The birth of Hip-Hop infused a flavor element into the world that not everyone was prepared for. As hip hop turns 50 years old today, huge corporations, giant companies, and everyone in between is celebrating a genre of music that once was deemed a fad. No one could anticipate the soul-filled, compassionate talent that would soon become a force to be reckoned with.

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As a self-certified hip-hop head myself, I personally feel a sense of gratitude for the music that raised me. As a troubled child abandoned by my parents and raised by my granny, I always searched for something to love. My grandma, her mother, and my aunt raised me in the church, hoping to keep me from falling to the streets and set a solid foundation that would one day come in handy. Hip-Hop wasn’t played in my home, and the first glimpse I received was from my older brother, who was seven years my senior. He bought my first tape. Janet Jackson Control from the mall. One day in 1986, when I was just seven years old, I went to visit my father’s side of the family, which was a lot more colorful, to say the least. My cousin Sharon ushered me to her grandma’s old wooden record player and played ‘La Di Da Di’ by Slick Rick and Doug E. Fresh. We played the record the entire day. I was sad to go home because none of that was cooking in my house, and I wanted more. I found my aunt Mildred’s electric can opener, which had a radio attached to it, and discovered DJ Red Alert, and it was over. I was addicted to hip-hop. My big brother, who was way cooler than me, would tell me what was ‘real’ and who was biting— and I listened. For the next few years, I soaked up every snare, R&B remix, and lyric hip hop had to offer. I’d race home to adjust the hanger on the TV to watch Video Music Box on the in-between channel, and that was the highlight of my day. But when I fixed my brother’s broken cassette tape and popped his NWA Niggaz4Life in my headphones—I couldn’t believe the nasty filth that came out of their mouths. And I loved it. I would rap all the lyrics in school and church to my friends and indefinitely got into trouble after. 

Hip-Hop kept me busy and somewhat out of trouble. I waited for the hottest releases and saved up money for what are now considered classics. For me, it was Queen Latifah who inserted a pride into me I never had before. MC Lyte’s style and flow let me know it was OK to be different. I even listened to everyone from Snow Informer to Lil Vicious Freaks against my older brother’s advice because I listened to it all.


When my mother resurfaced seven years later, I moved to New York City, and could never fathom how far hip-hop would carry me. From working at the Mart 125 on 125th Street at 14 years old doing nails for Dr. Khalid Muhammad and Bobby Brown, babysitting Ason Unique’s (ODB) seeds in Harlem, to meeting Monifah and Marquee there, who introduced Kelis and I to a new producer named Pharrell. From cracking jokes with Big L to working at Rawkus Records and traveling the world with Talib Kweli, Slaughterhouse, Kelis, and MF DOOM. From hosting a hit show on XM radio with one of my favorite journalists, Bonz Malone, called Spitkickers where we had classic rappers freestyle live on air to now writing at the magazine I once hoarded—I’ve been through a lot!

As hip-hop turns 50 years old, I want to thank ALL the hip-hop artists who spent countless hours in the studio and away from their families creating music that we connected to….music that made us feel, love, and gave many of us a reason to live.  

From The Notorious B.I.G., Salt N Pepa, J.J. Fad, Public Enemy, Nas, Black Sheep, Wu-Tang, Lil Kim, DMX to Royce Da 5’9”, The Roots, Jay-Z, Snoop Dogg, 2pac, M.O.P., The Lox,—-too many to name.

We Salute and love you, and we give a huge Happy Bornday to HIP HOP!

Check out some of the hip-hop songs below that changed my life.

That one time I appeared on a classic album.

And check out my bars at the end of Talib Kweli’s ‘Fly the Knot’

What songs would you add?