Beats & Rhymes: Celebrating The 50th Year Of Hip-Hop

By Edwin Freeman

Photos: FreemanMediaGroup

As an actor, I’ve been blessed to portray iconic hip-hop figures like legendary DJ Mister Cee in Notorious. As a director, I’ve now had the honor of helming the documentary Beats & Lyrics: The Essence of Rap, which dives into the 50-year history and impact of hip-hop music, as we celebrate the first months of hip-hop’s 50th anniversary year.

The inauguration date for the 50th anniversary was this past August 11, 2023, marking a half-century since hip-hop’s humble beginnings at a birthday party in the Bronx in 1973. From block parties to a global force, hip-hop has evolved tremendously over the past five decades.

Through interviews with pioneers like Sadat X and Blahzay Blahzay, and seminal women rappers like Pretty Dij and La Bruja, Beats & Lyrics chronicles the history and influence of rap’s roots in African American oral traditions. We explore how hip-hop gave voice to marginalized communities and furthered social justice.

But as hip-hop went mainstream, we’ve seen its power diluted. Misogyny and materialism have crept in, obscuring hip-hop’s resonant foundations built by legends who spoke truth. Where does hip-hop go from here? How can we keep it inclusive, fresh and socially relevant?

These are questions I hope Beats & Lyrics will spark dialogues around.

As an artist who found my voice through hip-hop, I’m committed to nurturing the DIY ethic, lyricism and truth-telling that made rap the voice of the streets. We need to celebrate the pioneering women who have always been part of hip-hop’s fabric, even if they haven’t gotten their due.

The next chapters of hip-hop’s story are still unwritten. With knowledge and love for the culture, we can empower the next generation to move hearts and minds for the next 50 years.

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