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The Evolution of Hip-Hop

Leila Katibah, News Editor

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Little do many know, the genre of hip-hop, arguably the most influential genre in popular culture, began at a birthday party in 1973 in the projects of Bronx, New York. The founding father of hip-hop is DJ Kool Herc, who DJ’d the music at his sister’s birthday party.

DJ Kool Herc was born in Jamaica and immigrated at the age of 10. In his music, he’d often emulate Jamaican DJs who would “toast” (talk) over their records, a style we know as rap now.

However, Herc’s influence doesn’t have to do much with rapping but rather the beat and production of hip hop music. He paid attention to what the crowd liked and noticed they got most excited and danced to what he labeled the “Merry go-round” or what we know as the break beat. The success of this party allowed for the rise of hip-hop, a term which didn’t enter popular vocabulary until six years after.

DJ Kool Herc was influenced by jazz and funk, but other pioneers of hip-hop like Grandmaster Flash were influenced by reggae and even German electronic music. Herc and Flash produced the beats, and many artists began rapping over them. They were called MCs, or mic-controllers.

One of the 1st poetry groups to begin doing this was the Last Poets, who delivered political street poetry from Harlem. The first recorded rap song was “You’re my Candy Sweet”  by the Fatback Band in 1979. The first rap hit was “Rapper’s Delight” by the Sugarhill Gang. Commercially, rap only began to do well when Run D.M.C. released their debut album in 1983.

The first generation of hip-hop was mostly positive while detailing life in Black neighborhoods. It wasn’t really until the 90s that a more explicit form known as gangsta rap gained popularity, although it first emerged in 1983. Rappers and rap groups involved in this sub-genre include 2Pac, The Notorious B.I.G., Bone Thugs N Harmony, NWA, Snoop Dogg, Ice-T, DMX, and many more.

During the 90s, a popular sub-genre of west coast rap was g-funk, a specific sound pioneered by rappers like Warren G and Dr. Dre. Much of west coast rap at the time fell into this category.

In 1986, a rap group called the Geto Boys emerged who pioneered much of southern rap. In 1987, the rap group Public Enemy released their first album, which served as the genesis of politically-charged rap. In 1989, a group of Black teenagers joined a group called the Native Tongues as part of the Afrocentricity movement meant to raise awareness regarding the history of African Americans. This group would be known to be a very influential Manhattan based rap group, A Tribe Called Quest.

In recent years, a new form of rap has appeared that many know as mumble rap that differs immensely from previous forms of rap as aforementioned. This style places more emphasis on melody and flow rather than lyrics. However, this notion is not new to this decade, as Bone Thugs N Harmony and Ol’ Dirty Bastard have used the same style in the past. Popular mumble rappers include Young Thug, Future, Lil Uzi, Playboi Carti, Chief Keef, Migos, and many more. An important characteristic of mumble rap includes adlibs, which refers to artists improvising with small pieces of unprepared speech.

Lately, mumble rap has come to include a wide range of artists influenced by trap. It also does not mean that mumble rappers are poor lyricists. Similar to how there was beef among East/West Coast rappers in the 90s, there has been clashes over different styles of hip-hop among the hip-hop community in today’s hip-hop era.

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The Evolution of Hip-Hop