Hip-hop history: Google creates epic musical Doodle to kick off 44th birthday jam

Washington Post Technology 10 days ago

THE DAWN of hip-hop can be traced to a fateful Bronx back-to-school party in August 1973, so to celebrate the symbolic 44th birthday today, Google has teamed with two superstars to provide an epic global interactive jam.

Team Google Doodle includes lifelong fans of hip-hop spanning from California to Indiana to Louisiana, and its artists and engineers reached east to the legendary graphic artist and designer Cey Adams and the pioneering artist/host Fab 5 Freddy to create the tech titan’s dopest and most dazzling work of interactive art yet.

To land the graffiti-art aspect of Friday’s Doodle, the team traveled to the New York studio of Adams, the brilliant Def Jam creative director responsible for the looks of decades of iconic album covers, logos and ad campaigns.

Adams emerged from New York’s graffiti movement alongside Basquiat and Haring, and so lived firsthand how such visual art intertwined with the rise of rap.

The legendary artist Cey Adams (second from right) with Team Google, including Perla Campos, left, Ryan Germick and Pedro Vergani. (Google)

“First and foremost, the [visual] art component predates the other art forms,” Adams tells The Washington Post’s Comic Riffs. “Certainly music has been around, but when it comes to graffiti — that’s been around since the late ’60s. It was a thing unto itself, that had its own movement.

“So by the time the late ’70s came around, and all the elements become a collective,” Adams continues, “graffiti art took a back seat to rap music. Music has always been universal, whereas art has an elitist edge to it because it’s shown in museums and galleries — it’s not as attainable. Music lives in the air, music is everywhere — it doesn’t cost you anything.

“That said, hip-hop is a visual movement, [and] graffiti will remain a necessary element of creative expression within the culture.”

Cey Adams’s early sketch for the graffiti-art-inspired Google logo celebrating hip-hop’s 44th birthday. (Google)

Google wanted to create a Doodle that also tapped hip-hop’s musical roots, so they traveled, too, to 1520 Sedgwick Ave. in the Bronx, where the Jamaican-born teenager DJ Kool Herc first played the instrumental “breaks” of songs at that famed back-to-school jam.

The Bay Area-based team also tapped the talents of Lyor Cohen, the global head of music for Google-owned YouTube and the former Def Jam president. Cohen says on Google’s blog that hip-hop “shows that people in any situation have the ability to create something powerful and meaningful. The progression of this culture and sound — from Kool Herc spinning James Brown breaks at a block party to Jay-Z, Kanye West and Drake being some of the biggest forces in music 44 years later — is something that few people at that first party could have anticipated.”

Google creates turntables for its first hip-hop Doodle, which involved such talents as animator-musician Kevin Burke, designer-animator Hélène Leroux and engineering lead David Lu. (Google)

Team Google Doodle leader Ryan Germick grew up watching Fab 5 Freddy as host of “Yo! MTV Raps,” and his creative crew was able to get the Brooklyn-born legend to narrate today’s home-page viewers through a quick hip-hop history, toward a tutorial of pulling tunes from the digital crate (from old-school George Clinton and Betty Wright to brand-new Prince Paul beats) and working the crossfader on the decks.

Early art of Fab 5 Freddy, who contributed to Friday’s hip-hop Doodle. (Google)

Happy 44th, hip-hop — let the jam long play. “And it don’t stop!”

An early intro storyboard for Google Doodle’s first hip-hop Doodle, which dropped Friday. (Google)

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