April Hernandez (L) with Easy A.D. (R)  at the 2023 Element of Hip Hop Awards. Photo: Carolina Valencia

While real hip-hopheads began celebrating back in January, the 2023 Grammy Awards ceremony served as a kick-off to the celebration of 50 years of hip-hop. But there’s another award ceremony that celebrates the history of hip-hop each year — the Element of Hip Hop Awards. Hosted by the nonprofit organization Windows of Hip Hop (WOHH), the event is meant to celebrate those in hip-hop who have contributed to the cultural, spiritual and widespread growth of the genre. This year’s honorees included Darryl “DMC” McDaniels of Run DMC, Ephrem “DJ Enuff” Lopez of Hot 97 radio station, infamous Bgirl Ana “Rokafella” Garcia, Easy A.D. of the Cold Crush Brothers and Bronx borough president Vanessa L. Gibson.

The awards do not air live on primetime TV — each year it’s covered by local Bronx cable network Bronxnet — and there isn’t a red carpet full of celebrities wearing designer fashions, but the heart and soul of the event is felt by everyone in attendance. This year was no different, with powerful speeches about the culture of hip-hop and the importance of not forgetting where it all started. 

“My greatest achievement was to be the representatives of the culture,” DMC said.

This year’s award ceremony was held in Manhattan, in the heart of Times Square, on Feb. 22. In her heartfelt acceptance speech for her Element of Hip Hop Award, Rokafella shared that she was standing just a block away from where she used to breakdance with crews like the Transformers, the Breeze Team and the New York City Float Committee. Raised in Spanish Harlem, Rockafella is credited with being a female break dance pioneer. 

Freedom Writers actress April Hernandez emceed the awards for the second year in a row, with speeches from Grandmaster Caz, CS 55 principal Luis Torres and founder Melissa Libran. Each honoree received a citation from the Bronx borough president’s office as well as the office of the mayor. Award winners also received a special Element Award along with From the Bronx tote bags filled with other Bronx-centric merch. 

Bronx  Borough president Vanessa Gibson. Photo: Carolina Valencia

Founded in 2012, Windows is an organization powered primarily by women alongside Grandmaster Melle Mel and Grandmaster Caz. Their mission is to promote the educational, communal and historical perspective of hip-hop. It currently offers programming as a Department of Education vendor, and has allocated funding to build a state-of-the-art recording studio in CS 55 in the Bronx.

Hip-hip is edutainment, and in the words of Easy A.D., it’s a vibration that is everlasting. Epicenter-NYC will be at the heart of the celebration of the 50th anniversary with an ongoing series of stories and events to honor the contributions of hip-hop to music, to our neighborhoods and to the world.

Leave a comment below to share how hip-hop impacted your life, a favorite song, or what it means to you. 

Nicole Perrino is the founder of Bronxmama.com, a hyperlocal website for Bronx families where she use her influence to celebrate the beauty that the Bronx has to offer. In addition to her role at Bronxmama,...

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