Returning to the birthplace of hip-hop, classic rappers who pioneered the sound, as well as those who have proudly carried the torch of rap, joined forces to honor the genre’s 50th anniversary and celebrate its historic and global impact on pop culture.
It was only fitting that a venue as iconic as the Bronx’s Yankee Stadium would become home to the eight-hour celebration, which included three dozen performers and nearly 50,000 audience members.
The universal love of rap was at the center of the night, with rappers like Nas and Snoop Dogg owning the night while honoring those who came before them.
During his set, Nas brought out the founding father of hip-hop, DJ Kool Herc, and told the crowd, “This is our love. This is our bloodline.” Herc, 68, earned a standing ovation and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame this year. Kool G Rap also appeared on stage alongside Nas, with the latter calling the former “my fucking inspiration.”
Lauryn Hill surprised the audience by performing her collaborations with Nas, “If I Ruled the World” and “Nobody”. She then delivered a ferocious rendition of some of her previous hits, including “Doo Wop (That Thing)” and the Fugees’ “Killing Me Softly” and “Ready or Not.” Nas removed his hat and bowed to Hill, who told the audience, “Happy birthday, hip-hop!” As Hill left the stage, Nas told her, “I love you queen.”
Snoop Dogg had a similar camaraderie on stage. The West Coast legend danced like a proud fan as Slick Rick performed and Doug E. Fresh pounded with passion and extreme skill as the crowd cheered, “Go, go, Dougie!” After EPMD performed during his set, Snoop Dogg thanked the rap kingpins “for what they’ve done for me.”
Snoop Dogg also featured DJ Hollywood and Too Short, whose performance wowed the crowd, as well as newer faces in hip-hop with FloMilli and Scar Lip. Wiz Khalifa also appeared on stage during Snoop Dogg’s set. When he performed the Paul Walker tribute song “See You Again”, the faces of rappers who have died appeared on the big screen, including the Notorious BIG, Tupac, DMX, Nipsey Hussle, Nate Dogg, Takeoff, Pop Smoke, XXXTentacion and more.
“Shout out to all the fallen soldiers,” Khalifa said. “Tonight is also about all of you.”
Taking the stage at 1:20 a.m. Saturday morning, Run-DMC closed out the historic event that began Friday at 6 p.m. with an explosive performance. Other featured performers included Lil Wayne, who garnered applause from the audience, and Fat Joe, who proudly performed shirtless, featuring KRS-One, Peter Gunz, Remy Ma and Ashanti.
A Boogie Wit Da Hoodie, who was born and raised in the Bronx, performed in and also received the New York City Council Proclamation. She happily held the framed honor above his head as the audience cheered for him.
Other artists included the Wu-Tang Clan, Ice Cube, Lil Kim, TI, Cam’ron, Mobb Deep’s Havoc, Trina, and more. Kid Capri surprised the audience with Yankees star Derek Jeter, who thanked the famous DJ for inviting him to the event.
“We’re here celebrating 50 years of hip-hop,” Jeter said. “At the same time, I want you to look forward to the next 50 years.”