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New Haven Hip-Hop Conference explores the genre's genesis 50 years ago

 The Cold Crush Brothers (above), established by 1973, are "The reason we know hip hop, because they're the ones that made hip hop international," says Dr. Hanan Hameen-Diop.
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The Cold Crush Brothers (above), established by 1973, are "the reason we know hip-hop, because they're the ones that made hip-hop international," Dr. Hanan Hameen-Diop said.

Where did hip-hop start? When? What factors came together to make hip hop happen? Those are just some of the questions that will be answered at the sixth New Haven Hip-Hop Conference taking place on Juneteenth.

This year, 2023, marks the 50th anniversary of hip-hop. More specifically, 1973 is the year that hip-hop became a cultural phenomenon. But what led up to that moment 50 years ago in the South Bronx, when DJ Kool Herc used two turntables to mix a syncopated drum break with funk records by the likes of James Brown?

“Hip-hop started in the '60s,” said Dr. Hanan Hameen-Diop, the organizer of the event.

Her reasoning?

“Because the Cold Crush Brothers were already established in 1973," Hameen-Diop said "Cold Crush Brothers are the reason we know hip hop, because they’re the ones that made hip hop international.”

Getting to the roots of any musical genre can be a chaotic process. Take rock and roll, for instance. Scholars agree the genre came together from a host of influences — most notably jazz, blues, boogie-woogie and gospel. But what was the first rock 'n' roll record? The answer varies wildly.

The same is true in hip-hop. Hameen-Diop said the problem is that too often the genre’s origins are muddied by people making false claims — about who played at a certain club back in the day, or one of those now-famous parties in the South Bronx where hip hop started. Or artists claiming to be the first to introduce elements of the genre.

“A lot of people are placing themselves where they weren’t,” Hameen-Diop said. “A lot of people are saying they were there at the beginning, but were you even born yet? So the names of those artists who were really there, and did the work, are being lost because of people who are portraying themselves as something they are not.”

Hameen-Diop hopes this year’s hip-hop conference will sift through the false claims to get at the heart of the genre.

“We have to be very clear, and people have to be very careful about what they say, and when things happened,” Hameen-Diop said. “That’s been our goal from the beginning: To tell the true history, and show where all the pieces fit in, in a respectful manner, in an intellectual manner, in a scholarly manner.”

The New Haven Hip-Hop Conference is free and begins Monday at 10 a.m. at the Neighborhood Music School on Audubon Street.

Ray Hardman is Connecticut Public’s Arts and Culture Reporter. He is the host of CPTV’s Emmy-nominated original series Where Art Thou? Listeners to Connecticut Public Radio may know Ray as the local voice of Morning Edition, and later of All Things Considered.

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