Hip-Hop: A History

By Ally Engelbrecht

While hip-hop was not officially labeled until the ’70s, the social and emotional bearings of the style originated in times dating back to the 1920s prohibition. Following the Great Depression in America, high rise buildings and complex expressways began to pop up in cities, more specifically in this case, the Bronx, pushing the cost of living up too high for most to reach. Such inflation eventually caused houses to be abandoned, leaving the original homeowners wanting change. However, the price to completely flip houses was so incredibly outrageous that many landlords opted instead to demolish their properties … with arson.

With all the empty and open spaces now available, a rebirth of art took place; residents of the Bronx would paint train cars, buildings and blank walls with spray paints, leaving their colorful mark on the structurally obliterated city. Graffiti primed the artistic community for the music that was soon to come to them.

A musical style that began precisely on August 11th, 1973 through an invitation for a party hosted by DJ Kool Herc, hip-hop has spread it’s influence much further than it’s original marginalized Bronx roots. Herc moved to the states at an early age, bringing with him Jamaican musical stylings gathered during childhood. Through friendly competition, Grandmaster Flash incorporated his Caribbean approach to Herc’s funk-rap and together laid the base for hip-hop’s empire. While I cannot make an exhaustive list of hip-hop founding legends, these two men are accredited with the transformation of the Bronx to the hip-hop motherland.

As stated, graffiti, the more tangible item of hip-hop arts, was already decorating the scene when the musical progression began. Herc brought in his “b-boys” with him to dance to his historic record scratches and with these three aspects of hip-hop swirling the scene, the fourth element- which wrapped up hip-hop into the genre we know today- stepped forth. “MCing,” more commonly known as rapping, is the love-child of Kool Herc and Coke La Rock and gave vocal artists a medium to express their emotions that were previously kept quiet.

In the early days of hip-hop, the genre was ingeniously simple with smooth record scratches, a brute rapping style, and funk dance overtones by Grandmaster Flash, Afrika Bambaataa, and 2 Live Crew. Following the funk came the rap era, with groups like Run-DMC, Wu-Tang Clan and of course the legends Tupac, Dr. Dre and Notorious B.I.G. incorporating lyrically dense rap into the original Jamaican jam riffs.

Today, hip-hop ranges from house party playlist bumps by Lil Uzi Vert to underground mixtapes courtesy of Toro y Moi to emotional showcases from Kodak Black. In the early 2000s hip-hop nearly fused with rap, with the two becoming so focused on drugs and alcohol that they near combusted. Now, hip-hop is gaining incredible momentum once more by delivering messages of misfortunes, overcoming barriers and finding personal success.

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