Hip Hop Music
Origins of hip hopThe roots of hip hop are in West African and African-American music. The griots of West Africa are a group of traveling singers and poets, whose musical style is reminiscent of hip hop. True hip hop arose during the 1970s 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 DJs at block parties began isolating the percussion breaks to hit songs, realizing that these were the most dance-able and entertaining parts; this technique was then common in Jamaica (see dub music) and had spread via the substantial Jamaican immigrant community in New York City, especially the godfather of hip hop, DJ Kool Herc. Dub had arose in Jamaica due to the influence of American sailors and radio stations playing R&B. Large sound systems were set up to accommodate poor Jamaicans, who couldn't afford to buy records, and dub developed at the sound systems (refers to both the system and the parties that evolved around them).
Herc was one of the most popular DJs in early 70s New York, and he quickly switched from using reggae records to funk, rock and, later, disco, since the New York audience did not particularly like reggae. Because the percussive breaks were generally short, Herc and other DJs began extending them using an audio mixer and two records. Mixing and scratching techniques eventually developed along with the breaks. As in dub, performers began speaking while the music played; these were originally called MCs; Herc focused primarily on DJing, and began working with two MCs, Coke La Rock and Clark Kent—this was the first emcee crew, Kool Herc & the Herculoids. Originally, these early rappers focused on introducing themselves and others in the audience (the origin of the still common practice of "shouting out" on hip hop records). These early performers often emceed for hours at a time, with some improvisation and a simple four-count beat, along with a basic chorus to allow the performer to gather his thoughts (such as "one, two, three, y'all, to the beat, y'all"). Later, the MCs grew more varied in their vocal and rhythmic approach, incorporating brief rhymes, often with a sexual or scatological theme, in an effort at differentiating themselves and entertaining the audience. These early raps incorporated similar rhyming lyrics from African American culture (see roots of rap music), such as the dozens. While Kool Herc & the Herculoids were the first hip hop stars (in certain neighborhoods of New York), more emcee teams quickly sprouted up. Frequently, these were collaborations between former gang members, such as Afrikaa Bambaataa's Universal Zulu Nation (now a large, international organization). During the early 1970s, breakdancing arose during block parties, as b-boys and b-girls got in front of the audience to dance in a distinctive, frenetic style. The style was documented for relese to a world wide audience for the first time in Beat Street.
The causes of hip hopThe reasons for the rise of hip hop are complex. Perhaps most importantly, it required little expense to purchase the equipment (as the Beck song goes, it only takes "two turntables and a microphone"). Virtually anyone could MC along with the popular beats of the day (since the original rhymes were simple and unoriginal), and then perform at block parties. There was no expectation of recording, thus making hip hop a form of folk music. MCs could be creative, pairing nonsense rhymes and teasing friends and enemies alike in front of crowds (this teasing was similar to the Jamaican practice of toasting at blues parties).
Another reason for hip hop's rise was the decline of disco, funk and rock in the mid- to late 70s. Disco arose among black and/or gay males in America, and quickly spread to Europe. Once disco broke into the mainstream in the United States, and was thus appropriated, its original fans and many other listeners rejected it as pre-packaged and soul-less. While many remember the white teens shouting "disco sucks" at every available opportunity, often in racist and homphobic contexts, inner-city blacks were similarly rejecting disco and disco-fied rock, soul and funk (which was virtually everything on the radio at the time). If disco had anything redeemable for urban audiences, however, it was the strong, eminently danceable beats, and hip hop rose to take advantage of the beats while providing a musical outlet for the masses that hated disco. Disco-inflected music (though comparatively little actual disco) was one of the most popular sources of beats in the first ten or twelve years of hip hop's existence. In Washington DC, go go also emerged as a reaction against disco, and eventually mixed with hip hop during the early 1980s, while electronic music did the same, developing as house music in Chicago and techno music in Detroit.
Along with the low expense and the demise of other forms of popular music, social and political events further accelerated the rise of hip hop. In 1959, an expressway was built through the heart of the Bronx, displacing many of the middle-class white communities and causing widespread unemployment among the remaining blacks as stores and factories fled the area. By the 1970s, poverty was rampant. When a 15,000+ apartment building was built at the northern edge of the Bronx in 1968, the last of the middle-class fled the area and the area's black and Latino gangs began to grow in power.
Diversification of styles in the later part of the decadeIn the mid-1970s, hip hop split into two camps. One sampled disco and focused on getting the crowd dancing and excited, with simple or no rhymes; these DJS included Pete DJ Jones, Eddie Cheeba, DJ Hollywood and Love Bug Starski. On the other hand, another group of DJs were focusing on rapid-fire rhymes and a more complex rhythmic scheme. These included Afrika Bambaataa, Paul Winley, Grandmaster Flash and Bobby Robinson.
As the 70s became the 1980s, many felt that hip hop was a novelty fad that would soon die out. This was to become a constant accusation for at least the next fifteen years. Some of the earliest rappers were novelty acts, using the themes to Gilligan's Island and using sweet doo wop-influenced harmonies.
Early spread outside New York
- The first Chicago hip hop record was the "Groovy Ghost Show" by Casper, released in 1980 (see 1980 in music) and a distinctively Chicago sound began by 1982 (see 1982 in music), with Caution and Plee Fresh. Chicago also saw the development of house music (a form of electronic dance music) in the early 1980s and this soon mixed with hip hop and began featuring rappers; this is called hip house.
- Los Angeles hardcore rappers (Ice-T) and electro hop artists (Egyptian Lover) began recording by 1983 (see 1983 in music), though the first recorded West Coast rap was Disco Daddy and Captain Rapp's "Gigolo Rapp" in 1981 (see 1981 in music).
- Instead of pure hip hop, listeners in Miami listened to Miami bass, a formy of sultry and sexually explicit dance music which arose from Los Angeles Electro; it frequently included rapping.
- Philadelphia was, for many years, the only city whose contributions to hip hop were valued as greatly as New York City's by hip hop purists and critics. Hip hop was popular there at least as far back as 1976 (first record: "Rhythm Talk", by Jocko Henderson in 1979, 1979 in music), and the New York Times dubbed Philly the Graffiti Capital of the world in 1971, due to the influence of such legendary graffiti artists as Cornbread. The first female solo artist to record hip hop was Lady B. ("To the Beat Y'All", 1980, 1980 in music), a Philly-area radio DJ. Later Schoolly D helps invent gangsta rap.
- In Washington D.C. a hip hop-influenced form of dance music called go go emerged and incorporated rapping and DJing.
Politicization and popularizationThe first rap records (Fatback Band's King Tim III, Grandmaster Flash's "Super Rappin'" and The Sugarhill Gang's Rapper's Delight) were actually recorded by live musicians in the studio, with the rappers adding their vocals later. This changed with DJ records such as Grandmaster Flash's "Adventures on the Wheels of Steel" (known for pioneering use of scratching, which was invented by Grandwizard Theodore in 1977) as well as new, electronic recordings such as "Planet Rock" by Afrika Bambaataa and Run DMC's very basic, all electronic "Sucker MC's" and "Peter Piper" which contains genuine cutting by Run DMC member Jam Master Jay. These early innovators were based out of New York City, which remained the capital of hip hop during the 1980s. This style became known as East Coast rap.
Grandmaster Flash & the Furious Five released a "message rap", called "The Message", in 1982 (see 1982 in music); this was one of the earliest examples of recorded hip hop with a socially aware tone. In 1984 (see 1984 in music), Marley Marl accidentally caught a drum machine snare hit in the sampler; this innovation was vital in the development of Electro and other later types of hip hop.
The mid-1980s saw a flourishing of the first hip hop artists to achieve mainstream success, such as Kurtis Blow (Kurtis Blow), LL Cool J (Radio) and especially Run-D.M.C. (Raising Hell), as well as influences in mainstream music, such as Blondie's Debbie Harry rapping in the first non-black hit to feature rapping, "Rapture". 1986 (see 1986 in music) saw two hip hop acts in the Billboard Top Ten; Run-D.M.C.'s "Walk This Way" collaboration with Aerosmith, and the Beastie Boys "(You Gotta) Fight for Your Right (To Party!)". The pop success of both singles was unheard of for the time; "Walk This Way" has proven especially memorable for its early mixture of hip hop and rock (though it was not the first such mixture). Also, the mid-1980s saw the rise of the first major black female group, Salt-N-Pepa, who hit the charts with singles like "The Show Stoppa" in 1985 (see 1985 in music). Ice-T's seminal "6n' Da Mornin'" (1986, 1986 in music) is one of the first nationally successful West Coast hip hop singles, and is often said to be the beginning of gangsta hip hop (along with Schoolly D, LL Cool J and N.W.A.). In 1987 (see 1987 in music), Public Enemy brought out their debut album (Yo! Bum Rush the Show) on Def Jam - one of hip hop's oldest and most important labels, and Boogie Down Productions followed up in 1988 (see 1988 in music) with By All Means Necessary; both records are among the earliest socially and politically aware hip hop recordings. The late 1980s saw a flourishing of like-minded rappers on both coasts, and Public Enemy's It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back became surprisingly successful, despite its militant and confrontational tone. Aside from the lyrical innovations, Public Enemy's Terminator X (along with Eric B., of Eric B. & Rakim) pioneered new techniques in sampling that resulted in dense, multi-layered sonic collages.
The rise of gangsta rapThe first gangsta rap album to break into the mainstream was N.W.A.'s Straight Outta Compton (1988, see 1988 in music). N.W.A.'s controversial subject matter, including drugs, violence and sex, helped popularize what became known as gangsta rap (said to have begun with Ice-T's "6N' Da Morning"). Specifically, the song "Fuck Tha Police" earned the trio the enmity of law enforcement, resulting in a strongly-worded letter of discontent from the FBI. N.W.A.'s most lasting impact, however, was placing the West Coast on the hip hop map.
Diversification of stylesWhile Run DMC laid groundwork for East Coast rap, "Planet Rock" (Afrika Bambaataa) was the one of the first Electro track. Based off a sample from Kraftwerk (Trans-Europe Express), "Planet Rock" inspired countless groups, based out of New Jersey, New York City and Detroit, among other places, to make a highly an electronic dance music (Electro) that strongly influenced techno and house music, and especially the burgeouning electro music scene in northern England.
"Planet Rock" influenced hip hop outside of New York as well, such as Latin hip hop (also Latin freestyle, freestyle) such as Expose and The Cover Girls, as well as Los Angeles-based electro hop performers like the World Class Wreckin' Cru and Egyptian Lover.
New York City dominated hip hop throughout the 1980s, though regional styles developed across the country. The first West Coast hip hop record was "Gigolo Rapp" by Disco Daddy and Captain Rapp in 1981 (1981 in music). The next few years saw an explosion in West Coast rappers, most notably Ice-T. Electro hop was briefly popular as well in the area, though most of the artists (including Dr. Dre and the Arabian Prince, both later joining N.W.A.) eventually moved on to gangsta rap. During the middle to late part of the decade Ice-T, Toddy Lee, Cypress Hill and Kid Frost helped develop West Coast hip hop, which exploded with N.W.A.'s Straight Outta Compton late in the decade, while pop rappers like MC Hammer and Tone-Loc became famous in spite of critical pans.
In Miami, a new bass-heavy style developed, strongly influenced by Cuban and Puerto Rican musical forms; it was called "Miami bass" in the beginning and is now known as bass or "booty bass".
Hip hop had always had a significant connection to the Latino community in New York City, and hip hop soon spread among Latinos. The first Latino DJ was DJ Disco Wiz. The Mean Machine's "Disco Dreams", with lyrics in both English and Spanish is widely considered the first Latino hip hop recording, though Los Angeles-based Kid Frost is usually thought of as the first major Latino artist. Performers like Cypress Hill ("Insane in the Membrane"), Gerardo ("Rico Suave") and Mellow Man Ace ("Mentirosa") later popularized Latino hip hop.
The first rap recording by a solo female was Philadelphia-based Lady B.'s "To the Beat, Y'All" (1980, 1980 in music), while The Sequencers were the first female group to record.
Chicago's hip house scene (which mixed house music with rapping) gained some national popularity in the late 1980s and early 1990s. Hip house artists included Technotronic, Doug Lazy and Mr. Lee.
The first groups to mix hip hop and heavy metal included 1984's "Rock Box" (Run-D.M.C.) and "Rock Hard" (Beastie Boys) (1984 in music). Later in the decade, Ice-T and Anthrax were among the most innovative mixers of rap and hip hop.
The rise of the West CoastAfter N.W.A. broke up, Dr. Dre (a former member) released The Chronic in 1992 (see 1992 in music).
The Chronic took West Coast rap in a new direction, influenced strongly by P funk artists, melding the psychedelic funky beats with slowly drawled lyrics—this came to be known as G funk, and dominated mainstream hip hop for several years through a roster of artists on Death Row Records, including most popularly, Snoop Doggy Dogg (Doggystyle).
Though West Coast artists eclipsed New York, some East Coast rappers achieved success. New York became dominated in terms of sales by Puff Daddy (No Way Out), Mase (Harlem World) and other Bad Boy Records artists, in spite of often scathing criticism for a perceived over-reliance on sampling and a general watered-down sound, aimed directly for pop markets. Other New York based artists continued with a harder edged sound, achieving only limited popular success. Nas (Illmatic), Busta Rhymes (The Coming) and The Wu-Tang Clan (Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers)), for example, received excellent reviews but generally mediocre or sporadic sales.