This autumn, global cultural export Hip Hop, now 50, will be applauded in a multi-part series of events at the University of Toronto’s Hart House, York University and Toronto Metropolitan University. This series will underscore how Hip Hop has shaped our everyday lives, practices and institutions.

Mark your calendars. Hip Hop’s 50th birthday party, “We Do It for the Culture: A Hip Hop at 50 Event Series,” will span three months this autumn. From September to December (with November being Hip Hop history month), U of T’s Hart House will co-present a novel, multi-part series with The Urban at York University and Roots Rhymes Collective. The series, for which event spaces include Hart House, York U and TMU, will acknowledge Hip Hop’s influence and contributions to the arenas of culture, education and pedagogy, business and branding, and the collection of oral and archival histories.

Hip Hop dips into a wide variety of seemingly disparate areas and, as a result, countless parties will be interested – students, academics, teachers, Hip Hop artists, curators as well as media and members of the public.

Dr. Francesca D’Amico-Cuthbert

“Hip Hop culture is more than an expression of the creative arts,” emphasizes Dr. Francesca D’Amico-Cuthbert, Chief Research Officer at the New York City-based Hip Hop Education Center and the course director of York U’s Hip Hop and the City course. “It has shaped the contours of our everyday life, practices and institutions – including the knowledge production practices of the university.”

Francesca, also Adjunct Professor in Urban Studies at York U, is one member of the organizing team for the series. Others include marcus “iomos marad” singleton, Hip Hop Education Community Connector, Hart House; Marco Adamović, Learning and Community Coordinator, Hart House; Dr. Rhonda C. George, Postdoctoral Researcher, McMaster University; Michele Geister, Creator & Producer of MuchMusic’s RapCity; and Jeff ‘Spade’ Duke, b-boy, graffiti writer, emcee of the legendary rap group Citizen Kane, and owner of the independent record label Treehouse Records.

The aspirations of the event series include:

  • To examine Hip Hop’s fifth element (knowledge of self) and share the knowledge production processes of Hip Hop culture;
  • To explore the role of Hip Hop pedagogy across elementary, high school and post-secondary education;
  • To work collaboratively with artists to detail the creative process;
  • To reflect on the ethics of deploying Hip Hop knowledge in spaces of capitalism;
  • To archive the local and trans-local histories of Hip Hop; and
  • To commission a commemorative art piece celebrating and documenting Toronto Hip Hop history.

Political Component

This series has a two-pronged political priority: (1) Hip Hop education is a needed intervention in spaces of education that tend toward elitism, hierarchy, privilege and power. (2) While the university prioritizes and privileges knowledge production, it does so in a way that often fails to ethically engage the community and circumscribes who can function as an “intellectual.”

marcus singleton. Photo by Marianne Lau.

“Hip Hop culture is the bridge between academia and the community, bringing those two worlds together in conversation to (re)create, dream and (re)imagine new approaches to solving problems within academic spaces and the community because we are all a part of the same community, which is the community of humanity,” marcus singleton explains.

Indeed, these are some of the key reasons why Zoe Dille, Manager, Dialogue & Expression, founded Hip Hop Education at Hart House.

The series revolves around the following principles, bringing together Hip Hop, education and community:

  • Embracing Inclusive Education
  • Bridging Communities Ethically
  • Engaging Trailblazers and Masters of the Craft
  • Amplifying Hip Hop Pedagogy
  • Unleashing Creativity
  • Reflecting on Ethics in Capitalist Spaces
  • Preserving Local and Trans-Local Histories
  • A Tribute to Toronto Hip Hop History
Marco Adamović

Marco Adamović elaborates: “The series will focus on how Hip Hop culture began as a trans-local phenomenon and has since become a global expression of culture, social activism, commerce, community-building and storytelling. Hip Hop culture truly defies any singular definition.”



Events Range from Film Screenings to Art Commissions

The events will include in-person (and potentially remote) activities that feature a keynote address, professional development sessions, panel discussions, artist workshops, a conference, a film screening, an exhibit talk and an art commission, as noted.

These activities – collaborative, multidisciplinary and multi-campus in nature – will include a cross-section of artists: emcees, deejays, breakdancers, graffiti artists, beat-makers, producers, directors, photographers and fashion designers. Activities will also include members of the media, educators, curriculum strategists, and business minds and owners.

Dates for Your Calendars

With additional offerings in the series still to be announced, the confirmed event dates are:

  • Hip Hop education panels and teacher workshops – “Know the Ledge:” October 6, 2023
  • Hip Hop and music production – Producers’ Circle (with K-Cut): October 18, 2023
  • Hip Hop and Breaking: Book Launch The Birth of Breaking: Hip-Hop History from the Floor Up: October 18, 2023
  • Hip Hop and lyricism – Lyricists’ Lounge (with Keysha Freshh and Dan-e-o): October 27, 2023
  • Talking Walls Commission, celebrating Toronto Hip Hop Trailblazers from 1980-2000, hosted at the Talking Walls Art Gallery at Hart House: Fall 2023

View the full event series and prorgam schedule.