Hip Hop Culture Term Paper

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Hip Hop Culture

The History of Hip Hop Culture

The roots of hip hop culture are in West African and African-American music (Armstrong, 1997; Hummell, 2002). The griots of West Africa are a group of traveling singers and poets, whose musical style is very similar to hip hop. The most important direct influence on the creation of hip hop music was the Jamaican style called dub, which arose in the 1960's. Dub musicians isolated percussion breaks because dancers at clubs typically preferred the rhythms of the often-short breaks. Soon, performers began speaking in sync with these rhythms. In 1967, Jamaican immigrants brought dub to New York City, where it evolved into hip hop (Hummell, 2002; Mills, 1999). In Jamaica, dub music diversified into genres such as reggae and dancehall.

True hip hop arose during the 1970's when block parties became common in New York City, especially the Bronx. Block parties were usually accompanied by music, especially funk and soul music. The early disk jockeys (DJ's) at block parties began isolating the percussion breaks to popular songs of the day, realizing that these were the most danceable and entertaining parts. This technique was then common in Jamaica and had spread because of a substantial Jamaican immigrant community in New York City (Armstrong, 1997). Dub had arisen in Jamaica due to the influence of American sailors and radio stations playing rhythm and blues. By the end of the 1970's, hip hop music was beginning to become a major commercial and artistic force and had spread throughout the United States (Mills, 1999). During the 1980's and 1990's, hip hop gradually became mainstream in the United States and, to a lesser degree, worldwide.

Branches of Hip Hop Culture

The five main branches of hip hop culture include: a) mixing, which is the art of combining sounds using turntables or other sources, b) "b boying" or dancing, c) graffiti art, d) "MC'ing," and e) beat boxing (Farmington, 2002).


The introduction of the digital sampler changed the way hip hop was produced. A sampler can digitally record and save small sound clips from any output device, such as a turntable. Producers were able to sample their own drum sounds from the records they were listening to. They could sample horns, upright basses, guitars and pianos to play along with their drums.


B-boying is a form of hip hop dancing, which is popularly known as breaking. It consists of top or up rock, footwork, spinning moves (power moves), and freeze. It was the late 1960's and 1970's when people started a sort of b-boying in Bronx, New York. Breaking is the most popular style of hip hop dancing and it has been spreading all over the world while new school dancing such as hip hop and house were limited to big cities in the U.S. And Japan.

B-boying became even more popular in 80s. It was first introduced to outside of New York City and the rest of world by the movie "Flashdance" in 1983. Even though it was not a b-boying movie, the short scene which featured b-boying on a street had a great impact enough to inspire people to start b-boying all over the world. After "Flashdance," many breaking movies were made such as "Breakin'," "Breaking'2," and "Beat street."

Graffiti Art

One of the earliest and most important graffiti crews was the Black Spades (Farmington, 2002). The Black Spades were followed by many other crews and graffiti art arose to mark boundaries between them. Graffiti as an art had been known since at least the 1950's, but began developing in earnest in 1969 and flourished during the 1970's. By 1976, graffiti artists began painting whole murals using advanced techniques.


In the 1970s and 1980s, the term MC (short for Master of Ceremonies) was generally associated with what is now called rapping in hip hop music. Rap music is one of the elements of hip hop; it is a form of rhyming lyrics spoken rhythmically over musical instruments, with a musical backdrop of sampling, scratching and mixing by DJ's. Originally, rapping was called MC'ing and was seen as supporting the DJ.

The record producer is an often overlooked component of hip hop, sometimes confused with the DJ. This is a misconception because not all DJ's make beats, and not all producers can DJ. Although hip hop's original music consisted solely of the DJ's recycled breakbeats, the advent of the drum machine allowed hip hop musicians to develop partially original scores. Drum set sounds could be played either over the music from vinyl records or by themselves. The importance of quality drum sequences became the most important focus of hip hop musicians because these rhythms (beats) were the most danceable part. Consequently, drum machines were equipped to produce strong kick sounds with powerful (sine) bass behind them.

Beat Boxing

Beatboxing, which is a form of MC'ing, is primarily concerned with the art of creating beats, rhythms, and melodies using the human mouth. The term 'beatboxing' is derived from the mimicry of the first generation of drum machines, then known as beatboxes. The art form enjoyed a strong presence in the 1980's. In many ways, beatboxing fell from mainstream popularity along with breakdancing in the late 1980's. However, beatboxing has enjoyed a resurgence in recent years and continues to be incorporated into many mainstream songs today.

The Spread of Hip Hop Culture

Women, whites, and Latinos had long been a part of the hip hop scene. However, it was not until the 1980's that groups other than young African-American males began creating popular, innovative and distinctive styles of hip hop music (Mills, 1999). The first rap recording by a solo female was Philadelphia-based Lady B.'s "To the Beat, Y'All" (1980), while The Sequencers were the first female group to record. However, it was not until Salt-N-Pepa formed that female performers gained mainstream success. The first groups to mix hip hop and heavy metal included 1984's "Rock Box" (Run-D.M.C.) and "Rock Hard" (Beastie Boys). Later in the decade, Ice-T and Anthrax were among the most innovative groups to combine thrash metal and hip hop. These fusions helped move hip hop into new audiences, and introduced it to millions of new fans in the United States and abroad.

Beginning in the early 1980's, hip hop culture began its spread across the world (Sutter, 2002). By the end of the 1990's, popular hip hop was sold almost everywhere, and native performers were recording in most every country with a popular music industry. Elements of hip hop became fused with numerous styles of music, including reggae, cumbia and samba. Hip hop had spread to South Africa by the early 1980's. The first band to come from South Africa was Black Noise, although they did not start MC'ing until 1989, after which the apartheid-era government banned hip hop until 1993. Since then, South Africa has produced its own styles, like kwela.

Germany saw a hip hop scene begin developing in the early 1980's, which was focused around breakdancing. The first popular hip hop group from Germany was Die Fantastischen Vier. Interestingly, most of the most well-known German hip hop performers are Turkish. Italy saw the introduction of hip hop in the early 1980's, and soon produced its own performers, like Articolo 31 and Jovanotti. Filipino hip hop began in the early 1980's, producing performers like Dyords Javier ("Na Onseng Delight") and Vincent Dafalong ("Nunal"). Nip hop, or Japanese hip hop, began in about 1983 and first focused on breakdancing. Musicians, especially DJ's and rappers, followed by the end of the decade. France, like many European countries, has mostly produced hip hop performers from immigrant communities, such as Algerians. The first French hip hop album was Dee Nasty's 1984 Paname City Rappin', though the first popular performer from the country was…

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