The legendary Kurtis Blow takes the stage at World Famous Hip Hop Family Day at the Koger Center for the Arts in Columbia, South Carolina. - image by The Foto Bros
Columbia, SC - August 21, 2023 - Celebrating 50 years of hip hop culture, 2023’s World Famous Hip Hop Family Day in Columbia, South Carolina, tapped into the spirit of the first hip hop party in August 1973 in the Bronx. This year’s festival stage was blessed by headliner Kurtis Blow, now an ordained minister in addition to his world-renowned status as one of the legendary forefathers of hip hop.
Hip Hop History
The official birthplace and birthday of hip-hop is an apartment building at 1520 Sedgwick Avenue in the Bronx. It was there, on August 11, 1973, that an 18-year-old DJ Kool Herc played a back-to-school party that changed the world.
The Bronx in the 1970s was an urban catastrophe. Whole blocks were reduced to ghost towns as landlords burned their properties for insurance money. Institutional neglect decimated mostly African American and Latino communities, but it was amid this blight that Kool Herc first set up his sound system, tapping directly into the light poles for power and playing music for hours on end.
From the embers of a Bronx that was burning, hip-hop was never supposed to catch on; but, instead, this flash in the pan caught fire and spread the world over.
Returning from a three year pause for the pandemic, South Carolina’s World Famous Hip Hop Family Day marked its 10th year by setting up at a new venue – the Koger Center for the Arts at the University of South Carolina – while still following its popular free-of-charge, alcohol-free, and family-friendly festival template from their years on Columbia’s Main Street.
"I think the most beautiful thing about this new partnership with Koger Center is it was arms wide open, and they wanted to get to meet Columbia's hip hop community," said festival founder and executive director FatRat Da Czar.
After a three-year hiatus, the new venue was not the only change the festival encountered.
“In re-launching Hip Hop Family Day, we faced the fundamental challenge of funding a totally free hip hop festival in 2023. These past three years have been unprecedented for everyone at every level, as individuals, government entities, media outlets, and corporations have all undergone significant shifts,” said festival coordinator Janet Parenti. “For the most part, our old funding sources were no longer available, whether it was city funds or corporate title sponsors. But as we re-discovered ourselves both as a festival and a burgeoning non-profit focused on true W.E.A.L.T.H. (Wellness, Education, Alliances, Leadership, Technology, and History), we witnessed the old falling away as we successfully tapped into the new.”
Much like the creative spirit rising from the Bronx in 1973, re-launching a beloved festival brand with a freshly focused mission required ingenuity and the ability to recognize and tap into new energy sources. Embracing that mindset, Hip Hop Family Day reached out directly to true believers who put whatever they could spare into the collection plate. Whether it was an offering of $1 or $1,000, whether it was a donation of time or talent, 2023’s event was rebuilt on a fresh, new foundation of individual philanthropists, nonprofits, and community resource organizations.
A New Day
Through its collaboration with the Koger Center for the Arts, World Famous Hip Hop Family Day invited its audience to a festival day on the front lawn with performances all day on the outdoor plaza stage, while also enjoying access to the indoor, air-conditioned amenities of the fine arts center.
Inside the first-floor lobby, dubbed the W.E.A.L.T.H. Lounge, festival attendees connected with South Carolina nonprofits addressing everything from hip-hop therapy to social justice, from health screenings to fresh produce. Participants in the W.E.A.L.T.H. Lounge included Historic Columbia, Carolina Assessment Services, SC Commission of Minority Affairs, Girls on the Run, PRISMA Health, Boys and Girls Clubs of the Midlands, South Carolina ETV, Jam Room Recording Studio, FoodShare SC, and Freedom Fighters Upstate SC. Also inside the lobby, festival title sponsors Ernest A. Finney Cultural Arts Center hosted a gallery space, while Parenti Publishing hosted a free book giveaway and children’s reading area.
Outside, the Hip Hop Family Day festival atmosphere was in full effect, with arts and craft vendors, food trucks, DJs, and live music. Along with direct support act Sweet G (“Games People Play”), this year’s Hip Hop Family Day stage also featured an Afro-Latino lineup; Big Redd Radio Show’s Christian hip-hop set; Non-Stop Hip-Hop Live’s ode to South Carolina hip hop; Ice Cold Radio hosted by DJ Prince Ice; and FatRat Da Czar presenting Master Splnta’s Dojo.
Returning to the festival scene with a fun and joyful day for families to celebrate the intergenerational legacy of hip-hop culture, 2023 will go down as the year that re-set the stage for Hip Hop Family Day to emerge victoriously with a new vision for a fresh future.