The Evolution of Hip-Hop Culture

Hip-hop has had a phenomenal influence since it is perceived as a form of art and has altered the world’s perception of fashion, dance, dialect, politics, and other aspects of life. However, hip-hop emerged from anarchy, representing much of a culture. It came up during the 1970s in an era of turmoil in New York City. Currently, hip-hop is an indispensable culture that is celebrated by people all around the globe. The evolution of hip-hop is vast and comprehensive and may consume much more than this article can handle. However, this article will critically analyze the positive and negative effects of hip-hop culture and prove that hip-hop is more beneficial than it is harmful to society.

Hip-hop hails from the 1970s in the Bronx, New York, as a form of expression and creativity. It emerged during a dark era characterized by gang violence, crime, and poverty. After the collapse of the manufacturing industry of the US resulted in a consequential plummet in the region’s economic performance (PQ). Therefore, people in New York City, especially the Bronx, became desperate after losing their jobs. African-Americans, Porte Ricans, and Caribbean immigrants were left in urban areas, as Caucasians moved into the suburbs after losing their manufacturing jobs too.

Many buildings used in the manufacturing era were abandoned, and New York City’s urban culture ceased to be as alluring as before. There was urban despair where people burnt buildings and lived in anarchy. However, hip-hop emerged as a way to cope with the city’s intricate life. The first hip-hop party was hosted by a disk jockey known as DJ Kool Herc at 1520 Sedgwick Avenue.

DJ Kool Herc made his music debut with the “Back to School Jam” on the 11th of August, 1973. It was the beginning of a series of hip-hop block parties where DJ Kool Herc added numerous elements. He played hard funk records but enhanced them by emphasizing beats and intermittent breaks. The breakdowns within Hercs music formed the fundamentals of hip-hop music. He used a setup of two turn tables and used a pair of similar music records to lengthen the break (PQ). Secondly, he hired dancers, known as breakdancers, break-boys, and break girls. Break-boys and break-girls are referred to as B-boys and B-girls, respectively.

Thirdly, DJ Kool Herc made exhortations and announcements to the dancers in the form of rhythm. It later turned into what is currently known as rapping. The work of DJ Kool Herc was swiftly embraced by other Mc’s, and the main ones were Afrika Bambaataa and Grandmaster Flash (PQ). Afrika Bambaataa and Grandmaster Flash added the aspect of commerce into Djeeing and Meeting. Rapping became a major factor in hip-hop after DJ Hollywood came into the scene (Reese). He synchronized rhymes with the beat for longer than other MCs did. DJ Hollywood introduced a continuous rhyme, which brought the aspect of flow.

However, hip-hop was still raw and associated with the streets. The sophisticated nightclubs within New York City did not want to be affiliated with hip-hop culture. All attendants of these nightclubs were required to dress in suits and dresses to alienate followers of the hip-hop culture. It is because hip-hop had not yet penetrated the market, and it was shut down by the general society of the United States for several years. Part of the reason for this is that the first generation of hip-hop pioneers never conceptualized recording music. In 1979, the first music record was made by Big Bank Hank, known as rapper’s delight. It was a hit and was played on the radio on repeat. It later became apparent that the lyrics to this song were stolen and belonged to an MC known as Grandmaster Cuz.

The first hip-hop record increased awareness about the Grandmaster Flash, and the furious five became popular for live performances, and they were able to play in clubs as far as Manhattan (Reese). Their music record, “The Message,” achieved attention from a wider audience due to its political and social consciousness discourse. As a result, hip-hop became a conscious form of expression about the observations of society at the time. Grandmaster Cuz and the cold crush brothers were the biggest opponents of Grandmaster Flash and the furious five, and they introduced the aspect of competition into hip-hop (Reese). Rap battles became more common as many African-Americans were interested in being part of hip-hop.

People from other races started getting into the hip-hop scene and made enhancements that later made hip-hop mainstream. Technology became a part of music production, and the sound became more appealing to a wider audience. As aforementioned, hip-hop artists began to make more influence across the United States because they made socially relevant content and addressed the plight of marginalized communities in the Bronx. These changes altered how hip-hop music was created and received. Hip-hop music changed its trajectory in the mid-1980s and 1990s, and it morphed from old-school music to new school.

New school hip-hop was characterized by the next generation of rappers led by a trio group known as Run-D.M.C. These rappers combined hard rock and hippie fashion and presented to the mainstream audience. Def Jam records introduced other musical talents with artists, such as LL Cool J, Public Enemy, and Beastie Boys (Reese). The Beastie Boys were a white trio who increased the scope of hip-hop’s audience by alluring white people in the US. On the other hand, Public Enemy joined the pursuit of political and social activism launched by “The Message.” As a result, hip-hop in the 1990s started imparting its influence across the United States.

The first music record that made it possible for hip-hop to enter the hip-hop scene was known as “Walk this way.” It was a collaboration between Run-D.M.C and Aerosmith, and it was a significant milestone towards the long-desired cross-cultural appeal of hip-hop. Rappers emerged from other states across the United States and sold multiple records because hip-hop has now become part of popular culture across the United States (Polfuß). Hip-hop culture spread across the United States, and it became an affair of the East and West coast. The original generation of hip-hop MCs aforementioned was part of the East coast. The rappers that represented the West coast were 2-Pac Shakur, Ice-Cube, Ice-T, Captain Rapp, and Disco Daddy. The rivalry between the East and West was an extension of the competitive culture cultivated through rap battles. The southern part of the US joined the hip-hop scene with successful acts like The Migos from Atlanta, Georgia.

Universal Music, Def Jam, Roc-A-Fella, May Bach Music group, and Young Money Records were a few record labels that took over the mantle in the 2000s. Hip-hop rappers in this phase made hip-hop music to be celebrated immensely across the world. Hip-hop culture is currently popular across most countries worldwide (Polfuß). Hip-hop rappers have now emerged from all parts of the world. The black entertainment Television (BET) awards recognize the most influential and talented hip-hop artists within the United States and beyond. It celebrates the victory that African-Americans achieved in promoting hip-hop music from the streets of the major mainstream media outlets.

Hip-hop may have served the African-American communities in numerous ways, but it has its fair of intricacies. An excellent example of a dominating complication presented by hip-hop is the prevalence of crime. Hip-hop culture believes in no limits, and it often emphasizes the use of gun violence to commit criminal acts and make money. Hip-hop music has also been associated with the increased intake of harmful drugs and promiscuity. A fair share of hip-hop rappers has faced criminal charges for gun possession, drug possession, and even the failure to pay for child support. Moreover, many hip-hop artists end up wasting millions of money living fast and spending on high-end cars, mansions, expensive clothes, jewelry, and parties, only to eventually end up breaking.

Warts and all, the hip-hop culture has had more positive than negative influences within the United States. Hip-hop music generates millions of dollars for the economy of the United States every year. It has provided numerous employment opportunities to people involved in music production, dancing, video production, event organizing, and media reporting. Violence within hip-hop is a serious issue, but in retrospect, the case would likely have been worse if hip-hop was not invented. It is imperative to understand that hip-hop emerged from an era full of turmoil and confusion among African-Americans. Hip-hop gave the marginalized communities in the United States an opportunity to address the social issues they faced while also earning from their creativity. Crime in the US would have been worse if hip-hop never existed and all the people who have benefited from it over the years had to seek alternative sources of livelihood.

Works Cited

Polfuß, Jonas. “Hip-hop: a marketplace icon.” Consumption Markets & Culture, 2021, pp. 1-15.

PQ, Rory. “Hip-hop history: from the streets to the mainstream.”, 2019, Web.

Reese, Eric. The History of Hip-hop. Vol. 2. Eric Reese, 2019.

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