The Origins of Hip Hop Music

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Hip hop music is a genre that developed as part of hip hop culture and is usually accompanied by rapping. This subculture is formed by four main elements: Dj-ing or scratching, MC-ing or rapping, graffiti and break dance. Despite the fact that the term hip hop is usually used to refer to rapping and considered a synonym to rap music, it actually refers to the practice of the entire subculture and its elements. Rapping is not a required part of hip hop music.

Although it is a new genre dating 30 years back, the seeds of hip hop music were first planted when African music blended with American elements. The African oral traditions brought to South and North America by the African slaves started to evolve in a completely different style. Church music was the first genre to emerge but blues and jazz soon became popular in the U.S. Calypso, ska and reggae developed in the Caribbean. The American soldiers stationed in the region played a big part in the process. Jamaican Djs started to create their own style and share music, thus two new reggae versions appeared, dub and talk over.

Clive Cambel emigrated to America from Jamaica in 1967 when he was only 13 and introduced the dub and talk over methods to the West Bronx neighborhood. Later he became a popular DJ known as Kool Herc and influenced many other ascending musicians. With the help of others artists, including Sly Stone and James Brown, hip hop music transformed into a street funk hybrid by the end of the decade. In the 70s, the movement spread from DJ Kool Herc’s apartment to the streets of the Bronx. Moreover, many hip hop pioneers organized parties on the streets of New York. The result was emceeing, a rhythmic wordplay accompanied only by a beat. The first rap artist to call himself an MC was Melle Mel, a member of The Furious Five group.

Because of the prevalence of street gangs in the South Bronx, many artistic variations such as b-boying, rapping and graffiti became a form of competition, replacing violent urges. Zulu Nation, founded by Afrika Bambaataa was a confederation of rap musicians, street-dance crews and graffiti artists. In the 70’s, hip hop music gained the attention of the media and by 1980, the local phenomenon was defined as a culture. In 1981, Rapture became the first hip hop music single by a white group to reach number one on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100. Hip hop transformed into the dominant cultural movement among the minority populated communities in urban areas.

Today, hip hop music is the center of an industry that overcomes racial and social barriers, according to the U.S. Department of State. National Geographic considers hip hop as a musical epidemic and the most admired youth culture in the world, with rap scenes present in almost every country.

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