NEW YORK — The party on Friday night was at the perfect venue: Yankee Stadium in the Bronx, the Boogie Down, where it all began. And some of the biggest names in rap turned out in a living time capsule to celebrate a Golden Anniversary with the mega concert Hip Hop 50 Live.
And the fans turned out as well, with the ballpark packed for six hours of music icons putting on a show for the ages. No stranger to history, the Stadium handled the weight of what was a seemingly endless barrage of chart toppers and club bangers from the past five decades.
Beginning with a foundational set highlighting old-school legends and ending with Run DMC bringing things full circle, the show presented a hard-to-believe roster of hip hop luminaries and superstars that included a bevy of special guests who had the crowd erupting with each surprise appearance. Every borough – and half the country – was represented, and trying to list them all might take as long as the concert itself.
From Common showing out for Chicago to a charged Queens of Hip Hop set featuring Lil’ Kim and Trina to TI bringing the Trap from down South to Ghostface Killah electrifying the crowd by bringing out Method Man to rock a medley of Wu Tang cuts, the line of illustrious rappers was longer than the queues of concert goers eagerly snapping up t-shirts to commemorate the occasion.
That new gear was sure to complement the plethora of undeniably sporty fits found throughout the crowd. Seeing baseball caps and jerseys everywhere, it was a reminder that the connection between baseball and Hip Hop is undeniable: from the walk-up music of players to repping teams on album covers and stages to the seemingly endless references to baseball in both lyrics and music videos. This is why MLB sponsored Hip Hop 50 LIVE and is partnering with Mass Appeal and Hip Hop 50 for the next year to continue the celebration of the genre that was born in the Bronx.
And since this was Yankee Stadium, the Bronx was, of course, well represented – as were the Bronx Bombers, with Derek Jeter coming out on stage to a mighty roar during Kid Capri’s DJ set.
“I know everyone’s here to celebrate 50 years of hip hop,” said The Captain. “50 years. At the same time, I want you to look forward to the next 50 years.”
It was the perfect transition into the Bronx Bombers set led by Fat Joe that included surprise guest KRS One bringing down the house with the classic “South Bronx” anthem. From there, there were only more heavy hitters.
Lil Wayne put on a mini concert of his own, followed by Ice Cube going deep into his oeuvre. Snoop Dogg kept the West Coast vibe going with the help of Wiz Khalifa, as the two performed a slew of Billboard hits. The vibe then shifted back to New York, as Nas shocked the buzzing crowd by introducing Lauryn Hill, who rocked a Yankees hat while belting out “That Thing.”
By the time Run DMC tied a bow on the evening with their fitting finale, it was well past midnight, the party going into the wee hours, just as it did 50 years ago, when a teenaged Cindy Campbell got her brother, Kool Herc, to provide the entertainment for a party she threw for some extra money to buy new school clothes. It’s unlikely anyone at that seminal event could have imagined that five decades later, the party would move a couple miles south, with tens of thousands sharing their love for the culture at a venue that was made for such a historic night.