U.S. rapper Nas is leading hip-hop's 50th anniversary celebrations

By Alicia Powell and Rollo Ross

(Reuters) - As hip-hop prepares to turn 50 in 2023, U.S. rapper Nas wants to make sure the world understands its history, relevance and influence.

Through his company, Mass Appeal, the native New Yorker is spearheading numerous events leading up to the anniversary. On Aug. 11, 1973, Clive Campbell, also known as DJ Kool Herc, played at a New York City block party and was credited with starting the music genre.

Tributes will include a series of documentary films produced in conjunction with TV network Showtime, as well as 10 EP soundtracks produced by Swizz Beatz, The-Dream, Hit-Boy and others.

“Hip-Hop was never just music,” said Nas, adding it has always included elements of deejaying, dancing, fashion and other art forms.

It has been a “voice for the voiceless,” he said.

“Now more of the voiceless have a platform, and the people feel like they can be a part of it.”

Mass Appeal CEO Peter Bittenbender said they wanted to create something to make people recognize how impactful hip-hop culture has been globally.

Hip-hop was born in the south section of the New York City borough of the Bronx in the late 1970s. The dancing, rapping and deejaying elements grew out of an inner-city environment but it has since evolved into a multi-billion dollar part of mainstream global culture.

When asked where he thinks hip-hop is going in the next 50 years, Nas was optimistic.

“I hope that it’s still thriving and staying innovative," he said. “And people are united through hip-hop and awaken about the things that are wrong in our societies through the words of hip-hop.”

(This story has been refiled to correct number of films in paragraph three)

(Reporting by Alicia Powell and Rollo Ross; Writing by Josie Kao; Editing by Rosalba O'Brien)