The Birth of Hip Hop

25 May

The birth of Rap is sometimes attributed to the righteous street poetry of the Last Poets and the Watts Prophets, but it didn’t begin to take full shape — and earn its tag — until after the Sugarhill Gang released “Rapper’s Delight” in 1979. Since then, rap spread from its New York epicenter throughout the remainder of the U.S. (with each region taking on its own specific flavor) and then to countless countries.

The most successful rap acts where groups like Grandmaster Flash and The Furious Five, Kurtis Blow and Whodini, wore outlandish, glam rock inspired outfits on stage, while their music sampled disco and funk. Run DMC’s successful merging of heavy metal riffs and hip hop beats and street-inspired style brought rap music and hip hop culture to the mainstream.

Grandmaster Flash and The Furious Five

Rap music was formed during the 1970s when block parties became increasingly popular in New York City, particularly among African American and Latino youth residing in the Bronx.  Block parties incorporated DJs who played popular genres of music, especially funk and soul music. Due to the positive reception, DJs began isolating the percussion breaks of popular songs. This technique was then common in Jamaican dub music.  Because the percussive breaks in funk, soul and disco records were generally short, DJ Kool Herc and other DJs began using such techniques with two turntables to extend the breaks.

Hip hop music eventually emerged out of rap as party DJs  made improvisations to existing music. Although hip hop music predates the introduction of rapping into hip hop culture, the majority of the genre is accompanied by rap vocals.

Turntablist techniques, such as scratching (attributed to Grand Wizzard Theodore), beat mixing/matching, and beat juggling eventually developed along with the breaks, creating a base that could be rapped over, in a manner similar to signifying, as well as the art of toasting, another influence found in Jamaican dub music.

Rap and Hip Hop’s core components are beats and rhymes, but that simplicity belies the wide range of sounds that have sprung from them. Instrumentalists, a sampled breakbeat, or a drum machine can form the backbone of a track, while an arrangement can be spaciously spare or chaotically dense, and a

LL Cool J is considered to have the greatest longevity in Rap music. His career as a rapper spans more than two decades — beginning during the early stages of rap and surviving through the emergence of hip hop music.

chorus,  can range from atonal shouting to a sweet melody. Detractors were still calling rap a fad in 1985, when LL Cool J released his first single. They were doing the same thing when, roughly 20 years later, he released his tenth album, and they’ll probably continue to do so as long as the genre exists. Should rap ever die, which isn’t likely, it would be far too late to prevent its effect on most other music forms, from R&B to rock to jazz.

Since hip-hop’s emergence in the 1970s, the movement has fostered a cultural climate of harmony and good music for everyone. From the early days of B-Boys and break dancing to the modern era of big jewelry and even bigger rhymes, hip-hop has been able to transcend generations and color boundaries despite initial dismissals as a fad.


2 Responses to “The Birth of Hip Hop”

  1. Jamal Roy June 14, 2012 at 12:49 am #

    Good stuff. I’m a little too young to know about these stuffs but I’ve listened to Run DMC from my father’s collection. In my opinion Run DMC’s music are timeless, it ain’t just me who’s hooked into his music but some of my hommies are listening to it too. Man hip hop’s still the hottest around the world even with the boom of electronic music and stuff lately. Actually, even the electronic music are a fusion of the hip hop genre nowadays anyways.

  2. Carlos June 14, 2012 at 6:48 am #

    It isn’t too farfetched to think that pretty much all the popular culture today stem from R&B and rap. Every genre of music incorporates rap from rock, to eletronic, to even house music. I seriously don’t think rap will ever die and it will always remain in one form or another. Hip hop too is evolving and I think it will survive for a long time.

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