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Kings and queens gathered for 'Hip Hop 50 Live' at Yankee Stadium

Darryl McDaniels (L) and Joseph Simmons (R) of Run-DMC, closing the Hip Hop 50 Live concert at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx, N.Y. early Saturday morning.
Angela Weiss
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AFP via Getty Images
Darryl McDaniels (L) and Joseph Simmons (R) of Run-DMC, closing the Hip Hop 50 Live concert at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx, N.Y. early Saturday morning.

For the 50th anniversary of hip hop's birth, some heavy hitters performed at Yankee Stadium Friday night — in the Bronx, right where this music was born. The all-star lineup included artists like Run-DMC, Lil Wayne, Snoop Dogg, Eve, Wiz Khalifa and Nas in an exuberant celebration called "Hip Hop 50 Live."

Tens of thousands of people pressed into Yankee Stadium to witness what promised to be an epic night. Inside, while artists like the Sugar Hill Gang were already performing, many fans outside were still waiting for hours to make their way into the ballpark.

Folks of many different generations told NPR what this night meant to them. (Audience members declined to give their last names as police and security tried to usher them into the venue as quickly as possible.) One brother and sister from the Bronx, Rob and Carmen, were decked out in full Run-DMC style with Kangol bucket hats, Adidas tracksuits, and Adidas Superstars on their feet. They were not the only ones dressed in honor of their hip-hop heroes.

"I was born and raised in this area," Rob said. "I was around hip-hop before records was made. I was in the park with all these guys, you know? So to come 50 years later, it's incredible."

Rappers Ghostface Killah (L) and Method Man (R) onstage during Hip Hop 50 Live at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx, N.Y.
Theo Wargo / Getty Images
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Getty Images
Rappers Ghostface Killah (L) and Method Man (R) onstage during Hip Hop 50 Live at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx, N.Y.

One young man from Harlem named Greg showed up with a friend because his mama told him it would be an education in the genre. "It was kind of a thing where my mom was like, 'It will be good old-fashioned hoopity-hop,'" he said. "And I was like, 'Yeah, sure, why not?'"

Well, that's exactly what they got. It felt like a royal procession through many eras of the culture. The founding parents of hip-hop were there — DJ Kool Herc and his sister, Cindy Campbell, who threw the block party 50 years ago this week that is now considered a canonical event. Slick Rick performed. So did Doug E. Fresh, Kool G Rap, Fat Joe, Lil Kim, Eve, Ashanti and members of the Wu-Tang Clan, including Ghostface Killah and Method Man, among many others.

Rapper Snoop Dogg performing during Hip Hop 50 Live at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx, N.Y.
Angela Weiss / AFP via Getty Images
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AFP via Getty Images
Rapper Snoop Dogg performing during Hip Hop 50 Live at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx, N.Y.

While the show was heavy on New York artists, the South got some representation, notably with both T.I. from Atlanta and New Orleans' Lil Wayne. Snoop Dogg ruled the stage as a California king.

One of the night's big surprises was a collaboration between Nas, who was expected to do a set, and Lauryn Hill, who was not on the bill.

Artists Nas (L) and Lauryn Hill (R), performing at Hip Hop 50 Live in the Bronx, N.Y.
Theo Wargo / Getty Images
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Getty Images
Artists Nas (L) and Lauryn Hill (R), performing at Hip Hop 50 Live in the Bronx, N.Y.

Nearly eight hours after the night started, the show finally closed with a performance by Run-DMC, in what was billed as the trio's last show ever. By the time they got to "My Adidas," many fans in the crowd were waving pristine white Superstars in the air.

It was a sweet sendoff...and despite being nearly 2 a.m., the crowd was still buzzing.

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

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Anastasia Tsioulcas is a reporter on NPR's Arts desk. She is intensely interested in the arts at the intersection of culture, politics, economics and identity, and primarily reports on music. Recently, she has extensively covered gender issues and #MeToo in the music industry, including backstage tumult and alleged secret deals in the wake of sexual misconduct allegations against megastar singer Plácido Domingo; gender inequity issues at the Grammy Awards and the myriad accusations of sexual misconduct against singer R. Kelly.