Rappers take listeners on lyrical journeys. One scholar says the music helps them to learn more about the world around them.
In honor of Hip Hop History Month, we take a look at some of the most notable rappers in the world today. Plus, we examine why rappers who didn’t finish school have become some of education’s biggest benefactors.
What is Hip Hop?
Hip Hop is a cultural movement that emerged in the Bronx in the 1970s. It began as an artistic response to the negative impact of poverty and discrimination on African Americans and Latinos. It soon became a global phenomenon, influencing music styles, fashion, technology, art, language, dance, entertainment, education and politics.
Hip hop is often associated with gangster culture, but it is actually much more than that. It is a style of music and a way of life that encompasses the four main elements of the movement: DJing, MCing, breaking and graffiti. Hip hop is a way of life that has shaped the lives of millions of people around the world, and those who practice hip hop are known as hip hop heads.
The earliest hip hop artists were deejays who mixed musical sounds, creating a rhythmic base for rapping and other vocal performances. This rhythmic base is called the beat, and it can be fast or slow, but it is always present in hip hop music. The rapping is done by an artist called an MC, and it consists of melodic recitations with recurring rhymes that are delivered over the beat.
As hip hop evolved, artists like Run-D.M.C and Public Enemy brought the genre to a wide national audience. During this era, the artists that were part of hip hop’s new school movement pushed the boundaries of the genre further. Artists like LL Cool J brought romantic themes to hip hop, while the Beastie Boys and Public Enemy used the platform of hip hop to push forward political ideology.
Hip hop has been a powerful tool for social change since its beginnings. In the 1980s, rappers sounded the alarm about issues that were affecting Black communities such as incarceration rates (what Michelle Alexander calls the “New Jim Crow”) and socio-economic conditions that lead to factors like urban crime.
Today, hip hop continues to grow as a popular music genre and a culture that has influenced clothing styles, language, music and dance, food, fashion, technology, education, political activism and much more. In addition, it has become a multi-billion dollar industry that continues to evolve and influence society worldwide.
What is the History of Hip Hop?
Hip Hop was born in the streets of New York City in the 1970s. Its evolution has been shaped by a range of social, cultural and economic factors, and has had a profound influence on music and youth culture. The movement incorporates a wide range of art forms, including rap music, DJing, breakdancing, and graffiti art. Its history is as complex as its current global influence.
In the early years of Hip Hop, DJ Kool Herc and the Sugarhill Gang laid down the foundations for what would become hip-hop. These artists pioneered the technique of blending musical styles to create unique beats and rhythms. They also introduced the use of MCs, or mic controllers, who spoke over the instrumental breaks of their songs. These early MCs were heavily influenced by older sources such as the Last Poets, who delivered political street-poetry in Harlem, and Martin Luther King’s powerful speeches.
Hip-hop emerged in a period of deindustrialization for urban America, and cities began to experience double-digit unemployment rates and inflation. These conditions disproportionately affected marginalized communities such as African Americans and Latinos. As a result, many Hip-hop artists discussed these issues in their songs.
The emergence of gangsta rap in the late 80s and early 90s was an attempt to address these concerns through more aggressive lyrics and imagery. It was a response to what some saw as the failures of American society to meet the needs of poor urban communities. Gangsta rap was controversial and received criticism, but it also gained a significant following and helped to propel hip-hop into the mainstream.
By the early 90s, hip-hop had diversified into different genres and subgenres. Bands such as De La Soul and A Tribe Called Quest started incorporating jazz and R&B into their productions. All-girl groups such as Salt-N-Pepa and the Fugees created a fun, danceable style of hip hop. Rappers like Common, Mos Def and Talib Kweli delved into more socially conscious themes in their lyrics.
Hip-hop is a global culture that continues to evolve and expand. It is not only a music genre, but a lifestyle that incorporates fashion, food, dance and a variety of other art forms. Its global influence is undeniable and it’s a powerful force that should not be ignored.
What is the Culture of Hip Hop?
Hip hop culture is more than just music; it is a way of life. It incorporates many different art forms, including DJing, MCing, B-boying, and graffiti. It is a style that has influenced dance, fashion, and even politics. It has become one of the most popular and influential genres of music in the world.
It all started in the Bronx borough of New York City in the early 1970s. At that time, things were tough in urban America. The black community was struggling with ghetto segregation, poverty, and violence. Hip hop was born out of this culture of resistance and rebellion. It was a fusion of various elements and influences from different cultural backgrounds.
There are four foundational elements that characterize hip hop culture: DJing/turntablism, MCing/rapping, B-boying (breakdancing), and graffiti. These are not necessarily the only elements of hip hop, but they are the ones that are most recognized by the majority of people when they think of the genre. Hip hop is also characterized by a strong, rhythmic beat, which serves as the backbone of the song. This beat can be fast and aggressive or slow and relaxing, but it is always present.
Another characteristic of hip hop is its use of sampling. This is the process of using existing music and reworking it to create something new. It is a practice that was common in the early days of jazz, blues, and other musical genres. This technique allowed hip hop artists to remix and rework old records and give them a fresh sound.
The graffiti aspect of hip hop is important as well. Graffiti artists are known for their unique styles and techniques. They often paint on a variety of surfaces, from walls to trains and subway cars. They are also known for their use of second colors and intricate shapes. These artists are credited with giving hip hop its “wild style” image.
Rappers have been addressing issues of racial justice since the rise of politically conscious rap in the 1980s. They have critiqued racial injustices such as the American Prison Industrial Complex, which disproportionately jails black men; the gangsta image; and the socio-economic conditions in urban African American communities that lead to factors like black on black crime.
What is the Influence of Hip Hop on Society?
Hip Hop is more than just music, it has shaped the culture of black youth to produce art that reflects their complex beliefs and experiences. Hip Hop has connected young people to fundamental ideas of social awareness and purpose.
This movement has also provided a space for rappers to speak out against various societal issues like the American prison industrial complex, where black people are disproportionately incarcerated (what Michelle Alexander calls the “New Jim Crow”) and the socio-economic factors that lead to black on black crime. Hip Hop has also pushed back against racist representations of black people in pop culture. Rappers like Tupac and Eminem have called out white police officers for violence against black people, while artists such as Kendrick Lamar have sung about their personal experiences with police violence and hope for a better future.
The hip hop culture has also empowered black women in the genre by providing a platform for them to assert their own narratives and voices. While hip hop’s sexual politics can be problematic and demeaning to black women, rappers like MC Lyte and Queen Latifah have used their music to promote female empowerment.
Hip hop has also provided a space for rappers and artists to explore their creative talents by developing and perfecting their own styles of b-boying, graffiti, and rapping. The elements that are essential to Hip Hop allow for artists to create beats, rhythms and lyrics that make listeners want to dance. The genre has also become a way for young kids in impoverished neighborhoods to escape from gang violence and other negative influences by giving them an alternative activity that they could enjoy and be proud of.
Hip hop has made an enormous impact on society as it continues to evolve and change. It is vital that we understand its origins and its place in modern culture so that we can learn from it, respect it, and celebrate it. Although there is still a lot to unpack in hip hop culture – like its relationship with whiteness, it’s sexual politics or how it’s prosecuted by the state – understanding its origins can help us have a more holistic view of it.