meta-scriptFounding Father DJ Kool Herc & First Lady Cindy Campbell Celebrate Hip-Hop’s 50th Anniversary | GRAMMY.com
Dj Kool Herc and sister Cindy Campbell
DJ Kool Herc and Cindy Campbell in 2004

Photo: Johnny Nunez/WireImage

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Founding Father DJ Kool Herc & First Lady Cindy Campbell Celebrate Hip-Hop’s 50th Anniversary

In an interview with GRAMMY.com hip-hop pioneers DJ Kool Herc and Cindy Campbell discuss the culture's origins in their apartment rec room and the myriad ways their Jamaican heritage influenced hip-hop.

GRAMMYs/Jul 28, 2023 - 04:13 pm

On Aug. 11, 1973, high school student Cindy Campbell threw a party in the recreation room of her family’s Bronx apartment building to earn money for new back-to-school clothes. Cindy hand wrote invitations on index cards and charged a modest admission fee (25 cents for ladies, 50 cents for "fellas"); she asked her 18-year-old brother Clive to play the music. 

Clive, better known as DJ Kool Herc, set up his turntables, mixer, amplifiers and towering speaker boxes, which blared a mix of funk and soul records. Herc’s pal, Bronx native Coke La Rock, intermittently shouted out friends and quick rhymes over the records’ instrumental breaks to hype up the crowd. While the large turnout of their peers ensured Cindy would start the school year donning the latest fashions, the siblings had done something infinitely more important, Cindy and Herc sparked a movement.

The precise origin of any musical genre is rarely traceable to a single event. But Cindy and Herc’s party at 1520 Sedgwick Avenue, held 50 years ago, is widely recognized as laying the foundation upon which hip-hop was built.

"From my back-to-school party where my brother Herc played, his influence with the music, the songs, the beats that he chose, he knew he had something special there. He dominated the 1970s and created this thing that we call hip-hop," Cindy Campbell told GRAMMY.com in a recent phone interview, with Herc later joining the conversation. 

But the term hip-hop, which encompasses the movement’s four elements — emceeing or rapping, breakdancing, graffiti and turntabling — wouldn’t come into usage until several years after the back-to-school party took place.

Cindy says one of the most meaningful events in elevating hip-hop’s profile early on was the 1984 film Beat Street, which Harry Belafonte executive produced. "At one point, people didn’t know where hip-hop was going, it flew below the radar, but Harry did the movie because he knew something special was going on; it took hip-hop to another level and the music went international," she reflects. 

Decades later, hip-hop is celebrating multiple milestones and Herc will get his flowers.

On Nov. 3, DJ Kool Herc will be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in a ceremony held at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center. 

"I’d say it’s about damn time, but I ain’t mad at them because Willie Nelson is being inducted this year and he’s 90!" quips Herc. The Rock Hall identifies Herc, 67,  as one of the founders of hip-hop, but Herc offers a clarification: "I am the founding father of hip-hop," he asserts, "because no one else was doing this when I started."

A former graffiti artist whose tag was CLYDE (from his friends’ mispronunciation of Clive) AS KOOL (taken from a cigarette ad), Clive Campbell earned the nickname Hercules in high school for his imposing, brawny stature and excellence in sports. But it was Herc’s background as a dancer that led to his groundbreaking technique as a DJ. 

Behind the turntables, Herc paid close attention to the dancers at his parties and their responses to his musical selections; he noticed they were most excited by the song’s instrumental breaks. Building upon that observation, Herc utilized dual copies of the same record on two turntables, switching between them with a mixer and prolonging a song’s short percussive interval into an extended, hypnotic rhythmic loop. He called his distinctive approach the merry-go-round and it would influence other pioneering Bronx hip-hop DJs including Grandmaster Flash and Afrika Bambaataa.

"I had two copies of the same record and I went for the yolk, the butter. I found the beats, the break and I played that on all of the records," Herc recalls. "I didn’t have headphones at the time, but I could see the breaks on the record’s grooves and just went back and forth. Once the dancers heard that, all they wanted to hear were the breaks.  "Other DJs had records," offers Herc, "but I had a style that they didn’t have, Herc’s style, the merry-go-round."

Hip-Hop: Born From A Eclectic Soundscape

Like his father who was an avid record collector, Herc listened to an eclectic range of music: Prince Buster and the Skatalites’ classic Jamaican ska singles, Jim Reeves’ iconic country laments, soul nuggets and Top 40 hits. "Back in the day I listened to WWRL AM and [New York City radio legends] Frankie Crocker on WBLS FM and Cousin Brucie on WABC AM; I listened to Boz Scaggs, Three Dog Night, the Rolling Stones’ 'Sympathy for the Devil,'" Herc shared. 

Herc chose records according to their breaks, irrespective of genre, which he wove into an exhilarating soundscape that became hip-hop’s aural underpinning. "I came up on all of that music, no racism," explains Herc. "If you’re Chinese, Black, white, you are alright, we all bleed red, because Jamaica’s motto is  'Out Of Many One People.'"  

Clive and Cindy Campbell were born and raised in Jamaica’s capital city, Kingston; from an early age, they were exposed to the island’s sound system culture — a significant entertainment platform in Jamaica’s economically depressed communities. Sound systems (mobile discos) first appeared in Kingston in the late 1940s and proliferated throughout the 1950s and 1960s, initially playing American R&B records. However, the sound systems’ need for exclusive music accelerated Jamaica’s nascent recording industry, which led to the subsequent birth of ska, rocksteady, reggae and dancehall. 

Each sound employed a selector, who played the records, and an emcee or "deejay" in Jamaican parlance, who would rhyme or "toast" over the records’ instrumental segments. Early toasters such as Count Matchuki followed by King Stitt melded their Jamaican dialect with mimicking the radio jocks they heard on stations based in the southern U.S. that were beamed into the island. 

Clive and Cindy observed the most popular sound men of the era including Clement "Sir Coxsone" Dodd (Downbeat the Ruler), Duke Reid (Trojan) and most influential to Herc, George Edwards a.k.a. King George of King Edwards sound, as they set up their respective equipment in the afternoon ahead of the evenings’ dances. "King George, that’s how my ear developed, from listening to him," says Herc. 

The dances attracted huge crowds and generated income not just for the sound systems and the sessions’ promoters but for food and drink vendors, even tailors and dressmakers because many patrons purchased new clothes to look their best. 

"My father was very musically inclined, he had the latest music, went to parties and one of his good friends, Mr. Jim, was Coxsone Dodd’s brother," Cindy says. "We were too young to participate but our parents and family members talked about the experience. The dances were held outside so we saw how Jamaican people put on and promoted their dances, and what needed to be done to have a successful party. Those things had a tremendous influence on how we did our parties in the Bronx." 

Read more: Lighters Up! 10 Essential Reggae Hip-Hop Fusions

The Campbells migrated to the Bronx NY during the 1960s, their relocation led by Clive and Cindy’s mother, Nettie, as she pursued a nursing degree. Clive arrived in the Bronx in 1967. With the help of his father, Herc set up his own sound system, The Herculoids, its powerful, rumbling sonic replicating what he heard in his Kingston youth with one significant difference. "A lot of Jamaicans emphasize the bass to shake your waist. I like bass, but I like to break down the system because you have highs, you have mid-range and the bass, so I broke it down."

Herc spun primarily funk and soul, as well as the occasional rock record. "I played music, some for the old, some for the young. I call it grown folks’ style," Herc explains. "If I can dance to it, I am going to play it."

His merry-go-round technique transformed the breaks on an assortment of singles from the the Incredible Bongo Band’s "Apache" to Dennis Coffee’s "Scorpio," James Brown’s "Give It Up Turn It Loose," to Dr. John’s "Right Place, Wrong Time" into extended, hypnotic percussive jams. Herc’s father told him to soak the labels off of his records to protect their identity from rival DJs, a practice utilized by Kingston’s sound system selectors to trump their opponents at sound clashes.

By the end of 1973, the recreation room couldn’t accommodate the size of the crowds attending Herc’s parties, so he and Coke La Rock moved their sessions to parks and clubs throughout the Bronx. Coke La Rock’s quick shout outs grew into rhymes that morphed into lyrics, including "hotel, motel, you don’t tell, we won’t tell," which was interpolated by the Sugar Hill Gang’s Big Bank Hank in rap’s first hit record, "Rapper’s Delight." The influential template La Rock established is a mid-1970s American transplantation of Jamaican deejays’ practice of talking over records.

Respect For The Culture's Jamaican Roots

Some longstanding hip-hop fans, bloggers and even historians have minimized the Jamaican sound system as the bedrock for the culture’s development. Even in Jamaica, where hip-hop is widely listened to, many are unaware of the movement’s ancestry. "We realize that Jamaicans have never really grasped what hip-hop has done, as related to us coming from the island of Jamaica," says Cindy. 

Possibly the only  hip-hop 50 event exploring the complexities of the sound system/hip-hop connection is Faawud: Jamaican Sound System Culture’s Official Hip-Hop 50th Celebration, to be held at a later date. Faawud will include a turntablist competition, a friendly battle between a rap emcee and a Jamaican toaster and an exhibition of audio components and paraphernalia from early days of hip-hop and reggae, with DJs King Addies, Revolution Sound and DJ Myte playing classic tracks, representing both genres.

A panel exploring hip-hop’s sound system roots will include Herc, Grandmaster Kaz (emcee/leader of the pioneering hip-hop group Cold Crush Brothers) who attended Cindy and Herc’s fabled back to school jam, and Danny Dread, the venerable, tenured selector with King Addies, who are celebrating their 40th anniversary. Danny and Herc will each play 15-minute sets and at midnight on Aug. 11, Herc will usher in hip-hop’s official birthday. 

Cindy Campbell, Kool Herc and Coke LaRock will receive awards, as will their Jamaican counterparts Danny Dread and veteran toaster Big Youth, one of the first deejays to have hit records, beginning in the early 1970s.

"Jamaican and Caribbean artists have had an incredible impact on the birth and growth of hip-hop and their influence has been overlooked for too long," comments James Cuthbert, President of Rock The Bells, one of Faawud’s presenting partners. "In this 50th year of hip-hop, if we are going to honor the culture and the icons that created it, we have to do it right."

In 2021, a Congressional Resolution officially declared 1520 Sedgwick Avenue the birthplace of hip-hop, which followed a battle against landlords who wanted to shutter the historic dwelling. Endeavoring to save the building, Herc and Cindy worked with New York Sen. Chuck Schumer, who marveled at their accomplishments as immigrants to New York City. 

"Senator Schumer said, 'my God, this is an immigrant story,'" Cindy says. "Hip-hop was born in America, but it’s a fantastic immigrant story. People don’t realize that two immigrants from Jamaica did this. Why? Because we flew below the radar. We didn’t sue anybody or jump on a bandwagon saying we did this or that. We didn’t have to; the 50 years speak for themselves."

19 Concerts And Events Celebrating The 50th Anniversary Of Hip-Hop

Crowd dancing at GRAMMY Museum's Hip-Hop Block Party
Attendees dance on the Ray Charles Terrace at the GRAMMY Museum

Photo: Randy Shropshire

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7 Ways The GRAMMY Museum’s Hip-Hop Block Party Celebrated Culture & Community

On June 6, the GRAMMY Museum honored Black Music Month with a vibrant, museum-wide soirée featuring dancers, musicians, and a fashion show.

GRAMMYs/Jun 11, 2024 - 01:32 pm

Most days of the week, the GRAMMY Museum closes at 6 p.m. But on Thursday, June 6, its doors were open well into the night. As some people filtered through them, others clustered around two rollerskate-clad dancers who synchronized to Aaliyah’s "Try Again" on the sidewalk outside the museum at L.A. Live. 

This was Richard "Swoop" Whitebear, the professional who choreographed the mononymous singer’s "Try Again" music video, and Alicia Reason, a skate coach and performing artist operating at the intersection of professional dance and roller skating. Their fluid movements drew a crowd outside the GRAMMY Museum’s inaugural Hip-Hop Block Party. 

The after-hours soiree, which ran to 11:30 p.m., is one of the larger events that the five-story archive of GRAMMY Award history and winners has ever hosted. Although the Hip-Hop Block Party honored Black Music Month, observed each June, its concept can be traced back to October 2023, when the museum launched "Hip-Hop America: The Mixtape Exhibit" in celebration of the genre’s 50th anniversary. 

"The idea for [the party] came from the energy of the exhibit, which celebrates five decades of hip-hop. I was lucky to be a part of curating the exhibit and hosting its opening night, and that experience fueled my passion for continuing to share the story of hip-hop and its journey across cultures," says Schyler O’Neal, the Museum’s Manager of Education & Community Engagement. 

A grant from L.A.’s Department of Cultural Affairs enabled O’Neal and colleagues to coordinate the one-night-only affair, billed as an opportunity to "experience the pulse of hip-hop culture like never before." Across nine interdisciplinary art demos, activations, and pop-ups encompassing mediums ranging from photography to live music and dance, the GRAMMY Museum made good on this promise while providing a platform to compelling California-grown creatives. 

"Our goal was to shine a spotlight on local talent across the hip-hop spectrum: DJs, MCs, dancers, fashionistas, and photographers. We brought together an awesome lineup to represent the culture," O’Neal tells GRAMMY.com.  

Many spirited, community-building moments colored the evening. Read on for a snapshot of some of its most memorable.  

Uraelb Pays Homage To Hip-Hop’s Past, Celebrates Its Present & Embodies Its Future 

"I’m setting the tone at 8 pm," Uraelb proclaimed in an Instagram post ahead of the Hip-Hop Block Party. That’s precisely what the L.A. native did when he took the stage at the Clive Davis Theater for the evening’s first vocal performance. Flanked by a drummer, bassist, pianist and two supporting vocalists, UrealB opened with a performance of his original song, "Brace Face."  

He created a culture of artist participation by encouraging the crowd to smile and later, to sing along to his buttery-smooth rendition of OutKast’s "So Fresh, So Clean." From there, UraelB’s "homage to hip-hop" crossed coasts and generations, culminating in a pumped-up cover of Kendrick Lamar’s "King Kunta."  

"If I leave you with anything, I want to leave you with a deep appreciation for hip-hop," he said before closing with another one of his own productions, "Groovy." 

Uraelb first performed at the GRAMMY Museum as part of its educational program INDUSTRY SESSIONS. "[Uraelb] made such an impression during that class that we said, ‘we’ve gotta have him come perform at one of our events,’" O’Neal said just before the activation started.

Over the years, INDUSTRY SESSIONS — open to creatives 18 years and older — and the GRAMMY Museum’s other music education programs, have attracted a host of talent, including Giveon and Billie Eilish.  

Larry "Ruin" Combs Krumps to MJ’s "They Don’t Care About Us" 

To celebrate hip-hop’s history and culture is to appreciate dance’s inextricability from the music — and vice versa. On the Ray Charles Terrace, professional krumper Larry "Ruin" Combs nodded to South Central L.A., where krumping was born, in an impassioned performance to Michael Jackson’s "They Don’t Care About Us." 

A powerful medium of self-expression, krumping is a street dance that evolved from clowning, another style of dance with roots in African and Caribbean culture. Krumping is characterized by sharp, quick, and vigorous movements, like chest pops, stomps, and arm swings, used to convey emotion. Krumpers have historically turned to the art form to release negative or charged emotions and to navigate difficult experiences and circumstances.

Hence the title of the dance special that Combs is crafting, "The ‘e’ in ‘Krump’ is silent." 

"A lot of what Krump presents is very emotional; you see it, you don’t hear it," a nearly breathless Combs told the event co-host Leslie "Big Lez" Segar. "That’s what the format of the show is going to be like — various types of music that tug at your emotions, from good to bad."

While additional details about the forthcoming special are limited, those interested can follow Combs — who has notably performed on "America’s Got Talent" and the season finale of "So You Think You Can Dance." 

Cross Colours & Black Design Collective Dress For Success 

The GRAMMY Museum's attention to curating an event that celebrated the whole of hip-hop culture was especially apparent in the block party’s inclusion of a fashion show.

Cross Colours — a clothing brand launched in 1989 by Carl Jones, who studied fashion at the Otis Parson School of Design and Trade Technical College in L.A. — dressed local models from the Black Design Collective, a group of accomplished fashion industry professionals of color. The collective's goals include amplifying the influence of and creating opportunities for a global community of Black apparel, accessory and costume designers. 

Their partnership paved the way to a striking fashion show, during which more than five models circled the museum’s third floor, donning a variety of garments ranging from T-shirts with brightly-hued graphic designs to overalls.

NANA Shows Off His Lyrical Muscle — And A Different Strain Of Hip-Hop 

Crenshaw resident NANA contrasted the polished, funk-soul of Uraelb’s activation with a squeaky-clean spitting session. And while the storyteller’s quick tongue and lyrical muscle translated to a well-practiced performance that would have made anyone in attendance think he rehearsed for days pre-show, NANA had only 24 hours’ notice.  

As host O’Neal told it during a brief Q&A at the event, his request for NANA to take the stage at the block party ("I need your energy there!" he recalled telling NANA) came while the rapper was in the middle of a studio session. About a day later, NANA was holding a microphone in the Clive Davis Theater. 

NANA, who credited Nas, Jay-Z, Tupac, Kendrick Lamar, and Snoop Dogg among those on his "long list" of inspirations, is notably featured in the "Rap City Experience" section of the GRAMMY Museum’s "Hip-Hop America: The Mixtape Exhibit," to which he contributed freestyles. 

Five Decades Of Hip-Hop Are On Display  

What’s better than a birthday cake? Try a 5,000-square-foot exhibit that traces hip-hop from its humble beginnings in the Bronx and New York City to the GRAMMY stage. On Oct. 7, 2023, the GRAMMY Museum opened "Hip-Hop America: The Mixtape Exhibit," in honor of hip-hop’s 50th anniversary. Offering a focused, expansive (and tactile) look at the genre’s history and profound influence, the exhibit features a "sonic playground" complete with five interactive stations for DJing, rapping, and sampling.  

A retrospective educational journey, "Hip-Hop America" canvasses hip-hop scenes, sounds, and fashion across generations. Take, for example, the Notorious B.I.G.’s iconic red leather pea jacket, displayed in the same showcase as Migos’ embroidered blazers. The must-see exhibit exploring hip-hop’s long, rich, and still evolving history runs through Sept. 4. 

Learn more: Inside The GRAMMY Museum’s New Exhibit, "Hip-Hop America": From Dapper Dan To Tupac’s Notes

Hip-Hop Universal Provides A Formidable Finale 

Segar and Swoop, who worked with O’Neal to curate the evening’s dance performances, assembled what can only be described as a mic drop of a finale to the block party’s activations: Hip Hop Universal. The ensemble of five professional dancers and choreographers included Swoop, Robert "Rautu" Harris, Leon "No Realer" Spann, Marlyn Ortiz, and Ronnie "Futuristic Astaire" Willis.  

Some of their individual choreography and dance credits include an array of megastars, from Madonna, Taylor Swift, and Usher, to Britney Spears, Dr. Dre, and the Backstreet Boys. Over the course of their collaborative performance, which alternated between group dances and solos, Hip-Hop Universal made minutes feel like seconds — a testament to their rapturous synergy and individual expertise. 

Unity On The Dancefloor

At the heart of hip-hop — a genre in which artists pride themselves on representing their cities, perhaps more so than in any other genre of music — is community. That sense of community was apparent even through the schedule of programming. Activations occurred one at a time, in succession. This structure created a sense of togetherness; attendees collectively enjoyed a given activation and made their way to the next one together.  

The spirit of community imbued both the block party’s schedule and the content of its activations, but it was perhaps most visible on The Ray Charles Terrace. There, near the end of the evening, as the crowd awaited the final activation (and even afterwards), nearly all in attendance could be found dancing in the crisp, open air to beats spun by DJ R-Tistic. 

"This is our first time doing this, and I think we gotta keep doing this," O’Neal remarked on the mic. The crowd’s response — a resounding cacophony of affirmative cheers and applause — was answer enough.

"Everyone, from the talent to the staff to the hundreds of guests, [were] getting down together with the electric slide. That's what it was all about: bringing folks together for a good time," he concluded.

Inside The GRAMMY Museum’s New Exhibit, "Hip-Hop America": From Dapper Dan To Tupac’s Notes 

Rapper Warren G (Warren Griffin III) appears in a portrait taken on June 27, 1995 in Madison Square Park New York City.
Warren G

Photo: Al Pereira

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Warren G Revisits 'Regulate: The G-Funk Era': How The 1994 Album Paved The Way For West Coast Hip-Hop's Dominance

Long Beach's Warren G has consistently carried the flag of g-funk, from 1994 to present. The GRAMMY nominee revisits his classic album, which offered a different perspective on Southern California life.

GRAMMYs/Jun 7, 2024 - 02:03 pm

In the canon of West Coast hip-hop, Warren G’s debut album, Regulate: The G-Funk Era is considered one of the greatest.

Released on June 7, 1994, the album remains a perfect snapshot of the g-funk era, the popular subgenre of gangsta rap that was all the rage in the early- to mid '90s. "I created the genre, but I was introduced to it by Above the Law," Warren G tells GRAMMY.com. 

Headlining that album is of course, Warren G and Nate Dogg’s iconic track "Regulate," tapping that four-bar sample from Doobie Brother Michael McDonald’s "I Keep on Forgettin’." But the album features a number of other hits including "This D.J." and "So Many Ways," a remix version later appearing on the Bad Boys soundtrack.  

"Regulate" the single first arrived on the star-studded soundtrack for Above the Rim, released via Death Row Records in the spring of 1994, and sold over 2 million domestic copies in the year of its release. Then a few months later, Warren reintroduced "Regulate" on his inaugural album. The 12-track Regulate: The G-Funk Era provided a full vision of The Regulator's uber smooth brand of g-funk which rang out from the 213 all around the world.  

Thanks to pioneers like Above the Law, Dr. Dre, DJ Quik, and Warren G, g-funk (or gangsta funk) became the definitive sound of West Coast hip-hop. Regulate: The G-Funk Era was so impactful that it was even nominated for Best Rap Performance By A Duo Or Group at the 1995 GRAMMYs.

Like Dre's The Chronic, many continue to be drawn to Regulate’s depiction of Southern California life, replete with endless sunshine and maxed-out cars blasting pioneer speakers. Regulate is also the story of Warren G, a personal album which gives love to the community and people he came up with ("I played ball through the halls of CIS / With Snoop Dogg's big brother, call him Dirty Left," he raps on "This D.J.", referencing College Intermediate School in Long Beach ).

With Regulate, self-described "outlaw" Warren G made a platform for himself and some of his disciples. Album features the Twinz, an LBC duo consisting of twin brothers Deon and Dewayne Williams, and the Dove Shack, whose summer anthem "This is the Shack" (later reprised on the group’s own album with the same title a year later),  took the West Coast hip-hop world by storm. Though the great crooner Nate Dogg died more than a decade ago, 213, the Long Beach collective of Warren G, Snoop Dogg and Nate Dogg lives on. Warren and Snoop just released the single "Cali 2 Canada," in advance of an upcoming tour. 

Regulate was Warren G's first release after effectively being exiled from Death Row Records, where his halfbrother and mentor Dr. Dre, not to mention Long Beach pals Snoop Dogg and Nate Dogg thrived. Warren signed with Def Jam Records in 1994,  and his debut release helped save the label from serious debt: Regulate: The G-Funk Era sold 3 million copies in the U.S. and debuted at No. 2 on the U.S. Billboard Top 200 albums chart.  

As we look back on 30 years since Regulate the G-Funk Era, GRAMMY.com connected with Warren G himself to look back on five ways the album paved the way for west coast hip-hop today.  

It Solidified Long Beach As A Hip-Hop Mecca 

Warren G isn’t the first Long Beach rapper who made waves during this era. There’s Snoop, of course, as well as Missouri-born, Long-Beach raised Domino. But Regulate: The G-Funk  Era feels like a whole album about place, giving love to the LBC on every track with people and places like 21 and Lewis, King’s Park, the Voltron Crew, and Cal State Long Beach as Warren shouts them out on tracks like "Regulate" and "This D.J."

Warren acknowledges that there were the realities of the streets, but also plenty of fun to be had growing up, too, including listening to old records for hours together with his father. "Coming up in Long Beach was fun. We had a lot of sports. Lot of neighborhood activities as far as King’s Park," Warren G tells GRAMMY.com. "It was fun. It was dangerous. It was cool. It was my home."

Voltron Crew is Warren’s group of friends he used to sell candy with while having rap battles. Warren impressed the crew by rapping the lyrics to some of Dre's yet-to-be-released material, including "Cabbage Patch." "'Damn Warren, you’re harder than a motherf—a,'" he recalled his friends saying with a laugh.

And then there’s Warren’s beloved VIP Records on Pacific Coast Highway which Warren calls an LBC "landmark." He and his friends would walk down there after school to listen to music as one DJ after another queued up inside of the institution to spin. "It was just fun for us to be able to see that and listen to good music at the same time," Warren adds.

It Made Nate Dogg A Star 

The late great Nate Dogg was already on the rise on the West Coast with early vocals on Dre’s "Deeez Nuuuts," Mista Grimm ft. Warren G’s "Indo Smoke," and Snoop’s "Ain’t No Fun." But the titular track "Regulate" made him soar. While Nate is given a featured credit, he’s lockstep with Warren during the entire song, matching Warren’s lyricism with his own hybrid style of singing and rapping that had never been seen in hip-hop before and hasn’t been seen since. 

Back in those days, hip-hop often didn’t really promote its hookmen and women — much less feature them prominently in their music videos. (Consider Nate’s Bay Area contemporary Mike Marshall, who sings the hook on Luniz’s classic "I Got 5 On It," but unfortunately isn’t remembered beyond West Coast hip-hop diehards.) But Nate made himself seen and heard on "Regulate."

It’s no coincidence he went on to become the go-to hook singer in California and beyond, working with everyone from Tupac and Ludacris, to French hip-hop group Psy 4 de la Rime. Nate Dogg passed away in 2011 at age 41.

It Presented A Different Version Of West Coast Gangsta Rap 

When compared to some of his contemporaries, Regulate: The G-Funk Era focused less on hardcore themes in favor of keeping things light and smooth. Even "Regulate" itself — which is about Nate and Warren dealing with a carjacking on a cool and clear California night — the Mississippi-born crooner who grew up in a Gospel choir always had a way of keeping things mellow. 

Regulate: The G-Funk Era also speaks to the turbulent climate of ‘90s inner-city Los Angeles. While Dre’s The Chronic might be more overt about it, Warren goes there too on songs like on the album’s third single, "Do You See,"  whose beat mashes up Mtume’s "Juicy Fruit" and Junior’s "Mama Used to Say." Much of that song, Warren G says, is personal.

"I just talked about everything I was going through, ya know, Snoop being in jail," he recounts. "Mista Grimm is my dog. But he was doing things that just wasn’t cool…But I forgave him for all of that still. Even though I talked about it in the song. I forgave him 'cause that was my dog. He’s still my dog."  

"Do You See" speaks about realities beyond the LBC, too. It opens with a sample from Gil Scott-Heron’s 1976 fiery spoken word piece  "Bicentennial Blues": "The blues has always been totally American… as American as apple pie… the question is why?...Well, America provided the atmosphere."

"I had listened to that particular [song] and everything he said was what I was going through. It blew me away," Warren says. 

It Introduced Us The Dove Shack, Twinz & Jah Skillz 

After not being able to get footing in Death Row, Warren G struck out on his own. He built his own roster of lesser-known talent on G-Funk Music, under the parent label Def Jam Recordings, and brought in Dove Shack (C-Knight, Bo-Roc and 2Scoops), the Twinz, and Jah Skillz, part of the larger female group Da 5 Footaz —who all got the G-Child cosign. Each artist debuted on Regulate: The g-funk Era, with summertime anthem "This is The Shack," an album standout.

Many of Warren G's guest features went on to have their own careers. Dove Shack member C-Knight recently passed away and Bo-Roc, a crooner in his own right, went on to work with other West Coast legends like Richie Rich, Daz Dillinger, and Foesum. Twinz, meanwhile, turned bass-heavy feature "Recognize" into the full-fledged Conversation in 1995, a g-funk album that gave us one of Warren G’s greatest beats, "Journey Wit Me," featuring Bo-Roc. 

As for Jah Skillz, she’s front and center for the entirety of "Super Soul Sis," and wastes not a single word. Da 5 Footaz went on to appear on the Jason’s Lyric and Set It Off soundtracks. 

It Gave G-funk Its Timeless Credo 

A few people are credited for launching g-funk, but Warren G’s timeless credo: "g-funk, where rhythm is life and life is rhythm," in the waning moments of "Regulate" and "And Ya Don’t Stop"  remains a classic to this day.

On his 1997 sophomore album Take a Look Over Your Shoulder and 1999's I Want It All, Warren G always shouted out gangsta funk. He also stayed true to the sound that spread west coast hip-hop worldwide: By 2001, a couple of years after the g-funk era fully ended, Warren defiantly proclaimed that "g-funk is Here to Stay" on Return of the Regulator.  

In 2015, he even put out an EP, Regulate... G-Funk Era, Part II, featuring unreleased music with his longtime partner Nate. From 1994 through 2024, Warren has consistently carried the flag of g-funk, the original west coast sound that he helped cement with Regulate The g-funk Era, 30 years ago.

A Guide To Southern California Hip-Hop: Definitive Releases, Artists & Subgenres From L.A. & Beyond 

The Recording Academy's 2024 Special Merit Awards honorees, including
(Top Row, L-R): Gladys Knight, the Clark Sisters, Tammy Wynette, Laurie Anderson, Gerald Eaton; (Middle Row, L-R): N.W.A, Tom Scott, Donna Summer, Joel Katz, Steve McEwan; (Bottom Row, L-R): Peter Asher, Tom Kobayashi, DJ Kool Herc, K'naan

Photo Credits: Derek Blanks; Mel Elder, Jr.; Michael Ochs Archives; Stephanie Diani; Kim Virdi; TiVo; photo courtesy of SMPTE; Copyright Brian Leatart; Gittings; Steve McEwan; Henry Diltz; Kobayashi Family; Johnny Nunez/WireImage; Nabil Elderkin

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The Recording Academy Announces 2024 Special Merit Award & Lifetime Achievement Award Honorees: N.W.A, Gladys Knight, Donna Summer, DJ Kool Herc & Many More

The 2024 Special Merit Awards honorees include Lifetime Achievement Award recipients Tammy Wynette, the Clark Sisters, and many others. The Special Merit Awards will return to the Wilshire Ebell Theater on Saturday, Feb.3, during GRAMMY Week 2024.

GRAMMYs/Jan 5, 2024 - 01:55 pm

Ahead of the 2024 GRAMMYs, the Recording Academy has announced the 2024 Special Merit Awards honorees.

Laurie Anderson, the Clark Sisters, Gladys Knight, N.W.A, Donna Summer, and Tammy Wynette are the 2024 Recording Academy Lifetime Achievement Award honorees; Peter Asher, DJ Kool Herc and Joel Katz are the Trustees Award recipients; Tom Kobayashi and Tom Scott are the Technical GRAMMY Award honorees; and “Refugee,” written by K’naan, Steve McEwan, and Gerald Eaton (a.k.a. Jarvis Church), is being honored with the Best Song For Social Change Award

The Recording Academy’s Special Merit Awards Ceremony celebrating the 2023 Special Merit Award recipients will return to the Wilshire Ebell Theatre in Los Angeles on Saturday, Feb. 3. 

“The Academy is honored to pay tribute to this year’s Special Merit Award recipients — a remarkable group of creators and industry professionals whose impact resonates with generations worldwide,” said Harvey Mason jr., CEO of the Recording Academy. “Their contributions to music span genres, backgrounds and crafts, reflecting the rich diversity that fuels our creative community. We look forward to honoring these music industry trailblazers next month as part of our week-long celebration leading up to Music’s Biggest Night.”

Lifetime Achievement Award Honorees

This Special Merit Award is presented by vote of the Recording Academy’s National Trustees to performers who, during their lifetimes, have made creative contributions of outstanding artistic significance to the field of recording (through 1972, recipients included non-performers).

Laurie Anderson is a writer, director, composer, visual artist, musician, and vocalist who has created groundbreaking works that span the worlds of art, theater, experimental music, and technology. As a performer and musician, she has collaborated with many people including Brian Eno, Jean-Michel Jarre, William S. Burroughs, Peter Gabriel, Robert Wilson, Christian McBride, and Philip Glass. In 2002, Anderson was appointed the first artist-in-residence of NASA which culminated in her 2004 touring solo performance, The End of the Moon. She has been nominated for six GRAMMY Awards throughout her recording career and received a GRAMMY for the release Landfall in collaboration with the Kronos Quartet at the 61st GRAMMYs. 

The Clark Sisters, an American gospel vocal group initially consisting of five sisters: Jacky, Denise, Elbernita, Dorinda, and Karen – have been taking the world by storm since the early 1980s. Credited for helping to bring gospel music to the mainstream, the Clark Sisters are considered pioneers of contemporary gospel. Their biggest crossover hits include: “Is My Living in Vain?,” “Hallelujah,” “He Gave Me Nothing to Lose,” “Endow Me,” their hit song “Jesus Is A Love Song,” “Pure Gold,” “Miracle,” and their largest, mainstream crossover gold-certified, “You Brought The Sunshine.” The Clark Sisters (Jacky, Elbernita, Dorinda, and Karen) have won three GRAMMYs (two awarded to the group, and one to Karen as a songwriter for “Blessed and Highly Favored”), and with 16 albums to their credit and millions in sales, they are the highest-selling female gospel group in history.

Gladys Knight is a seven-time GRAMMY Award winner who has enjoyed No. 1 hits in pop, gospel, R&B, and adult contemporary, and has triumphed in film, television and live performance. Knight has recorded more than 38 albums over the years including four solo albums. She appeared on ABC’s 14th season of “Dancing With The Stars” in 2012, and in 2019, she competed on the inaugural season of “The Masked Singer.” Knight has sung the National Anthem at several major sporting events, including at Super Bowl LIII in Atlanta in 2019, and at the 2021 NBA All-Star Game. She was a National Endowment for the Arts 2021 National Medal of Arts Recipient and received a Kennedy Center Honor for Lifetime Artistic Achievements in 2022.

N.W.A was a rap group from the Compton district in Los Angeles who are credited by many with inventing gangsta rap. The group, consisting of Eazy-E^, Dr. Dre, Ice Cube, DJ Yella, and MC-Ren, developed a new sound, which brought in many of the loud, extreme sonic innovations of Public Enemy while adopting a self-consciously violent and dangerous lyrical stance. In 1988, N.W.A released their album, Straight Outta Compton, a brutally intense record that became an underground hit without any support from radio or MTV. This negative attention worked in their favor as it brought the album to multiplatinum status. Although the group was short-lived, gangsta rap established itself as the most popular form of hip-hop during the mid-1990s.

Donna Summer^ rocketed to international superstardom with her groundbreaking merger of R&B, soul, pop, funk, rock, disco, and avant-garde electronica, catapulting underground dance music out of the clubs of Europe and bringing it to the world. Summer holds the record with three consecutive double albums to hit No. 1 on the Billboard charts (the only solo artist to ever accomplish this), and first female artist to have four No. 1 singles in a 12-month period on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart. A five-time GRAMMY winner and 18-time GRAMMY nominee, Summer was the first artist to win the GRAMMY for Best Rock Vocal Performance, Female (1979, “Hot Stuff”) as well as the first-ever recipient of the new GRAMMY Category for Best Dance Recording (1997, “Carry On”). Summer was the first female artist to win GRAMMY Awards in four different genres: dance, gospel, rock, and R&B.

Tammy Wynette^ first hit the musical scene in 1966 with “Apartment #9” after moving to Nashville and teaming up with record producer Billy Sherrill. Together, the duo wrote songs that reflected the yearnings and the things Wynette felt were important in her life. In 1968, Wynette released “Stand By Your Man,” which sold more than five million singles and became the largest-selling single ever recorded by a female artist. By 1970, she racked up five No. 1 country hits, was named the Country Music Association’s Female Vocalist of the Year three times, and won two GRAMMYs. Wynette was the first female country music singer to sell over one million albums and has sold more than 30 million records grossing more than $100 million, earning her the title “The First Lady of Country Music.”

Read More: GRAMMY Lifetime Achievement Awards | The Complete List

Trustees Award Honorees

This Special Merit Award is presented by vote of the Recording Academy’s National Trustees to individuals who, during their careers in music, have made significant contributions, other than performance, to the field of recording (through 1983, recipients included performers).

Peter Asher’s career began in 1964 as one-half of Peter & Gordon, whose “A World Without Love” topped the charts worldwide. Nine more Top 20 hits followed before Asher became head of A&R for the Beatles’ Apple Records in 1968, and discovered, produced and managed James Taylor; later adding Linda Ronstadt, Neil Diamond, 10,000 Maniacs, Cher, Diana Ross, Kenny Loggins, Bonnie Raitt, Robin Williams, Stevie Nicks, Lyle Lovett, Morrissey, Steve Martin & Edie Brickell, Ed Sheeran, and more to his roster. Asher won the GRAMMY for Producer Of The Year in both 1977 and 1989. He hosts a hit radio show “From Me To You” on Sirius XM and is much in demand not only in the studio but as a performer, speaker and author.

The legendary Rock & Roll Hall of Fame inductee DJ Kool Herc is consistently credited as the founder of hip-hop. His mastery at the turntables is known worldwide, as are his positive contributions to the evolution of hip-hop culture. Herc’s popularity rose by playing long sets of assorted rhythm breaks strung together. Unlike any of his DJ counterparts, Herc is not a rapid rapper who keeps your head spinning with a patter, but he is a musical innovator to the turntables. He first introduced using two turntables to make the beats last longer, creating the illusion of one long break for the B-Boys to show off their skills. Herc has received a great deal of recognition during his lifetime, including his induction into the 2023 Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, and recognition from the New York Landmarks Conservancy as a 2023 Living Landmark. 

Joel Katz has played a profound role in shaping the entertainment industry through his work in facilitating entertainment-related corporate acquisitions and mergers and consulting multi-national and multi-media entertainment companies. Katz was ranked Billboard magazine’s No. 1 entertainment attorney in its “Power 100” list of most powerful executives in the music business and has been called “the dealmaker who thinks outside the box.” At Kennesaw State University, Katz endowed and began a commercial music program – one of the largest music education programs in America with over 500 students. He has authored and co-authored many articles and commentary on topics concerning entertainment law. In honor of his work, the University of Tennessee College of Law dedicated its library in his name, the Joel A. Katz Law Library.

Read More: GRAMMY Trustees Awards | The Complete List

Technical GRAMMY Award Honorees

This Special Merit Award is presented by vote of the Producers & Engineers Wing Advisory Council and Chapter Committees and ratification by the Recording Academy's National Trustees to individuals and/or companies/organizations/institutions who have made contributions of outstanding technical significance to the recording field. 

Tom Kobayashi^ and Tom Scott met at Lucasfilm’s Skywalker Sound in 1985, when the duo joined the company and completed the building of the Skywalker post-production facilities in both Northern and Southern California. Together, Kobayashi and Scott launched the Entertainment Digital Network, also known as “EDnet,” which employed fiber-optic networks to send high-quality video and audio great distances. Its then-revolutionary technology enabled the industry to link together talent, executives and production facilities at great cost savings. For 25 years, that company connected hundreds of recording studios worldwide in the days before the Internet could handle high-quality audio. EDnet became a part of Onstream Media, and over the decades, tens of thousands of long-distance collaboration sessions were facilitated for the music, advertising, TV, and cinema businesses. 

Best Song For Social Change Award Honorees

This Special Merit Award honors songwriter(s) of message-driven music that speaks to the social issues of our time and has demonstrated and inspired positive global impact. The finalists and recipient(s) are selected annually by a Blue-Ribbon Committee composed of a community of peers dedicated to artistic expression, the craft of songwriting and the power of songs to effect social change. See past recipients here.

In June 2023, singer-songwriter K’naan released the inspiring single and accompanying video “Refugee,” co-written by GRAMMY Award-winning songwriter Steve McEwan and GRAMMY-nominated producer Gerald Eaton (also known by his stage name, Jarvis Church). “Refugee” stands out as a distinctive musical endeavor, skillfully interweaving personal and political narratives, and serving as a tribute to refugees around the world. With the single, K’naan drew inspiration from his personal experiences, aiming to redefine the traditional perception of the term “refugee” into a symbol of resilience and strength. The song was written with the hopes of encouraging individuals to embrace the word “refugee” proudly and to give those made homeless by conflict a song that felt like home.

Read More: GRAMMY Technical Awards | The Complete List

^Denotes posthumous honoree.

2024 GRAMMY Nominations: See The Full Nominees List

Hip-Hop 50
A tribute to the 50th anniversary of hip-hop at the 2023 GRAMMYs

Photo: Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

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GRAMMY.com’s 50th Anniversary Of Hip-Hop Coverage: A Recap

The Recording Academy’s celebration of hip-hop’s 50th anniversary included televised events and captivating interviews. Check out the wide range of articles and features produced by GRAMMY.com commemorating this musical milestone.

GRAMMYs/Dec 28, 2023 - 02:51 pm

When we look back at the Recording Academy’s 2023, the 50th anniversary of hip-hop will loom exceptionally large.

The ongoing celebration permeated every facet of the world’s leading society of music professionals this year, from the 65th Annual Awards Ceremony in February to the special airing of "A GRAMMY Salute To Hip-Hop" in December — a dense, thrillingly kaleidoscopic televised tribute to the breadth of this genre.

One major accompaniment to this was coverage of the genre’s legacy via GRAMMY.com, the editorial site run by the Recording Academy. If you haven’t been keeping up, we’ve got you covered. Here’s a highlight reel of the work GRAMMY.com published in honor of the 50th anniversary of hip-hop.

We Profiled Rising Stars

From Lola Brooke to Tkay Maidza, GRAMMY.com engaged in comprehensive in-depth interviews with artists who are at the forefront of shaping the future of hip-hop, and held a roundtable discussion about exactly what the next 50 years might look like. 

We Published Conversations With Legends

DJ Kool Herc and Questlove, who have played unquestionable roles in hip-hop’s continuing evolution, spoke to GRAMMY.com about their profound and abiding connections to the idiom.

The Contributions Of Women Were Highlighted

Without the inspired vision of countless women, hip-hop would not be what it is today. The "Ladies First" segment, which kicked off "A GRAMMY Salute To Hip-Hop" featuring Queen Latifah, Monie Love, and MC Lyte, among other lady greats with Spinderella as DJ, was an ode to this. 

In acknowledgment of female trailblazers in a world dominated by men, GRAMMY.com wrote about teen girl pioneers, women behind the scenes, a revealing Netflix doc, and women artists pushing the genre forward in 2023, from Ice Spice to Lil Simz.

We Revisted Hip-Hop’s Biggest Releases

From Enter The Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) to Jay-Z’s The Black Album to Cardi B’s Invasion of Privacy, GRAMMY.com dove deep into the core hip-hop canon. We also broke down the genre’s development decade by decade through the 70s, 80s, 90s, 00s, 10s, and 20s, with a focus on classic albums from each era.

Listen To GRAMMY.com's 50th Anniversary Of Hip-Hop Playlist: 50 Songs That Show The Genre's Evolution

We Criss-Crossed The Country

GRAMMY.com’s series of regional guides — from the Bay Area and SoCal, to Texas and the Dirty South, to D.C. and NYC highlight hip-hop’s diversity of culture and sound.

We Went International

Although hip-hop is a quintessentially American phenomenon, its impact, appeal, and influence has spread worldwide. The international appetite for hip-hop was showcased in coverage of Latinx and Argentinian rappers to know, as well as five international hip-hop scenes to know: France, Nigeria, Brazil, South Africa, and England.

We Explored Hip-Hop’s Larger Impact

Hip-hop is more than a sound. It’s a culture that permeates almost every sector of life. Showcasing this effervescence, GRAMMY.com ran pieces about the evolution of hip-hop’s influence on educational curriculum worldwide, as well as its biggest fashion and style moments.

We Covered On Stage Celebrations

"A GRAMMY Salute To 50 Years Of Hip-Hop," the two-hour special that aired in December on CBS and is available on demand on Paramount+ represented a culmination of the Recording Academy’s 50th year anniversary celebration.

Revisit the 2023 GRAMMYs’ hip-hop revue, and check out a recap of "A GRAMMY Salute" with photos, a rundown of all the performers and songs and coverage of the Black Music Collective’s Recording Academy honors in February.

It Didn’t Stop There…

Notable coverage also included the evolution of the mixtape, 11 Hip-Hop Subgenres to Know and 10 Binge-worthy Hip-Hop Podcasts, as well as a breakdown of Jay-Z’s Songbook and Snoop Dogg’s discography.

For everything GRAMMY.com and all things hip-hop — including our rap-focused run in the GRAMMY Rewind series — visit here.

2023 In Review: 5 Trends That Defined Hip-Hop