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Hip-hop at 50: A history of explosive musical and cultural innovation

Illustration by Jackie Lay

On August 11, 1973, a young innovative DJ rocked a modest party for fellow teenagers in a small community room in a Bronx apartment building. What Kool Herc did behind the turntables at that back-to-school party helped ignite a music we now know as hip-hop. That spark — and the cultural explosion that followed — is what we're celebrating today, 50 years later.

There are so many ways of looking at this history, so All Things Considered has decided to mark the 50 years of hip-hop by zeroing in on moments that illustrate how the genre became a dominant musical force that has infused almost every corner of mainstream culture.

Through interviews and music, this long listen traces significant moments in hip-hop history from that party in 1973, to the first hip-hop record deal, the debut of Yo! MTV Raps, the rise of hip-hop in the South and the new era of music technology that has brought hip-hop direct to fans on the internet.

Click the button above to listen.

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Juana Summers
Juana Summers is a political correspondent for NPR covering race, justice and politics. She has covered politics since 2010 for publications including Politico, CNN and The Associated Press. She got her start in public radio at KBIA in Columbia, Mo., and also previously covered Congress for NPR.