At first glance, the 18-story, red-brick building with about 100 apartments and barred windows is one of many such apartment blocks spread across New York. A freeway, railroad tracks and the Harlem River lie in front of the building, while two bridges above block the view of the Manhattan skyline. But “1520 Sedgwick Avenue,” according to the address emblazoned in large letters above the entrance, is not a block of flats like any other. Right here, on the southwestern edge of the Bronx, hip-hop is said to have been invented 50 years ago on Friday (August 11).

From the Bronx, hip-hop conquered the world, changing the history of music, clubs and fashion. Today it is – with all the variations that came from it – one of the most widespread music styles in the entertainment industry and has produced countless chart hits and stars with their own empires, such as Jay-Z, Beyoncé, Kanye West, Eminem or P. Diddy. Also musicians like Grandmaster Flash, Public Enemy, Kurtis Blow, the Sugarhill Gang and later the Wu-Tang Clan, Tupac Shakur, Notorious B.I.G. and Wyclef Jean became world-renowned as the greats of the genre. The 50th anniversary of hip-hop will be celebrated in New York and around the world with events, concerts, exhibitions and auctions, among other things.

In August 1973, Cindy Campbell invited friends and acquaintances on lined index cards in spherical girls’ handwriting, as a photo of the flyer published by the “New York Times” shows. It was supposed to be a “Back to School Jam” from 9:00 p.m. to 4:00 a.m. in the common room at 1520 Sedgwick Avenue – now an officially listed city landmark. Admission was 25 cents for women and 25 cents for “fellas”, i.e. boys. 50. Star of the evening: Cindy’s big brother Clive, who owned a large record collection and had made a name for himself as “DJ Kool Herc” in the district.

Where will the Hip Hop Museum be located?

The party turned into a “revolution”, as the “New York Magazine” writes, “for hip-hop fans the history of this party is sacred”: The then 18-year-old DJ Kool Herc did not play the complete songs on his records, but only the instrumental parts between the vocals, which the party guests could dance to best. A friend grabbed a microphone and started rapping along, even though the term didn’t even exist at the time – hip-hop was born. Party-goers couldn’t get enough of it, remembers now 68-year-old DJ Kool Herc. “There was no turning back.”

Half a century later, hip-hop is now even making it into the museum: About four kilometers south of 1520 Sedgwick Avenue, the “Universal Hip-Hop Museum” (UHHM), which costs around 80 million dollars (about 73 million euros), is being built and is about to open is currently planned for 2024. Director Rocky Bucano is already enthusiastic about “another milestone for hip-hop”, which should also bring more visitors and a boost to the Bronx overall. “Tourists from all over the world will come here,” says Bucano. “Hip-hop is now a global phenomenon, it’s transcendent, it’s transformative, and it just keeps growing and growing.”

How did hip hop come about?

The fact that hip-hop was able to emerge at all was also made possible by an event that has largely been forgotten today – the Hoe Avenue peace meeting in 1971, says author Julian Voloj, who was born in Münster and lives in New York. At that time, the Bronx was paralyzed by the crime of rival gangs. A former band member, Cornell “Black Benjie” Benjamin, tried to mediate and died at the age of just 25. The reaction to this was a peace meeting, which at least temporarily calmed down crime and freed up space in the neighborhood for other things.

Author Voloj, who was recently honored by the city of New York for his services, knows many of those involved personally, made a graphic novel out of the story and was also there when the stretch of road in the center of the Bronx where Benjamin died in 1971 , was renamed “Cornell “Black Benjie” Benjamin Way” at a big party in June.

“I’m completely overwhelmed by the gratitude,” says Benjamin’s niece Angelique Lenox, who also celebrated. Her uncle was a “peacemaker” and thus helped pave the way for the emergence of hip-hop. “These gang members had to find other ways to get rid of their energy after the peace deal, other things to do. And at the same time, the peace deal allowed them to move around the neighborhood freely and show themselves – and all of that led to the creation of the Hip hop.”

Information on the Universal Hip-Hop Museum