Hip hop music and videos are among the most watched entertainment forms in the world.
Looking for hip hop music videos online? You’ll find ytube.com a great resource. But where did hip hop start? How has it become so big? What about rap and MCing? Where’s the positive message?
Listen to hip hop music today, or watch hip hop dance videos, and if you’re not already part of this scene, you may well ask where it all came from.
Driving rhythms, amusing rhymes, raw and often explicit lyrics. All different facets of hip hop. What were the influences, the passions, the opportunities and the pain that brought this distinctive set of skills and talents together? It’s created what is on one hand a hugely distinctive art form, and on the other, a massive mainstream entertainment empire today…
…So much so that its not just hip hop music and rap videos. But also a whole slew of fashion hip hop gear from clothes, through rap jewelry, to cool eye-wear and head-gear. And of course the underground hip hop music crowd who want to go back to the styles and values of its roots.
What were hip hop’s roots then? Answer: African-American…
Seems that hip hop music emerged as a genre in the early 1970s, although its roots burrow deeper back into the Jamaican Ska music styles of the 1960s. Kool Herc, a Jamaican DJ who arrived in New York City in the early ’70s created the distinctive vinyl record mixing style, and carved a niche for himself in history. The kind of musical backing he put together fused the heritages of funk, RnB, and disco into a distinctive sound, with a powerful grass roots appeal to inner-city youngsters.
Hip hop has 2 (almost) essential elements: hip hop music, and “MCing“ or rap lyrics
(Of course, break-dancing and graffiti art are an integral part of the overall hip hop culture. But we’ll concentrate on the music here…)
Typically, hip hop music is presented by one or more rappers telling semi-autobiographic tales, usually including a fantasy element, using an intense rhythmic lyrical form. Rappers use lots of poetic techniques such as assonance, alliteration, and rhyme. You might need the help of a hip hop dictionary to interpret some of the sub-culture language used.
Normally, the accompaniment is provided by an instrumental track, simply called a “beat”, and performed by a DJ. This would have been created by a producer, possibly involving some instrumentalists. And probably based on a sample of the percussion break of an existing funk or soul recording. Other sounds are often added from further samples, or might be synthesized, or performed. DJs and producers sometimes use instrumental tracks to showcase their skills.
Originally role of the MC was to introduce the DJ and the music and to keep the audience excited. MCs began speaking between songs, encouraging people to dance, greeting audience members, telling jokes and anecdotes. Over time, these practices became more stylized and developed into what we now refer to as rapping. Not all hip hop songs include rap lyrics. But the “in your face” rhythmic delivery of rap is usually found as a close working partner of hip hop productions.
Back to where it all came from…what caused the surge in popularity of Hip Hop through the ’70s and into the ’80s?
If you’ve never been to one, here’s an explanation from Wikipedia: A block party is:
“a large informal public celebration in which many members of a single neighborhood congregate to observe a positive event of some importance. Many times, there will be celebration in the form of playing music and dance. Block parties gained popularity in the United States during the 1970s. Block Parties were often held outdoors and power for the DJ’s sound system was taken illegally from street lights. This was famously referenced in the song “South Bronx” by KRS-One with the line: “Power from a street light made the place dark. But yo, they didn’t care, they turned it out.”
And so hip hop grew as the voice of the victims of urban squalor. That voice was given a higher platform in 1979. The recording was released and now generally considered the 1st to put rap music on the commercial map is Rapper’s Delight, by the Sugarhill Gang.
So what’s the difference betwen rap music and hip hop? Since the ’90s hip hop has been considered more “mainstream”, almost respectable. Purists see this as hip hop losing its edge. More subtle. More gentle, in some ways. While rap remains the voice of inner-city pain, desperation and rebellion. Gangsta rap raised the bar further on controversy with its focus on inner-city gang crime images promoting violent behaviour, terrorist tactics, promiscuity, drug abuse and the denigration of wo
At the same time (mid-1990s), mainstream hip hop veered off, away from images of inner city deprivation. It moved instead towards a hedonistic fantasy of life occupied with glamorous women, flaunted riches, booze and drug excesses, and other materialistic values. As a result, a disturbing aspect of rap music is that many rap fans bathe in a daily deluge of male-centered values – images of women, often denigrating them. Thankfully, there are some more positive hip hop or rap influences, such as Holy hip hop, and Gospel Rap (or Christian rap).