repost – Why “I Used to Love H.E.R,” Why I Still Love H.E.R: Hip Hop THEN, Hip Hop NOW

As part of Black History Month every Friday in February we’re featuring some of our most popular posts and podcasts on Black History.

The following post was originally featured on March 14, 2011.

An impromptu performance held at the Hub (the area around 3rd Avenue and 156th Street) by The Mean Machine. One of the benefits of institutional neglect was that public concerts like this, common to the early days of Hip Hop, allowed artists to express themselves freely without the need for formal compliance.

By Francesca D’Amico

Chicago’s Cominskey Park on July 12th, 1979 was a scene like no other. Disco Demolition Night was a promotional event meant to protest the shift in radio programming from rock to an all-disco format. In exchange for admission, fans were asked to bring an unwanted disco LP. Following the first of a double-header game, a large crate of the collected records was detonated in center field. Against chants of “disco sucks,” 59,000 fans swarmed and vandalized the field. As the scoreboard flashed, “please return to your seats,” police in riot gear cleared the field and eventually cancelled the second game. This was the night Disco died and made way for Hip Hop.

Hip Hop had been developing in the boroughs of New York City since 1973. Black and Puerto Rican youth who had long been denied access to Disco clubs created their own recreational spaces in response. Party organizers would steal city electricity from the street lamps to connect their equipment and perform in accessible venues such as community parks and apartment recreation rooms. Borrowing from the Jamaican traditions of the soundsystem and toasting, Deejays used turntables to create new sounds, while graffiti artists used subway trains as canvas and breakdancing battles evolved from gang confrontation.

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