Fifty years ago, on Aug. 11, hip-hop was born.
What began as an experiment at a back-to-school party has now turned into a massively influential genre and creative culture.
This Saturday, Aug. 12, the Atlanta BeltLine is hosting ATL Park Jam, a celebration of five decades of hip-hop and Atlanta’s dynamic impact on the culture. Styled after an old-school, classic block party, the event will include lots of live music, dance, visual art and food.
The event is hosted at Adair Park II and is free and open to the public. The festival will also kick off the 13th season of Art on the BeltLine.
ATL Park Jam is hosted in partnership with RAPPORT, an Atlanta event production company. Event Curator Alex Acosta is a founder and executive producer at RAPPORT and is the founding executive director of arts organization Soul Food Cypher.
It’s a day full of creative expression. Visitors can expect performances from DJ Jelly, Xclusive Percussion HBCU Drumline, a women’s rap cypher, Rum Punch Brunch DJ Prince Charm and more. There will also be a roller skate demo from Sick on Skate crew with DJ Rasyrious, freestyle rap sessions by Soul Food Cypher, aerosol art and a dance battle judged by BeltLine CEO Clyde Higgs.
The line-up, Acosta explained, was designed to showcase how unique and invaluable Atlanta’s impact is on the music scene and overarching culture.
“Atlanta [has] a very vibrant culture that is a lot of times overlooked,” he said. “As we are celebrating hip-hop, it’s very important to discuss and uplift the contributions of not only Atlanta but Georgia as a whole. Georgia is very foundational in the development of hip-hop culture.”
Acosta points to James Brown’s song “Funky Drummer,” which he credits as the first hip-hop freestyle. Brown lived in Georgia for most of his life. “Part of what made James Brown really cool was that you heard the slang he was saying, you heard the way he expressed himself — it sounded like part of the music,” Acosta described.
In addition to celebrating the past and present of hip-hop, Acosta sees ATL Park Jam as an opportunity to foster public spaces that are uniquely intended for creative expression. He says that’s what the hip-hop community is all about.
“Everything that I do, as far as being a producer, is to show that hip-hop unifies the diaspora,” Acosta said. “It unifies and brings people together.”
He added: “I’m all about cultural memory and ancestral memory. [I want to make] sure that we have access to community and that the history isn’t lost because Atlanta is constantly reinventing itself. I think that’s the power of rap and hip-hop.”
Ultimately, Acosta hopes that visitors walk away with an invigorated appreciation for hip-hop and the unique flavor that Atlanta and Georgia offer.
“I hope people [see] that hip-hop is a vibrant and positive culture. I want people to have a deeper appreciation for rap music more than the narrative that is largely portrayed in the media — that it’s violent [and] misogynistic,” he said. “I really want the culture to stand out. I want people to experience it in its truest essence, like the original park jams in New York. I want people to feel love. I want people to have a sense of belonging. I want to celebrate those that helped architect our culture.”
For additional details about Saturday’s festivities, click here.