Hip-hop has lived and thrived for 50 years, and some of the genre’s pioneers are reflecting on the genre’s cultural influence. Speaking at Essence Fest over the weekend, KRS-One and Ice-T looked back at the genre’s longevity and its future.
“Fifty years ago, some of us knew this was going to happen, most of us did not know to the magnitude it would happen,” said KRS-One, per People. “But 50 years later proves that first of all, you can do anything with your mind and secondly, culture is probably the most magnificent strategy for human development known on the planet.”
KRS-One, who’s from the Bronx where the genre was born, explained that though important things like education and health are crucial for the Black community, so too is the culture and community that the genre has created in the last half-century.
“This [was] a different take on the African American experience. For the last 60 years, African Americans tried the integration thing, African Americans have tried the voting thing, tried the economic thing and we keep winding up in the same position,” he said. “Hip-hop is a little different. We tried the character thing, where we changed what we were going to express and that seems to have pulled us from sickness, hatred, ignorance, and poverty to health, love, awareness, and wealth.”
Ice-T, for his part, reflected on how initially people thought that “hip-hop was supposed to be a fad,” but now rappers, “we’re billionaires.”
“Hip-hop has gray hairs. The beauty of it is that it’s still here, still flourishing and people still love it,” Ice-T said. “It’s gone through a lot of different growing pains and stuff, but for them to say it was a fad — now you have hip-hop billionaires! Hip-hop is a culture. A youth culture, started by kids.”
Ice-T also reflected on some of the issues prevalent in hip-hop culture, pointing out the deaths due to drug usage and murder among rappers, including the likes of XXXTentacion, Pop Smoke, Nipsey Hussle, and Takeoff in recent years.
“My generation, we lost Tupac, we lost Biggie and we got the memo. Everybody calmed down. We all figured this out: We [were] rapping to get out of the streets,” he said. “But the youngsters who are out here behaving like that, these kids are millionaires so I don’t know how many young people gotta get lost, I don’t know which one might trigger that message, but I think it’s time for this generation to get a hold of itself.”
Also this month, Spotify celebrated the half-century of the genre by releasing the top 50 most-streamed rap albums on the platform. XXXTentatcion’s ? ranked Number One, Drake’s Scorpion came in second, Drake’s Views in third, Juice WRLD’s Goodbye & Good Riddance at fourth place, and Travis Scott’s Astroworld rounded out the top five.