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Milwaukee celebrates 50 years of hip-hop by living it every day

Kinto Sol performs on stage with the front row of the crowd showing on the left. El Chivo looks directly into the camera in front, Skribe interacts with the crowd in the left-background, DJ Payback Garcia is in the right-background.
Sam Woods
Kinto Sol performs at TRUE Skool's Summer Park Jam. From left to right: Skribe, El Chivo, DJ Payback Garcia

This month marks 50 years since hip-hop began at a back-to-school party in New York City’s Bronx borough.

As the genre increased in popularity in the late 1970s and early 1980s, it took hold in Milwaukee via subcultures like the city’s breakdancing and skate scenes. As the genre grew into the multi-billion industry it is today, Milwaukee has grown with it, sending its homegrown rappers worldwide.

The city of Milwaukee has proclaimed this week to be Hip-Hop Week, with various events celebrating the art form and the city’s hip-hop culture.

Lake Effect’s Sam Woods caught up with some Milwaukee-based rappers active from the 1980s to today, to learn more about how living in the city informs their art. The story traces how hip-hop grew up in Milwaukee, how rappers capture their Milwaukee experience in their art and how hip-hop informs our everyday life from music to aquaponics.

Music featured:

b-boy by DJ Kool Herc

México Rifa by Kinto Sol

I Present to You by Jonah Denae

Interviews featuring:

Twan Mack: Milwaukee-based adult contemporary hip-hop artist.

Steve Stricklin (aka “Stricklin”): Milwaukee-based rapper and part of the hip-hop group eMC.

Vinson “Wordsworth” Johnson: Member of the hip-hop group eMC and author of What Words Are Worth and Socks.

Arabian Prince: Entrepreneur and an original member of N.W.A.

Jonah Denae: Milwaukee-based rapper and poet.

Eli “Book of Eli” Brown: Beat engineer, breakdancer, and T.R.U.E. Aquapioneer.


Sam is a WUWM production assistant for Lake Effect.
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