From engaging music, to dancing, food offerings and clothing choices – such as Kangols, Adidas, and hats to the back – the National Mall was transformed into a celebration of hip-hop culture on Aug. 12, as a crowd of over 10,000 people flocked to the National Museum of African American History and Culture’s (NMAAHC) Hip Hop Block Party.

First ladies of rap perform (left to right) Queen Latifah, Mumu Fresh, Remy Ma, Monie Love (Courtesy photo/Keith Moore, Jr. – Global Keith TV)

Major artists such as  Kid Capri, Queen Latifah, Monie Love, Remy Ma, and Sugar Bear rocked the stage to the delight of attendees of all ages and cultures– with people traveling from near and far to commemorate 50 years of hip hop. 

With 85,000 square feet of museum exhibition space and performance areas located on the grounds of the Washington Monument, the incredible talent roster was only the start of the entertainment experience.  Spanning a 12-hour period from 11:00am-11:00pm, hip hop themed activations included; hip hop yoga, the art of rhyme, hip hop trivia, film screenings, design your own bling, and a live sneaker cleaning & foot expo.  The food court offered hip hop themed signature dishes created specifically for the event, each named after a notable moment within the musical genre.

Jenney Fazande was one of the event attendees and stressed the importance of a national celebration of 50 years of hip hop.

“Hip hop was not originally respected as a form of music or expression.  Yet, if you know the history of music, it all has African roots.  Hip hop has expertly mixed sounds from all genres of music.  That in part is the secret of its longevity,” Fazande, 39, said.

Watching the intergenerational celebration offered a sense of nostalgia for some attendees like Suntrana Allen. 

“Looking at the little kids dance to music from hip hop legends, watching people all around me recite lines to the hip hop classics I love, it’s just a vibe, it’s a culture,” Allen, 46. “It’s so nostalgic the way that music takes us back to where we were when we first heard it and how it made us feel.”  

Though she is  a fan of hip hop legends like Biz Markie, Kool Moe D and Lil’ Kim, Allen expressed hope for the current state of hip hop.  

“Although it could hold more substance, we have to let this generation have their form of hip hop remembering that our parents similarly frowned upon our form of hip hop,” she said.

VIP guests were treated to a private reception hosted by media personality, EZ Street.  A 27- year veteran in radio, EZ Street emphasized the importance of this historic moment in hip hop.  

EZ Street kept VIPs dancing and rapping along with a music lineup of hip hop classics. (Courtesy photo/ Keith Moore, Jr. – Global Keith TV)

“Hip hop is the center of music culture worldwide,” EZ Street told the Informer. “Afrika Bambaataa, in my documentary, ‘The Sankofa Hip Hop Project,’ recounted how he very intentionally spread hip hop music to other parts of the world so that it would be reproduced worldwide in different styles, languages, and cultures. From Africa, to Jamaica, to Brazil, to countries around the world, Afrika Bambaataa’s influence on hip hop continues to this day.”  

While honoring rap’s founding fathers, EZ Street said it is also important to look to hip hop’s present and future. 

 “Rap is a young man’s sport.  Every era of hip hop has had a problem with the last era.  The 70s had a problem with 80s rap, 90s had a problem with new millennium rap.  Current hip hop is this generation’s expression of their life experiences and for that, even if we disagree with some of it, we have to respect it,” he explained. 

“This generation is the culmination of the dreams of the original rap pioneers,” EZ Street continued. “ In Rapper’s Delight and early hip hop, all the wealth and fame that rap founding fathers spoke about achieving, this generation of artists has.  In many ways, this generation of rap is the hope and dream of the hip hop pioneers.”

The stage area on the grounds of the Washington Monument held an air of electricity mixed with deep respect.  The thousands of attendees high-fived each other, rapped in unison with the performers, and formed fast friendships.  

One of the highlights of the block party was the live performances by many legends of hip hop.  DJ and producer J. Period brought the crowd to a frenzy with a ladies of rap performance, featuring; Mumu Fresh, Monie Love, Remy Ma, and surprise guest Queen Latifah.  

Hearing thousands of people in unison rap well-loved songs, including, “Ladies First” and “Lean Back,” the event, for many, was transformative.  

NMAAHC’s Hip Hop 50th Block Party offered a wealth of experiences that engaged all five senses, offering a constant flood of memories, feelings, and emotions that accompanied timeless music.  

“The great thing about hip hop is that it allows you to feel,” said attendee Aneeya Avi, 21, summing up the block party. “It empowers people to talk about their experiences.  It is our very own form of storytelling.”

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