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Hip Hop

History of Hip Hop


The term 'hip hop' is used to describe a cultural movement, which includes specialised styles of dance, graffiti art and music. The music's early roots can be traced to the South Bronx of New York during the mid-1970s, where Kool Herc earned the accolade of the 'first hip hop DJ' [1]. He experimented with innovative turntable techniques, 'transforming the turntable from a static playback machine into a highly expressive instrument' [2], looping rhythmical sections of popular recordings together, enabling the DJ to keep the beat/music (hence the dance) going indefinitely.

During the 1970s young black and ethnic adolescents of the inner city areas of North America were starting to become disenfranchised from both society and popular culture/music. Black radio stations until this point had always played an important role as an important source of information on social and economic issues.

Black radio stations...reflected the customs and values of the day in particular communities. [They] set the tone and created the climate for which people governed their lives as this was a primary source of information and enjoyment [3].

George [4] notes how black radio stations adopted the name of 'urban radio' in order to appeal to a more affluent, older and to a large degree, whiter audience - in an attempt to attract the larger white advertising dollar. These radio stations became a vehicle for developing 'white negro' artists and black crossover acts. These black artists had changed their style away from funk (which was starting to be seen as too raw and unsophisticated [5] ) to the larger crossover market of disco. Young black and ethnic people found themselves being exposed to 'bubble gum' pop and the European version of disco. The Hispanic and black communities of inner city areas felt as if the voice of their community had been taken away from them and this opened the way for new forms of expression to emerge.

Hip hop culture emerged as a source for youth of alternative identity formation and social status in a community whose older local support institutions had been all but demolished...alternative local identities were forged in fashions and language, street names and most importantly neighborhood crews or posses [6].

The black groups that had persisted with the traditional black funk sound had also changed, becoming very large and unwieldy. Larkin Arnold of CBS Records notes that 'the kids on the street got tired of all these 50 musicians, and strings, and horns, and the cost of production was so great, the music was losing some of its funk' [7].

The lack of identity (both socially and musically) resulting from 'too many black artists [making] beige music' [8], led young blacks of inner city ghetto areas in New York to rediscover and adapt the funk groove. This was done by manipulating their old funk records through the turntable. 'Point blank, hip hop was a direct response to the watered down, Europeanised, disco music that permeated the airwaves' [9].

[1]Larkin, 1995, p.2353

[2]Clayton, 'Hip-Hop's Radical Roots', [Online] http://infoplease.com/spot/hiphop.1.html [1999, August 28]

[3] Daveyd, 'The History Of Hip Hop', [Online] http://www.daveyd.com/raphist2.html [1999, August 28]

[4]George, 1988, pp.157-160

[5]George, 1988, p.154

[6]Rose, 1994, p.34

[7]Dancing in the Street, 'Planet Rock Episode' 1996, BBC Television

[8]George, 1988, p.159

[9]Afrika Bambaataa cited in Daveyd, 'The History Of Hip Hop', [Online] http://www.daveyd.com/raphist8.html [1999, August 28]