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Celebrating Hip Hop History Month

YouTube is the institutional memory of Hip Hop. If it happened and it was recorded, YouTube is where it lives.

Everything changed for me when I saw Run-DMC on MTV. I already knew who they were, but to see the “Walk This Way” video on my television was different. As a 10 year old growing up in Iowa, this instance of recognition made me realize that Hip Hop had come to Middle America.

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This Hip Hop History Month, I’ve been thinking a lot about these milestone moments, the “mic drop moments.” But what is a mic drop moment?

It’s Andre 3000 declaring that “the South got something to say” and cementing the emergence of Southern Rap at the Source Awards.

It’s DMX capturing the minds, bodies and souls of the masses at Woodstock.

It’s Cardi B’s “Bodak Yellow” making her one of the hottest rappers in the game, all without a cosign from one of her male counterparts.

“Mic drop moments” shake the entire culture and push it forward. When a “mic drop moment” happens, there’s no going back.

We can never experience those moments for the first time, but I’ve been reliving them on YouTube all month. My favorite music videos, performances, interviews – they’re all here! YouTube is the institutional memory of Hip Hop. If it happened and it was recorded, YouTube is where it lives.

In one of my past lives, I would actually be there, at the MTV VMAs, seeing these moments play out in real time. You can find some of my reflections on this period in our new Unfiltered blog series as well as our YouTube AMA series. As we now exist in the digital era, it’s been a privilege to work on a platform that’s become the contemporary vehicle for forward motion in Hip Hop.

In fact, 9 of the top 10 artists in the US for 2022 are Hip Hop artists and collectively, have earned over 16B views globally on YouTube this year. I promise you, we KNOW the value of Hip Hop at YouTube. It’s in our DNA. And that’s why we’re committed to bringing you the next “mic drop moments.”

Throughout this Hip Hop History Month, we’ve led a campaign to amplify Hip Hop music and culture across the platform. Bringing it all together, is the launch of today’s logo takeover in celebration of Freestyle Rap on YouTube. After clicking on the logo and banner designed by guest artist Moya Garrison-Msingwana, users are directed to YouTube’s channel where they can discover freestyle rap content and a collection of playlists commemorating the various eras of hip-hop (‘88-’95, ‘96-’03, ‘04-’11, ‘12-’21) that all pay full musical tribute to the artists who defined these eras.

Finally, we recently came together for an intimate brunch with press featuring a panel discussion around “mic drop moments” that affected the culture and how YouTube stands as the digital archive of Hip Hop. The conversation was moderated by Rob Markman (VP of Content Strategy, Genius) Rebeca Thomas (Senior Staff Editor, Culture, The New York Times), Shaheem Reid (Author, Legendary Journalist, President, Conglomerate ENT), and Joseph Patel (Oscar Award-winning Producer for Summer of Soul) and myself.

Ever since our discussion, I’ve been playing back in my head something that Rob said:

“It’s on us to lead by example and hold up the tenants of good, fair, just storytelling to make sure the story is told the right way. You keep culture going forward through [YouTube’s] global archive and keep adding and using it to celebrate so moments aren’t lost.”

It’s on us to lead by example and hold up the tenants of good, fair, just storytelling to make sure the story is told the right way. ”

Rob Markman VP of Content Strategy, Genius

Hip Hop is the past and the present, but it’s also the future. We celebrate the past, we look to define the present, but we understand that as a platform, we, too, have a role in supporting the future of Hip Hop. And that's why we've invested not only in the music, but the artists who make it.

We recently announced YouTube Black Voices Fund's Music Class of 2023 which features incredible music minds such as Larry June, Armani White, and HitKidd. We’ve also partnered with Wallace "Wallo" Peeples to pilot YouTube Avenues, a program built to drive equity for and increase YouTube’s cultural relevance and authenticity in Black communities across the US that have been historically underrepresented and underserved on our platform. So far, we’ve gone to Detroit, DC, Philadelphia, Houston, and the Bay Area, with the hopes of sharing invaluable wisdom with the future creators of Hip Hop.

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I had a professor who once said, “The reason we study history is because no empire is immortal.” What that says to me is that in order for Hip Hop culture to continue, the creativity part is the part that needs to be focused on. So with everything we do, we will continue to cultivate the next generation of “mic drop moments” while also celebrating the past that brought us here. We’ll see you next year for Hip Hop 50. Peace.

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