Hip-hop turns 44, Google creates epic doodle

The doodle includes a short history of hip-hop and a tutorial of pulling tunes from the digital crate and working the crossfader on the decks.
The doodle includes a short history of hip-hop and a tutorial of pulling tunes from the digital crate and working the crossfader on the decks. PHOTO: GOOGLE

WASHINGTON • The dawn of hip-hop can be traced to a fateful Bronx back-to-school party in August 1973, so to celebrate the symbolic 44th birthday last Friday, Google teamed up with two superstars to provide an epic global interactive jam.

Team Google Doodle includes lifelong fans of hip-hop spanning from California to Indiana to Louisiana, and its artists and engineers reached east to legendary graphic artist and designer Cey Adams and pioneering artist-host Fab 5 Freddy to create the tech titan's dopest and most dazzling work of interactive art yet.

To land the graffiti-art aspect of last Friday's doodle, the team travelled to the New York studio of Adams, the brilliant Def Jam creative director responsible for the looks of decades of iconic album covers, logos and ad campaigns.

Adams emerged from New York's graffiti movement alongside Jean-Michel Basquiat and Keith Haring, and so lived first-hand how such visual art intertwined with the rise of rap.

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"First and foremost, the art component predates the other art forms," Adams says. "Certainly music has been around, but when it comes to graffiti - that's been around since the late 1960s. It was a thing unto itself, that had its own movement.

"So by the time the late 1970s came around, and all the elements become a collective," Adams continues, "graffiti art took a back seat to rap music. Music has always been universal, whereas art has an elitist edge to it because it's shown in museums and galleries - it's not as attainable. Music lives in the air, music is everywhere - it doesn't cost you anything.

"That said, hip-hop is a visual movement, (and) graffiti will remain a necessary element of creative expression within the culture."

Google wanted to create a doodle that also tapped hip-hop's musical roots, so the teamed travelled, too, to 1520 Sedgwick Avenue in the Bronx, where Jamaican-born teenager DJ Kool Herc first played the instrumental "breaks" of songs at that famed back-to-school jam.

The Bay Area-based team also tapped the talents of Mr Lyor Cohen, global head of music for Google-owned YouTube and former Def Jam president.

He says on Google's blog that hip-hop "shows that people in any situation have the ability to create something powerful and meaningful. The progression of this culture and sound - from Kool Herc spinning James Brown breaks at a block party to Jay-Z, Kanye West and Drake being some of the biggest forces in music 44 years later - is something that few people at that first party could have anticipated".

Team Google Doodle leader Ryan Germick grew up watching Fab 5 Freddy as host of Yo! MTV Raps, and his creative crew was able to get the Brooklyn-born legend to narrate to home-page viewers a quick hip-hop history, towards a tutorial of pulling tunes from the digital crate (from old-school George Clinton and Betty Wright to brand-new Prince Paul beats) and working the crossfader on the decks.

WASHINGTON POST

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 14, 2017, with the headline 'Hip-hop turns 44, Google creates epic doodle'. Print Edition | Subscribe