The Uprising of Hip-Hop: Music History

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Abstract

Hip-hop culture opened a new era in sound effects and musical genres. The history of hip-hop goes back to the 1970s when such pioneers as DJ Kool Herc and Afrika Bambaata created conceptually new musical beats and rhythms. Hip-hop trends and musical innovations became a cultural trend that had a great impact on all aspects of cultural life. Sounds and rhythms changed the way people dress, what music they listened to, and what they chose for entertainment. Ideas of freedom became established in society and attracted millions of fans. The early period of hip=hop 1970s and 1980s did not differ greatly: Run D.M.C., Daddy Kane and Kool G. Rap developed the ideas and trends of hip-hoppers adding more rap motives and techniques. Hip-hop music caused an extraordinary global transformation. The paper consists of an introduction, three chapters, a conclusion and appendix.

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Introduction

Hip-hop is considered a lifestyle, a culture, and a community. From the very beginning, a key issue surrounding hip-hop music has been whether it can be considered music per se. Hip-hop’s qualities are grounded in black cultural imperatives and the creative agency of the producers who pull together the rhythm tracks over which the hip-hop is performed. As a cultural trend, hip-hop influenced all aspects of cultural life in a positive and negative way. How people dress, what music they listen to, and what they choose for entertainment, are all reflections of how strongly or weakly they embrace the Hip-hop culture. Rebellious has become firmly established in society today despite the dangerous influence it has had on young people. Hip-hop music has encouraged lust, sex, suicide, rebellion against authority, etc1. The importance of the topic to audio engineering is that its highlights the main trends and changes affected the music industry, allows to understand social changes and processes affected this process and new sound effects introduced to the mass audience. The paper of based on a literature review and analysis of the historical facts and data. The research consists of three chapters that highlighted the main trends and changes made by hip-hop activists. The hypothesis is that social changes and ideas of freedom created a demand for new musical patterns and rhythms that emerged as a hip-hop movement.

Social Environment and Early Activists

The roots of hip-hop go back to the 1970s marked by ideas of freedom and independence. Like jazz’s multiethnic origins, hip-hop’s emergence in the 1970s was nurtured by a multiethnic collection of African American, Afro-Caribbean, and Latin American youth. Critics suppose that hip-hop arose in New York as opposition to disco and jazz. The first DJs isolated rhythms and motives in fun, soul and disco music trying to find a new sound effect2. A DJ is someone who uses two turntables as a musical instrument along with a stock of ordinary vinyl records. She or he alternates between two cuts (songs) to provide a seamless beat. A DJ also “scratches” the records by physically moving the record quickly back and forth under the turntable needle, which gives a scratching beat sound. Turntables provide a cheap, accessible means of creating music by mixing other sources without buying traditional instruments or a sound system. Breakdancing and rapping (first called MC-ing) are both equal and active parts of a related, interactive whole, which also includes DJ-ing and graffiti (“graf”).3

Critics (Light et al 39) admit that there is some dispute over which city was the originator of hip-hop, it is generally acknowledged that the “fathers” of hip-hop, who pioneered DJ techniques and were instrumental in setting the hip-hop movement in motion, were all from the Bronx. Each had his own territory and is credited for different innovations. All entertained crowds with elaborate performances that included DJ-ing, breakdancing, and graffiti action painters writing to the music. Jamaican Clive Campbell (DJ Kool Herc) (see figure 1) from the West Bronx was the first to extend the break beat between records. Instead of maintaining a seamless flow, he created a collage of endless break segments in which dancers, who became known as “break boys” or “b-boys”, performed their best moves4. Kool Herc shortened to “Herc” for his athletic prowess, was a breakdancer before he became a DJ. Herc came to New York from Jamaica, bringing with him the tradition of ska. Potter (1995) wrote, “In fact, the Jamaican connection is hip-hop’s strongest claim to specifically African roots, since not only the narratives and the technology, and the concept of talking over recorded music arrive via this route, but also the rhythmic, cut ’n’mix sound that is at the very heart of the hip hop aesthetic”5.

African-American Grandmaster Flash dominated the southern and central Bronx and became famous for the innovation of scratching (see figure 2). Afrika Bambaata from the Bronx River East is still influential in trying to promote the original hip-hop ethics of unity and noncategorization6. Bambaata is again active in touring as a performer and is attempting to revive hip-hop’s initial spirit of community activism that resulted in his founding of the Universal Zulu Nation. Its manifesto upheld principles such as knowledge, wisdom, understanding, freedom, justice, equality, peace, unity, love, and respect. Bam’s original community activism stills informs the critique and resistance. Hip-hop pioneer “DJ Africa Bambaataa” describes Hip-hop as:

…the whole culture of the movement…when you talk about rap…rap is part of the hip-hop culture…the emceeing…the deejaying is part of the hip-hop culture. The dressing the languages are all part of the hip hop culture…the break dancing the b-boys, b-girls…how you act, walk, look, talk are all part of hip hop culture…and the music is colorless…Hip Hop music is made from Black, brown, yellow, red, white…whatever music that gives you the grunt…that funk…that groove or that beat…It’s all part of hip hop… ‘7

An Emcee (MC), in the early 1970s, would encourage crowds to move, dance, and respond verbally (see figure 3).. These shouts were developed into rhymes and used as another layer of the beat that worked in tandem with the DJ. Grandmaster Flash was the first to use MCs to interact with the audience and to choreograph moves. He entertained crowds with five MCs called the Furious Five. The MC soon replaced the DJ as the subject of attention since the MC spoke directly to the crowd. This eventually led to the many styles of rapping (style of popular music) that exist today. The main musical activists who developed rhymes and motifs of hip-hop were The Herculoids, and Coke La Rock and Clark Kent. Herc8.

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The Early 1980s and Hip-Hop

In the early 1980s, angry or alienated youth from around the world began to make the transition from punk to hip-hop, being attracted to the union of form and political content. For those outside the culture, hip-hop is often associated with gangster rap, which started in the late 1980s. However, this is only part of the hip-hop movement which attracts the most media attention. In Rap Attack, David Toop (1984) contested the argument that gangster rap is a legitimate form of social activism.

The contradictions of a money-minded craze for gory social realism and criticism of the Reagan Administration with its callous cutbacks in social programs are hard to resolve. The juxtapositions of protests about rape victims with rampant machismo or hard-times lyrics sung by kids in expensive leather outfits and gold chains can be hard to stomach 9

Tricia Rose (1994) chronicles the urban context of the Bronx during the 1970s (27–34). The South Bronx especially, became notorious for gangs, burnt-out abandoned buildings, drugs, and poverty. This came about through a combination of postindustrial conditions exacerbated by the community relocation and destruction largely initiated and executed by Robert Moses in the implementation of the Cross Bronx Ex-pressway. “Like many of his public works projects, Moses’ Cross Bronx Expressway supported the interest of the upper classes against the interest of the poor and intensified the development of the vast economic and social inequalities that characterize contemporary New York”10

Hip-hop culture emerged from these ashes of destruction to give youth hope and a sense of identity formed through peer support and competition between individuals and groups. Abandoned by the social service cuts and the support of larger institutional structures due to the bankruptcy of New York in the 1980s, creative youth made do with discarded technology and drove each other to achieve through the never-ending battles of hip-hop’s competitive street entertainment. “Competition, of course is the very essence of every aspect of hip-hop culture, be it graffiti, MC-ing, DJ-ing—‘what makes it real is the battle,’ says Kid Freeze”11.

It is important to note that hip-hop has undergone numerous stylistic transformations since it burst onto the national scene commercially in 1979. Its thematic content reflects this hybrid profile, encompassing myriad topics in its lyrics: social responsibility, calculated nihilism, cultural criticism, black self-help, misogyny, both male and female braggadocio, artistic rivalry, violence, gender relationships, religion, homophobia, leisure and party life, and parental control, among many others. In hip-hop, the twin modalities of history and memory animate themes and musical gestures as their various stylistic idioms invoke and sometimes critique previous (and contemporary) genres of the last fifty years, especially soul and funk. Hip-hop practitioners have resisted some of the parameters set by the “standard” musical system and have created a new approach that is pushed so close to the edge of established convention that even its status as music has been questioned12.

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Influences of hip-hopers come from many different sources and reveal a desire to learn from others, to feel part of something bigger than themselves, and to make a personal contribution. This relationship is characterized by direct participation and sharing in the creation of knowledge. Hip-hop is a way of life with peers. It will be interesting to observe whether computer networking will dissolve differences and move the community toward a more universal global culture13. Many isolated youths in small towns across the United States and Canada participating in the communal pleasure of imitating their mentors from the Internet, while trying to develop a specific style. For the first time, youth can exchange stories, images, and music without the mediation of publishers and the recording industry. However, social participation in cyberspace may take away from the material exchanges of tools, language, skills, fashions, and political attitudes that spawned the regional identities and innovations of specific groups and individuals who learned hip-hop on the streets14. Most participants admitted that when they began, hip-hop music was more about the thrill of the act than anything else. Many were in search of the tribal and found it in the communal activities of hip-hop15. However, as they continued past adolescence, their awareness of the many issues involved transformed their experience. This oversimplification overlooks differences in the play of identities and in the diverse ways the culture continues to evolve. Hip-hop is a way of life that embraces all music styles, races, cultures, and genders. Like the emergence of jazz, hip-hop brings diverse populations of youth together with the common goal of improving their art. Hip-hop brought musicians and audiences together during a time of extreme segregation. The arts allow individuals to transcend racism through a common love16.

They prompt a renewed consideration of the matters of class and power that have persistently disrupted the convenient, body-coded, and biopolitical solidarities supposedly based on invariant “race” and gender identities. Following Bakari (2002) anyone asserting the continuing marginality of hip-hop should be pressed to say where he or she imagines the center might now be. I prefer to argue that hip-hop’s marginality is now as official and routinized as its overblown defiance, even if the music and its matching life-style are still being presented-marketed-as outlaw forms. The music’s persistent association with transgression is “a raciological mystery that aches to be solved”17. Clues to its longevity may be furnished by delving into uncomfortable issues like hip-hop’s corporate developmental association with the commercially sponsored subcultures that have been shaped around television, advertising, cartoons, and computer games or by interrogating the revolutionary conservatism that constitutes its routine political focus but that is over-simplified, mystified, or, more usually, just ignored by its academic celebrants18.

The proliferation of jokes, sketches, and other humorous material on recent black popular music recordings does more than try to fill up the enhanced playing time made possible by the CD format. It seems to be a bid to simulate and thus recover a variety of dialogical interaction that has been inhibited by the technology of production but is sought by underground users nonetheless. It may also provide carefully constructed cues to the cross-over listening that can attune them to the signs of pleasure and danger that they desire. The proliferation of these dramatic inserts is yet another indication that the founding authority of the performance event has been undermined by the emergence of musical forms that cannot as a result of their reliance on technology be faithfully or easily translated into concert settings. The impact of problems arising from the political economy of clubs and other venues should also be noted19.

According to Bakari (2002) the music, modernism, and modernization processes discussed earlier and provided the historical, social, and cultural foundations for what has developed during the Age of Hip-Hop. “If we consider, for example, the way in which jazz in the 1940s represented the quintessential Afro-modernist expression of black urbanity, we can better understand how the musical styles most closely associated with hip-hop represent “the urban contemporary” for the present generation”20.

During 1980s, the most prominent hip-hopes were Run D.M.C (see figure 4). and Ice-T., Bog Daddy Kane, Kool G. Rap. These activists were constantly engaged in a process of countering hegemonic discourses in an attempt to interpret their practice and to state their position within the debates surrounding it. I encouraged the process of critique and praxis by exchanging transcripts (with permission) between writers and by offering copies of my analysis. Daddy Kane and Kool G. Rap articulated their awareness of the social construction of knowledge and were critical of schooling within educational institutions. Daddy Kane description of his responsibilities for acquiring and offering knowledge revealed his awareness of the communicative patterns that create a dialectic. His disdain for schools where learning is motivated by marks is typical of how writers valued their self-determination to act and to learn outside institutional controls. Lyrics of the Hip-hop songs are full of crimes and violence as an increasing problem in modern society. Patricia Hersch in her book “A Tribe Apart” tells that Hip-hop music is “the representative voice of urban youth, since the genre was created by and for them. It emerged from the inner-city neighborhoods as hopes, concerns, and aspirations of urban Black”21

Overview of the Hip-Hop Music and Style

The style typical for the early hip-hop activists was based on African-American folk music. Innumerable African American performers, for example, have noted their debt to singing in or playing for choirs and the foundational role that these experiences played in their musical development. Just as hip-hop culture’s voracious muse has reshaped the contemporary music scene, hip-hop has proven to be just as permeable, flexible, and defiant, despite conservative ideologues who have defended its borders. Bakari (2002) examines among other things, how the collision of these sensibilities encourages new ways of thinking about the late-twentieth-century black church as a vibrant community theater of African American culture. This cultural space is not, as many believe, any more a “folk” world closed off to commercial and artistic interests than any other music in the marketplace is. On the contrary, contemporary hip-hop musicians may well be at the forefront of innovation and artistic risk, even as they ground themselves firmly in history and tradition22.

What is more important is the signifying effect a hip-hop produces in a specific context. In other words, historical origins matter less to audiences than what they perceive as a performer’s self-conscious mixing, matching, juxtaposing specific musical gestures from disparate stylistic, historical, and idiosyncratic sources. Their style not only purifies but also shows how artifice, emotion, function, and taste cohere into a specific kind of elegance. It is important to remember that the dangers deriving from the fusion of biopolitics and revolutionary conservatism are not to be found in hip-hop alone. Black popular culture represents only one factor-albeit an important and influential one-in a wider balance of forces23. Yet the conflict between revolutionary conservatives and other, more democratic and emancipatory possibilities is readily visible there. Market-driven black popular culture is making politics aesthetic usually as a precondition for marketing hollow defiance. And now, it is no longer communism that responds immodestly to this grave danger by imagining that it can politicize art but rather an insurgent intellectual practice that reacts to these fascistic perils by revealing the extent to which popular art has already been politicized in unforeseen ways. This is an especially important period in the political lives and consciousness of the African-descended peoples of the overdeveloped countries. Their journeys through modernity have recently reached a significant staging-post as Africa’s struggle against colonial domination, which defined so many political aspirations in the period after slavery, has reached its conclusion. African countries are still exploited and excluded, but the quality of their marginalization has changed24.

Old school styles followed traditional hip-hop codes of behavior and dress down to the way their running shoes were tied. The most prominent activists initiated and continued to influence the Montreal graffiti community. They took seriously their role of maintaining the original hip-hop tradition and ethics. It is important to know that the definition of an artist in old school hip-hop is someone who has “sold out” either to a market or an art system, while a “writer” does it for him- or herself for fame, but not for money. The rhetorical use of the musical tropes draws on historically specific ideas of the past, is embedded with contemporary social energies. Hip-hop has been marked by hybridity since its inception. Hip-hop has proven to be just as malleable over the years25.

Because of the accelerated rate at which mass-media images and sounds circulate and the power of the global market assuring their influence during the Age o Hip-Hop, the borrowing has intensified greatly since the high years of Afro-modernism outlined above. Thus the NorthSouth dialogue of the 1970s grew exponentially over the years into an international, intragenre, interracial, intracoastal, intrahistoric conversation fueled, in part, by technological advances that have made access to musical gestures of the past (and contemporaneous “distant” ones) more available and elastic26. Light explains that “the musical tropes of Signifying have been wedded to innumerous styles and practices, demonstrating the bricolage, mosaic, pastiche, and additive impulses of contemporary hip-hop culture”27.

The concept of double consciousness no longer captured the complexity, elasticity, or “additiveness” to describe black cultural production or identity in the late twentieth century. The combination of performers whose professional affiliations represent both the secular and sacred camps serves as one example of this mindset. Indeed, the mass-media texts of recent years circulate complex mixtures of styles and genres, and thus more heterogeneous possibilities for group and self-fashioning. In many hip-hop pieces, the vocals in introduction add another important layer of sonic interest and cultural meaning to the recording. The sanctioned utterances are the typical “go ahead!” and “all right!” one hears within spirited, youth-oriented black core culture. But the unsanctioned oral declamations push this piece right out of the “respectability” zone.28

An especially vivid version of these problems has taken shape where complex and morally testing vernacular forms have appeared recently and belatedly as objects of academic scrutiny. They have been manifest in scholarly discussions of hip-hop and rap, where liberation and justice are still demanded but have taken a back seat in recent years to revolutionary conservatism and stylized tales of sexual excess. These cultural expressions have been produced at a time when people seem less sure than they once were about what defines the cultural particularity they still need to claim. Their vernacular arts precipitate and dramatize intracommunal conflicts over the meanings and forms of identity and freedom. They project a growing lack of consensus about what the defining cultural or ethnic core of blackness should encompass29. The resulting problems are multiplied by the fact that the swift and extraordinary global transformation triggered by hip-hop was wholly unanticipated. With this unforeseen planetary change on our side, black critics have displayed a special reluctance to give up the authority to expound and translate that we fought so hard to attain. However, we are still heavily dependent upon the disreputable authenticity of vernacular forms. Some critical discourses have even implied that only the vernacular can confer the medal of representativeness upon a range of other, less obviously authentic, cultural activities.

Conclusion

The problems of value, of judgment, and of course of class division inside the racial collective have been compounded in a time of great uncertainty about the limits of particularity and solidarity. Though it has won wide acceptance, the idea that vernacular forms embody a special “ethnic” essence has been most regularly articulated by critics who are comfortable with the absolutist definitions of culture I have criticized. In their hands, the black vernacular can become a piece of intellectual property over which they alone hold effective copyright. Their expositions of it specify the elusive qualities of racialized difference that only they can claim to be able to comprehend and to paraphrase, if not exactly to decode.

The desire to monopolize the practice of these valuable transcultural skills and to engage in the opportunities for social regulation that they invite has furnished some critics with an even greater investment in the uniqueness, purity, and power of the vernacular. The quest for better accounts of popular-cultural syncretism and its changing political resonance in the United States and beyond demands adjustments in the way we approach the popular phenomena that are grouped together under the heading hip-hop. The first involves questioning the hold this insubordinate form itself exerts on critical writers, thanks to its quiet endorsement of their own desire that the world can be readily transformed into text-their professional faith that nothing can resist the power of written language. It bites sharply in this area especially when the phenomenology and integrity of musical creations are dismissed in favor of the easier work of analyzing lyrics, the video images that complement them, and the de-skilled, technological features of hip-hop production.

Bibliography

Bakari, Kitwanna. (2002). The Hip-Hop Generation: Young Blacks and the Crisis in African America Culture, Perseus.

Houston A. (1993). Black studies, Rap and the Academy, University of Chicago Press.

Lang, Clarence. (2000). ‘The New Global and Urban Order: Legacies for the ‘Hip-Hop Generation’. Race & Society, Vol. 3: 1, pp. 111-142.

Light, Alan, et al. (1999). The Vibe History of Hip Hop. New York: Three Rivers Press.

Nelson George. (1999). Hip Hop America. Penguin Books.

Rose, T. (1994). Black Noise: Rap Music and Black Culture in Contemporary America Hanover, N. H.: University Press of New England.

Wilson, William J. (1996). When Work Disappears: The World of the New Urban Poor, New York: Alfred A. Knopf Press.

Appendix

DJ Kool Herc.
Fig. 1. DJ Kool Herc.
Afrika Bambaata.
Fig. 2. Afrika Bambaata.
An Emcee
Fig.3. An Emcee (MC).
Run D.M.C.
Fig. 4. Run D.M.C.

Footnotes

  1. Bakari, K. (2002). Pp. 34.
  2. Bakari, K. (2002). pp. 34.
  3. Houston A. (1993). pp. 24.
  4. Light, A. ed. (1999). pp. 28.
  5. Potter 29, cited Houston A. (1993). pp.38.
  6. Alvi 13 cited Light et al. (1999). pp. 39.
  7. Bakari, K. (2002). p. 39.
  8. Houston A. (1993). pp. 23.
  9. Toop p. 123, cited Nelson G. (1999). pp. 39.
  10. Nelson G. (1999). pp. 39.
  11. Veraán p. 55 cited Wilson, W. J. (1996). pp. 49.
  12. Houston A. (1993). pp.25.
  13. Houston A. (1993). pp. 31.
  14. Ibid, pp. 10.
  15. Bakari, K. (2002). pp. 76.
  16. Ibid. pp. 79.
  17. Bakari, K. (2002). pp. 38.
  18. Ibid. pp. 64.
  19. Lang, C.. (2000). pp.111.
  20. Bakari, K. (2002). pp. 123.
  21. Hersch p. 87 Nelson G. (1999). pp. 128.
  22. Houston A. (1993). pp. 87
  23. Bakari, K. (2002). pp. 65.
  24. Houston A. (1993). pp. 142.
  25. Nelson G. (1999). pp. 73.
  26. Ibid. pp. 76.
  27. Light, A. et al. (1999). pp. 86.
  28. Bakari, K. (2002). pp. 27.
  29. Ibid. pp. 36.

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