Hip-hop is 50! Dallas celebrates music and culture

When Andrea Tosten was hired at the Oak Cliff Cultural Center at the beginning of the year, she brought a big idea with her: promoting the 50th anniversary of hip-hop.

August 11 is the official birthday of the music and subculture that started in 1973, and Dallas is ready to party.

Tosten said her idea was inspired by Rosa Clemente after seeing the PBS series,“Fight the Power: How Hip-Hop Changed the World.” Clemente is an independent journalist, commentator, scholar-activist and was the Green Party’s vice-presidential candidate in 2008.

The hip-hop celebration was one of the first things she wanted to plan, Tosten said. She is the cultural programs coordinator for the center.

Andrea Tosten, a young woman smiling at the camera

Jordan Fraker

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Courtesy of Andrea Tosten

Andrea Tosten is a visual artist and visionary behind the Dallas hip-hop celebration through the Oak Cliff Cultural Center. She leaned on her Jamaican roots to help show the early influences of hip-hop.

“When I started in late January, early February 2023,” she said, “I discussed the initial overall idea, including the list of films and the reggae connection, with Rafael Tamayo, manager of the Oak Cliff Cultural Center.”

Back in the day, Tamayo was a rapper known as Ekzile, he said.

Tamayo invited Tosten to watch the documentary “We From Dallas,” reviewing the who’s-who of Dallas hip-hop originators. He then put her in touch with some of those local artists and DJs.

Their collaboration led to more research and resources. And in short order, Tosten teamed up with other venues to create a monthlong celebration.

“We have four cultural centers and we’re all really tight-knit,” she said. “The coordinators work together really, really well.”

Not just the Dallas cultural centers. The Dallas Public Library, the Texas Theatre, Top Ten Records and Dallas City Hall are also venues for this series.

“Andrea embodies immense talent as an artist, displaying remarkable creativity and unwavering passion for her craft in the realm of arts,” said Karla Barthelmy, cultural programs coordinator of the South Dallas Cultural Center. “Collaborating with her on this project, as well as future endeavors, is an absolute privilege.”

How hip-hop started

Back onAugust 11, 1973, a young Jamaican immigrant named Clive Campbell, known asDJ Kool Herc, helped his little sister Cindy earn some back-to-school money with a community party in their Bronx neighborhood.

He incorporated reggae influences and experimented with mixing soul and funk music on double turntables. His breakbeat extensions gave dancers more time to show off their moves. For many, this is the birth of hip-hop and the cultural changes that followed.

Check out theGoogle doodle and tutorial created for hip-hop’s birthday in 2017. It explains how Herc began the new musical style and gives hands-on lessons for music mixing with virtual turntables.

DJ Kool Herc — considered “a founding father of hip-hop music” — was inducted in May into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

Barthelmy’s family immigrated to the United States from St. Lucia in the late 1990s.

“Hip-hop has served as a vital link for me in comprehending Black American culture,” she said. “When I moved to America as a young child, adapting to my new Brooklyn surroundings proved to be quite challenging. However, hip-hop came to my rescue, allowing me to embrace its rhythmic flow and cultivate a sense of belonging.”

Hip-hop’s 50th birthday celebration

With enough nostalgia to wear out your Adidas Superstars, Tosten curated a retrospective of 1980s subculture with some of the most iconic, and sometimes controversial, films of that decade.

The progressive festival starts with a documentary of the Dallas hip-hop scene and a week of reggae flicks that sync with Jamaican Independence Day on August 6.

Then there’s a second week of films spotlighting hip-hop culture. The celebration culminates with panel discussions and performances to bring the genre full-circle back to the present.

“I wanted to go back to the really early days of when it started,” she said, “and just let people know where hip-hop came from. And connect it to the present-day performances.”

Tosten said her own heritage has influenced this project.

“My mom’s from Jamaica,” she said. “I love finding these connections to Jamaica and the U.S. with the civil rights movement, music, culture, all these kinds of things that were influenced by the small island.”

All Dallas anniversary events for hip-hop’s 50th are free on a first-come-first-served basis, with preregistration encouraged for some venues.

The Oak Cliff Cultural Center, a division of the tax-supported Dallas Office of Arts and Culture, is funding most of the events, Tosten said.

Graphic art of a blue, yellow and red boom box with large letters above it saying,

Artist: Agustín Chavez (Dummyfresh)

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Courtesy of Oak Cliff Cultural Center

The Oak Cliff Cultural Center leads the celebration of hip-hop’s 50th birthday with events at various Dallas venues throughout August.

Dallas hip-hop history

Wednesday, August 2 — 7:30 p.m.

Latino Cultural Center, 2600 Live Oak St., Dallas

“We From Dallas” (2014)

This local documentary introduces Dallas hip-hop trailblazers and influencers, who created new forms of art, entertainment and style — including Apples, a young rapper later known as Erykah Badu. Some artists and DJs appear in discussions or performances during the month of free events.

A Q&A panel discussion follows the screening, featuring Kottonmouth Jesse, Cold Cris and Picnictyme. Islam Sesalem, a producer for the documentary, organized the panel, said Oak Cliff Cultural Center’s Andrea Tosten.

Reggae films

Thursday, August 3 — 7:30 p.m.

South Dallas Cultural Center, 3400 S. Fitzhugh Ave., Dallas

“Babylon” (1980)

A young London reggae club DJ fights racism and oppression in this British cult film. Predating Spike Lee’s “Do the Right Thing” by almost 10 years, “Babylon” was considered so controversial that it was first released in Britain with an X rating, ensuring that only people over 18 could see it. The movie was banned in the U.S. for almost 40 years and was finally released in 2019 for an American audience.

Tosten said she could see the connections of reggae and hip-hop with the sound system battles and the history of Jamaican dub music, playing reggae tracks and speaking over the rhythm. “Very similar to hip-hop,” she said.

Friday, August 4 — 7:30 p.m.

South Dallas Cultural Center, 3400 S. Fitzhugh Ave., Dallas

“Rockers” (1978)

A reggae Robin Hood story about a group of musicians — artists playing themselves — who set out to take back their neighborhood from gangsters. The film features Richard “Horsemouth” Wallace, Burning Spear, Kiddus I and others with additional music from Bunny Wailer, Peter Tosh and more.

“Much like hip-hop today,” Tosten said, “there’s kind of lamenting about how rap music used to be about something a little bit revolutionary. And now it’s more about dancing and sex and getting rich and things like that. So, reggae and hip-hop have these similarities and trajectory.”

Saturday, August 5 — 1 p.m.

J. Erik Jonsson Central Library, 1515 Young St., Dallas

“The Harder They Come” (1972)

Jimmy Cliff plays a young reggae artist seeking stardom in Kingston while brawling with drug dealers, crooked cops and ruthless record executives. The film includes a killer reggae soundtrack.

“Jimmy Cliff, one of the originators of reggae music,” Tosten said. “Yeah, we have to show that one.”

Hip-hop films and performances

Tuesday, August 8 — 7:30 p.m.

Bath House Cultural Center, 521 E. Lawther Dr., Dallas

“Wild Style” (1982)

A rap-and-break-dance contest needs a bangin’ backdrop. Shot in documentary style, the film spotlights New York’s underground subculture of graffiti artists, rappers and break-dancers in the early 1980s. It features Grandmaster Flash, Fab Five Freddy and Busy Bee Starski.

Graffiti artist Chimi will introduce the film to focus on that element of hip-hop culture, Tosten said.

Wednesday, August 9 — 7:30 p.m.

Texas Theatre, 231 W. Jefferson Blvd., Dallas

“Beat Street” (1984)

Gang wars are replaced by rapping and break-dancing throwdowns on New York streets, trains, subway platforms and clubs. This 35-millimeter film highlights graffiti art, boom boxes and scratch-mixing, OG style.Register for free tickets.

DJ Kool Herc appears with other influential artists.

Thursday, August 10 — 1 p.m.

Dallas City Hall, 1500 Marilla St., Dallas

Celebrate hip-hop in the lobby at Dallas City Hall with a performance by RockSolid Crew, panel discussions, DJ sets and more, said Tosten.

Thursday, August 10 — 7:30 p.m.

Texas Theatre, 231 W. Jefferson Blvd., Dallas

“Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo” (1984)

Break-dancers unite to stop a developer from overrunning their neighborhood, a throwback to today’s building boom. Street dancing, leg warmers and headbands rule in this hip-hop musical.Register for free tickets.

“A lot of people are really excited about that one,” Tosten said. “I thought it was great because the storyline is about young people fighting developers to save their community center.”

Friday, August 11 — 5 p.m.

Oak Cliff Cultural Center, 223 W. Jefferson Blvd., Dallas

DJ EZ Eddie D — host of KNON-FM’s hip-hop show since 1987 — leads a panel discussion with surprise guests.

Friday, August 11 — 8 p.m.

Oak Cliff Cultural Center, 223 W. Jefferson Blvd., Dallas

Battle Grounds hosts open-style and breakin’ battles as dancers feud for top spots and cash prizes.

“I envisioned the performances happening at OC3 from the start,” Tosten said, “because I want to have a house party feel to the events. Our facilities can accommodate intimate performances.”

DJ EZ Eddie D -- in long dreadlocks, wearing a green cap backwards -- stands in a radio studio, talking into a microphone during his hip-hop program.

Future Visions Photography

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Courtesy of DJ EZ Eddie D

DJ EZ Eddie D hosts “the longest-running hip-hop show in the world,” according to his website. He leads a panel discussion about the music and culture at the Oak Cliff Cultural Center on August 11.

Saturday, August 12 — 5 p.m.

Top Ten Records, 338 W. Jefferson Blvd., Dallas

DJ Storm hosts a hip-hop record lounge.

Saturday, August 12 — 8 p.m.

Oak Cliff Cultural Center, 223 W. Jefferson Blvd., Dallas

Money Waters performs with DJ Leo J. Doors open at 7.

DJ Leo J looks at the camera, standing under a lighted marquee overhead. He wears a black t-shirt that says

Karlo X Ramos

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Courtesy of Oak Cliff Cultural Center

DJ Leo J performs at the Oak Cliff Cultural Center with Money Waters on August 12.

“I was very drawn to Money Waters’ flow and personality and was so excited when he agreed to perform,” Tosten said.

Waters gathered a host of those legacy Dallas hip-hop artists for his 2022 music video, “SALLAD” — Dallas spelled backwards. The DOC, Gatormain, Mr. Lucci, & Kottonmouth Jesse are featured in the song from “The Porch II” album.

Waters said he is honored to be a part of the 50th-year celebration of hip-hop, especially in D-FW.

“Personally, hip-hop has been the soundtrack of my life,” he said. “Adidas is my daily attire because, as a child, I saw Run-DMC sporting leather hats and a fresh pair with no laces, live at Reunion Arena. As an artist, hip-hop has taken me all over the country.”

Money Waters in Atlanta with Chuck D of Public Enemy.

Earlnette Johnson

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Courtesy of Money Waters

Money Waters (left) in Atlanta with Chuck D of Public Enemy. Tosten said, “He just continues to connect the hip-hop and rap community.”

Thursday, August 17 — 12 noon

Oak Cliff Cultural Center, 223 W. Jefferson Blvd., Dallas

Rosa Clemente — the inspiration for this festival — talks with Marta Torres about the “Journey of a Hip-Hop Feminist” in a virtual and in-person presentation. Seating is limited, and audience members can join the conversation virtually. Tosten said the link will be announced when it is available.

The festival has evolved “beyond my vision as excitement continues to build,” she said.

“The arts community is coming together to make Dallas’ celebration of hip-hop great!”

All events are free. Remember to arrive early.

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