What is Hip-hop?
Although we think of Hip-hop as mostly music, there's more to it than most people think. Hip-hop was a cultural movement that began in the streets of New York during the 1970’s. Hip-hop is expressed through a number of artistic forms, including music, dance, graffiti, and fashion. Hip-hop music began to develop in the underground music scene, with lyrics that spoke out on poverty and racicm in inner-city African American neighborhoods. Over time, Hip-hop became a voice for African-American youth, who saw it as a way to express the realities of their lives.
In the 1970s, New York City was in bad shape. Crime was rampant, the streets were dangerous, and fires were breaking out all over the Bronx. African Americans living in the city felt like they were being abandoned. Sometime in the mid 1970's, graffiti began to become popular in poor areas of NYC. It began with people "tagging" their names, but by the end of the 1970's entire murals were being sprayed onto the walls of buildings.
Ruins of burned apartments in NYC
Fire in the Bronx in the late 70's
Around this time, a young man who called himself DJ Kool Herc began to host "block parties" in which he would play popular dance songs. Kool Herc created a new way to play these songs by using two turntables at the same time. Herc would play the "dance break" of one song on one turntable, and when it reached the end, play the same dance break on the other turntable. This would provide a long, continuous song that would cause people to dance for hours. This was the beginning of break dancing.
DJ Kool Herc
The Beginning of Rap
Parties in the style of DJ Kool Herc's began to pop up all over the Bronx, Brooklyn and Queens. Some MC's would speak in a rhythm over the dance beat to get people more into the music. Eventually, these MCs began to rhyme their words and freestyle lyrics to the beat of the music. This became known as "rapping". Rap began to catch the attention of mainstream music in 1979 with the release of Rapper's Delight by the Sugarhill Gang.
Other early rap artists:
- Grandmaster Flash
- Kurtis Blow
- Afrika Bambataa
Rapper's Delight by the Sugarhill Gang
Rap began to catch on in the mid 1980s. The rap group Run-D.M.C brought rap to mainstream audiences by combining rap with hard rock. The Beastie Boys, a white rapping group, brought rap to white audiences, while LL Cool Jay brought a new romantic side to rap music. Some other notable new school rap artists include Salt-n-Pepa, Queen Latifah, The Fresh Prince (Will Smith), and MC Hammer.
"My Adidas" by Run DMC
The lyrics to "Express Yourself" by N.W.A
Until the mid 1980's, the New York City area was where all hip-hop music came from. At the end of the 80's, a number of groups in Los Angeles introduced the world to their own version of hip-hop music. Rap from the West coast area usually described the violent life in the inner city. This kind of rap was known as Gangsta Rap, and became the most popular kind of hip-hop music in the 1990's.