Known for his energetic performances and joyfully infectious beats, DJ Kool—the man behind the joyfully infectious rap single "Let Me Clear My Throat"—says it's a blessing to be part of the hip hop genre. 

“Because we've made it 50 years, and they didn't think that we were going to make it 50 years, it means everything,” he said to EBONY after a crowd-rousing performance at the after-party for the Apollo's Spring Benefit. “Hip hop is now a billion-dollar industry. And I'm just proud to have been a part of it for 46 years now.” The annual event, which supports the organization’s year-round, world-class artistic, education and community programs, as well as its commitment to Black arts and culture, raised $2.2 million.

DJ Kool, whose real name is John W. Bowman Jr., started his hip hop career in 1977 in Washington, D.C., where he was spinning first as a DJ on the local party scene. His most well know single dropped in 1996. Featuring samples from Kool & The Gang's "Hollywood Swinging" (1974) and from The 45 King’s "The 900 Number" (1987), "Let Me Clear My Throat" blends elements of hip-hop, funk and go-go music. It went on to land on the Billboard Top 100.

Reflecting on five decades of hip hop, he shared that the genre has expanded exponentially. “It’s more creative. You got all kinds of things going on nowadays that wasn't going on back in the day. It's just evolution.” 

His music has had an everlasting impact on the next generation of rappers and emcees. In 2016, DJ Kool opened for Beyoncé, “thanks to DJ Khaled,” he shared. In 2018, he opened Beyoncé and Jay Z.

And he’s gained some pretty influential fans along the way, like former First Lady Michelle Obama. “I met her in 2016 and she’s incredible. I told her who I was. I bowed down to her and said, "If I may, let me introduce myself,'" he exclaimed. “She looked at me, started laughing and did the same to me. She said to me DJ Kool, I know exactly who you are and I love ‘Let Me Clear My Throat.’ I didn’t care about anything else at that point. I was good.”