DJs mix it up in a tribute to 40 years of hip-hop

Jineea Butler | 8/21/2013, 7:22 a.m.

(NNPA) – It’s hard to believe, but on Sunday, hip-hop celebrated its 40th birthday. Yes, the big 4-0. It’s been four decades of creativity, invaluable efforts and love. Do you remember the doubters who said it wouldn’t last? They sure missed the mark.

Looking back, the DJ has been the most significant element in hip-hop since its inception. Before the MC (Microphone Controller) became known as the rapper, the DJ led the way. You had DJ Kool Herc and the Herculoids, Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, Afrika Bamabaataa and the Universal Zulu Nation; it was the DJ who controlled the stage and it was he who introduced new talent to the party people.

In the years leading up to the hip-hop explosion, the DJ had to take a back seat to the solo artist, commercialization and new technology. Hip-hop changed all of that and to honor that change, the DJ’s have banded together to reclaim their roles as hip-hop’s most powerful voice.

Friday through Sunday, The Core DJ’s hosted hip-hop’s biggest birthday party with The Mixed Show Live 4 at the W Midtown Hotel in Atlanta.

What is so incredible about this event is that the Core DJ’s founder, Tony Neal, and his team have mastered the art of bottling opportunity, celebrity, business, networking and fun into one high-powered weekend just about every six months in a different city.

I was first introduced to the Core DJ’s in 2009 by industry veteran and marketing strategist Manny “Mad Dog” Ayala, who told me if I was serious about uniting hip-hop’s entrepreneurs, I had to see what Neal and the Core DJ’s were already doing. He explained that the DJ was no longer taking a back seat in hip-hop. The DJ’s realized they were and had always been the gatekeepers to an artists’ success. Instead of just playing what is in rotation, they have the power to break new music and the Core DJ’s, representing the core of the country, work as one collective unit.

When I went to my first Core DJ retreat, now known as Mix Show Live, I was absolutely amazed. For the first time in my life, I saw what most thought was impossible: More than 500 progressive hip-hop DJ’s, artists and entrepreneurs in a 4-Star hotel with nothing but love and business in the air. Not that hip-hop hadn’t experienced massive gatherings that didn’t end in violence, with an extra dose of negative stereotypes thrown in for good measure. No, this retreat embodied the art of uplifting, empowering and educating in its purest form.

To fully appreciate the significance of that, remember that in hip-hop, if you go to a high-profile well-organized event, most of the executives and celebrity talent walk around with their nose stuck in the air. Not at the Core DJ’s. Not only is Neal highly visible and accessible to the artists seeking advancement, he makes sure all the DJ’s in the Core, the panelist and the celebrity talent uphold the same honor and respect. I would never think that a man from Milwaukee could lead a charge so great, but in a candid conversation with Neal, he recalled that he thought of himself as a modern day civil rights leader.