Rappers often take their craft seriously, pridefully boasting of syllabic density and intellectual sensibility. Others, like the Fugees’ Lauryn Hill, went further, winning acclaim for off-kilter instrumental work.
More than any other genre, hip-hop has always been controversial. Its distinctive link with poor Black neighbourhoods has prompted listeners to demand that its music be socially conscious.
What is Hip-Hop?
Hip hop is a culture and art movement that began in the Bronx, New York in the 1970s. Today it encompasses a broad spectrum of musical styles and dance, as well as urban inspired art such as graffiti writing. It also includes a philosophy of life that emphasizes knowledge, love, unity and respect.
Hip Hop music, commonly referred to as rap music, is one of the most important musical genres of modern times. It is a style of music that combines rhythmic lyrics with an instrumental track, called a beat. Historically, this beat has been sampled from the percussion break of older songs, such as funk and disco. The MC or rapper will often speak over the beat, using techniques such as assonance and alliteration to create rhymed verses.
In the early days of hip hop, DJ Kool Herc is credited with creating the foundation for rapping as a popular artistic form by using turntables to isolate and replay the percussion breaks from records. He is widely regarded as the Founder of Hip Hop. As the Hip Hop culture grew, more and more musicians began to incorporate it into their work. Hip Hop influenced a whole generation of young people and helped them express themselves through music, dance and urban-inspired art.
As the hip hop movement grew, artists such as Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five and Run DMC rose to prominence, bringing the art form into mainstream music. Gangsta rap, with its lyrics that often glorified violence and misogyny, caused significant controversy in the music industry.
While the gangsta era of hip hop is considered to be one of its most turbulent periods, it was a period that brought the culture into the limelight. The popularity of hip hop led to the formation of record labels such as Tommy Boy, Def Jam and Prism Records that promoted a variety of artists and scenes.
As hip hop continued to grow, it moved beyond its East and West coast roots, spawning new centers in Atlanta, Houston and Detroit. The emergence of these new cities created a rivalry that reached its peak with the murders of Tupac Shakur and Notorious B.I.G. Despite this, the underlying principles of hip hop are still thriving in these new regions of America.
The Origins of Hip-Hop
Many of the original hip hop elements came together in the 1970s, when urban youth sought to express their ideas and feelings. They began spinning records and dancing to them. They created new forms of poetry and visual art to reveal their inner lives. These efforts were fed by the energy of their neighborhoods, which were filled with African American, Latino, and Caribbean people who fought to hold on to their own sense of self in the face of economic pressures that had ravaged them.
The first record considered to be the earliest hip hop was released in 1979 by a trio called The Sugarhill Gang, with a break beat taken from Chic’s “Good Times.” A year later, Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five’s The Message debuted, and rap became a popular form of music.
By the 1980s, DJ Kool Herc was spinning breaks and energizing crowds with his innovative style. A few years later, MCs like Public Enemy’s Rakim and Run DMC were taking center stage, with their cooler-than-life personas that might be super-smooth or gangland tough. MCs added their own twists to the A-A-B-B rhyme scheme that had come before them, including internal rhymes that pair words within a line.
Breaking spun up out of the streets. Early b(reaker)-girls and boys (and one woman, the Electric Boogaloos) earned their cuts and bruises on concrete and pushed each other to ever more audacious displays of style and skill. They also reworked dance moves into popping and locking, two styles that involve isolations and fluid waves.
The late 1980s and 1990s saw hip hop become a major commercial genre with artists like Tupac, the Notorious B.I.G, LL Cool J, and Jay-Z gaining huge popularity. The same era saw the rise of gangsta rap, a subgenre that emphasized the lifestyle of urban crime-focused youth.
Graffiti art also took off in the ’80s, with writers adding illustrations and second colors to block lettering. Some of the most skilled artists sprayed their designs on subway tunnel walls and trains, earning them paying gigs as graffiti artists.
The Evolution of Hip-Hop
The genre has undergone major developments since its birth in the 1970s. The four foundational elements that characterize hip hop culture include DJing/turntablism, MCing/rapping, B-boying/breaking, and visual/graffiti art. Each of these has spawned further subcultures that have had lasting legacies.
By the early 1980s, hip hop was gaining major mainstream recognition. The Sugarhill Gang’s song “Rapper’s Delight” rocketed to the top of the charts, ushering in a new wave of artists and performers. Many of the performers from this era are still household names today, including Run-D.M.C, LL Cool J, Public Enemy, the Beastie Boys and A Tribe Called Quest. The genre also experienced a period of diversification, with artists experimenting with drum kits, more complex sampling and metaphorical rap lyrics.
During this time, a new style of rap emerged called Gangsta Rap. Its main theme was focusing on the lifestyle of inner-city youth. This style of rap was popularized by artists like 2Pac, The Notorious B.I.G, MC Hammer and Boogie Down Productions.
The ’90s marked the climax of hip hop’s golden era, with artists enjoying huge mainstream success and introducing major innovations with every album release. The decade also saw the emergence of the West Coast sound, with artists like Nas and The X-Files showcasing this emerging style.
It was during this time that New York City based rap group ‘Wu Tang Clan’ released their album ‘Enter the Wu-Tang’. Its dark and rugged feel and technical lyricism made it a groundbreaking release that changed the face of hip hop music.
In the 2000s, hip hop continued to grow in popularity and influence musicians of all genres. The genre also expanded to a global audience, with rappers coming from places like Japan, Cape Town and London.
In the 2010s, hip hop started to experience a decline in popularity, due in part to the rise of streaming services and a change in how music is sold. Despite this, some artists remain very influential and continue to push the boundaries of the genre with every new record. As long as hip hop continues to evolve, it will always have a place in pop culture.
What is the Future of Hip-Hop?
Despite the fact that hip hop is not as popular as it was in the 1980s, it still has many fans. This music genre is continuously evolving and is always creating new styles and subgenres. It is not clear what the future of hip hop will look like but it is sure to be interesting.
For decades, hip-hop was seen as a rebellious culture that openly challenged authority and promoted social activism. The rappers of the time were known to wear Adidas and tracksuits, and they would frequently rap about their drug addictions and fake gangster lifestyles. However, as the culture of hip-hop evolved, it began to shift towards more of a lifestyle that prioritized money and fame. This shifted the tone of the music as well and it became less about social activism and more about bragging about one’s riches.
While some artists have continued to maintain a more serious tone, others have pushed back against this trend. Recent years have seen an increase in rappers who talk about mental health issues and their own personal struggles. It is likely that this will continue to be a focus of hip hop in the future and it is important to support these artists as they try to create a safe space for themselves within the genre.
The future of hip hop is uncertain but it is certain to be a major part of the music industry. This genre has influenced not only the way we listen to music but also how it is produced. In the future, we can expect to see more experimental production techniques and new sounds. This will be a result of the increased availability of technology as well as the desire to create something different from what is already out there.
It is possible that this will lead to the creation of a new genre of hip-hop or it could just mean that the genre will evolve into something else entirely. However, it is hard to predict the exact future of this music genre because it has gone through so many iterations throughout its history.