform, we began to see things kind of deal with more of a sense of permanence.
It wasn’t just like the park jams and the parties that hip-hop started out in. It started to become something that was much more tangible, something that could be held in your hand, in a, you know, a record or anything like that.
» RELATED: Houston celebrates 50 years of hip-hop
You know, when I think of the breakout moment for hip-hop, for some reason I feel like a lot of folks sort of point to Grandmaster Flash, but I know that that’s pretty limited. What do you consider to be the sort of the moment at which during this arc of 50 years, hip-hop becomes mainstream?
Yeah, I would say that a very big moment that you just mentioned was Grandmaster Flash and Furious Five – “The Message.” I think that’s when hip-hop started to transform from this party-oriented kind of genre into something much more serious that deals with societal issues.
Goodness, there are so many examples, but I think it really depends on what angle you’re coming from. So I would say Run-D.M.C., anything from their debut album is very representative of a breakthrough moment for hip-hop.