Local Music Artists Take the Stage To Celebrate 50 Years of Hip Hop

It all started in New York City in the 1970s When DJ Kool Herc spun the same record on two turntables, creating a brand new music genre that now generates more than 15 billion dollars each year. That genre is none other than hip-hop. Since that epic house party, hip-hop has evolved into a form of creative expression rooted in resourcefulness, artistry, and style – and this year marks the 50th anniversary of hip-hop music. With celebrations planned across the country to commemorate this milestone, Wheeling is getting in on the action with a special event slated for Friday, Dec. 8 at Waterfront Hall.

DJs Tony Tone and Kool Herc ca. 1980s (photo courtesy of the U.S. National Archives)

Hosted by the Wheeling YWCA and the Wheeling Arts and Cultural Commission, the 50 Years of Hip-Hop Celebration will be an unforgettable evening with music, nostalgia, and a journey through the history of hip-hop through interactive live performances. Ron Scott Jr., event organizer and director of cultural diversity and community outreach for the YWCA Wheeling hopes that this event will be the perfect blend of fun and history. “We’re going to touch on important moments from each decade in hip hop by talking about each decade with the crowd, playing a medley of songs that define the decade, and have local hip hop artists perform live,” said Scott. “My hope is that it’s going to be a fun and interactive evening where people can get as involved as they want in the performance side of things, or just simply sit back and listen.”

If you ask Ron Scott, this event was a long time coming, and one that he wasn’t sure would come to fruition. “When I had seen some of the events that were happening in other parts of the country, I immediately thought that we [Wheeling] should have one too. At first, I was nervous that we wouldn’t be able to offer the caliber of event that’s happening in other places, but then I thought, nah, there are definitely enough people in the Valley that appreciate the genre and the creativity of hip hop and I knew we could do something nice.” 

Scott noted that it’s been a great feeling to have so many talented people come together for this event. The lineup for this Saturday’s event includes members of Kaligrafe Music, artists from the Wheeling Symphony Orchestra, Mr. FancyPants, Keez, J. Nice, Poetic Peth, Almighty Poe, Kelz, and several surprise guests.

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Local rap artist Keez performing at the 2022 Wheeling Juneteenth Celebration (photo courtesy of Wheeling Heritage Media).

In addition to the musical journey through the decades, attendees can participate in door prize giveaways, test their knowledge with trivia questions, and enter raffles for prizes. Organizers encourage everyone, from hardcore hip-hop enthusiasts to occasional listeners and those who want to reminisce about the early days of hip-hop to join in and celebrate this culturally significant event.

The 50 Years of Hip-Hip Celebration kicks off at 8 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 8, 2023. Admission is just $5, and tickets can be purchased at the door on the day of the celebration or ahead of time online at waterfronthall.com.

This event wouldn’t be possible without community partnerships. In addition to the Wheeling YWCA taking the lead in organizing the show, Waterfront Hall has provided the ideal venue for this event. Funding for the musical performances is supported by the Wheeling Arts and Cultural Commission, a city-led volunteer commission dedicated to being a catalyst for a long-term, rich, inclusive arts and cultural experience for our community.

Learn more about the 50 Years of Hip-Hop Celebration here

• Alex Panas is the Program Manager for Wheeling Heritage, where she works with artists, small business owners, and community stakeholders to provide technical assistance and create meaningful programs that enhance Wheeling. She also serves as the managing editor for Weelunk. Alex lives in St. Clairsville with her husband where they raise four cats and four spunky backyard chickens.