Early this morning, many internet users got a special treat when they visited Google.com: today's Doodle was a homage to one of the greatest genres of music on earth, hip-hop. Hosted by the legendary Fab 5 Freddy, users were not only treated to a fun history lesson on the beginnings of hip-hop, but there's an interactive DJ setup featuring two turntables, a crate of records, and a number of blends to crossfade in and out of. You can even get your scratch on.
Now, we imagine that many of you grew up with hip-hop already being a thing, and might not realize that today, Aug. 11, 1973 is considered the official birthdate of hip-hop, making the genre 44 years old. "Wait, what?" you might be asking. That's right, though; Google's edutaining hip-hop Doodle wasn't just randomly dropped on a Friday in August. It's here for a reason, and if you need some help understanding why today was chosen, your buddy Old Man khal's got you covered.
How did Aug. 11 become hip-hop's birthday, anyway?
It's weird to pin a specific date on a genre of music, and while the elements of hip-hop (graffiti, DJing, breakdancing, and MCing) existed in some form before Aug. 11, 1973, hip-hop historians point to this one particular party (a "back to school jam") thrown by DJ Kool Herc at 1520 Sedgewick Avenue in the Bronx as the date that all of the elements came together to create what we now call hip-hop.
The importance of DJ Kool Herc
Clive Campbell, a.k.a. the Jamaican-American DJ known as DJ Kool Herc (which was an evolution of the nickname "Hercules" that he picked up in the neighborhood), was instrumental in the creation of the sound of hip-hop. Not only did his Jamaican roots bring forth the idea of having a DJ (or "selector") rapping (or "toasting") over the music they were playing, but he also brought the reggae sound system set-up to parties. What Herc was mostly known for was what he dubbed the "Merry-Go Round," a technique that he used to elongate certain parts of funk records that the kids on the dance floor would lose their shit to. That section of the record is also known as "the break" (or "the get down," word to Baz Luhrmann) and those sections of these funk records became popularly known as "breakbeats."
The beauty of Herc's set-up was that once he would find that section of the record, he would create a loop live in front of the crowd using the two turntables and the crossfader on the mixer, allowing the dancers to go ballistic to the extended breakbeat.
Is Aug. 11, 1973 the only recognized birthday of hip-hop?
Actually, no. During an interview with Narduwar, Universal Zulu Nation leader Afrika Bambataa said that the birthday of hip-hop was Nov. 12, 1974. Why Nov. 12? Bambataa explained it simply: that was "when we decided to call this whole culture hip-hop. Hip-hop even goes further than that, but we decided to name it hip-hop as a culture, meaning with the b-boys, the b-girls, the MCs, the aerosol writers, graffiti artists and the DJs and that fifth element that holds it all together."
When Nardwuar pressed further, Bambataa explained "that's the date that I decided we should name this as a whole culture and start moving from there. November was the time where people used to party inside in the centers or community gymnasiums or many of the inside clubs that we had and where people would come and have an enjoyment time. Everybody got together and got down to the hip-hop music that was being played by all the great pioneers at that time."
How do we get hip-hop's birthday to become a federal holiday?
If you want to get hip-hop's birthday (or any date) turned into a federal holiday, you need to get Congress on your side. While Slate says that a president can write an executive order to declare a one-time holiday, we doubt that Trump is going to back hip-hop getting a federal holiday. You have to get congressional approval to declare something a federal holiday, but don't forget, it took years for the state of Arizona to recognize Martin Luther King Jr. Day, so things can get tricky.
How do we celebrate hip-hop's birthday?
Truth be told, that's up to you. If you're a hip-hop lover of an older demographic, you might throw on an Adidas tracksuit, get some crispy new (fat) laces for your Shell Toes and get your footwork on to some classic breakbeat-filled mixtapes. If you're from the West Coast, it might make more sense to throw on some creased khakis, Chucks, and pour up some O.E. to a mix of G-funk classics. Kids today might just find their current playlist and turn up to the sounds of Migos, Lil Yachty, Drake, and whoever else is ruling
the airwaves Spotify and Apple Music services today.
It's a perfect time to get loose and get your dance on.
However you choose to represent hip-hop's birthday, you should definitely give it up to Google for working on such an impressive, interactive tribute to this culture that's not only shaped the mainstream as we know it today, but made it possible for so many of us to make our way in the world. Happy birthday, hip-hop.