DJ Clark Kent shut down the Essence Festival stage as concert-goers absorbed the energy from hip-hop pioneers like Big Daddy Kane, EPMD, Slick Rick and Doug E Fresh. “[Seeing] performances representing our culture was awesome,” Kent told ESSENCE.
The 55-year-old has cemented his impact and legacy into the culture after curating moments with artists like Jay Z, Lil’ Kim and The Notorious B.I.G.“The actual hip-hop culture has saved so many souls and given careers to so many people,” Kent said. “I’m truly humbled and honored to have been able to be a part of it.”
Kent laid the sonic foundation for night one at the 2023 Essence Festival, where he transported back to special moments when certain songs became staples in their formative years.
“I look at hip-hop as an actual culture [because] it’s a way of life,” he said. “When you look at this culture, you see what it’s done for people. I’m honored and blessed to have found myself within it and found something that spoke to me as a person and shaped how I move.”
As far as the next 50 years of hip-hop, DJ Clark Kent is excited for the next generation of artists and creatives to make their imprints in the culture. “I’m just excited to see how we keep growing because this way of life, the only way it maintains is if it keeps growing,” he said.
The Essence Fest hip-hop tribute felt surreal for Kent as he remembers growing up listening to the changemakers who continue to leave an influence on rap today. Though his legacy is solidified in the culture, this was not on purpose initially.
“I never take a step back and look at what I’ve done,” he said. “I never set out to be this guy; I was just this kid who wanted to be a DJ, and being able to add on [to hip-hop] and be respected for adding on is incredible.”