You can ask just about anyone that grew up around hip-hop, and they will all probably tell you that hip-hop is more than just music… It’s a way of life… A culture… Its got a language and power of its own. Which is true… It’s plainly obvious that hip hop has long since drenched all the way through American culture, because you can literally see hip-hop’s influence almost everywhere you look.
So that much is obvious… But what about how has hip hop influenced American culture? What events and other key influences have helped make hip hop such a strong force in the world? If you don’t know the answer these questions, you’re in luck! The purpose of this post is to share what we know about hip-hop culture, for anyone who may be wondering exactly what the most essential roots of hip-hop are.
The Elements of Hip Hop Culture
If you’re anything like us, you have probably been listening to hip-hop for a long time, and never noticed the changes until they were behind us. And to be honest, we were there when “Rock Box” by Run-DMC came on the radio for the first time. We were there when Beastie Boys released License to Ill, and when Mobb Deep first became “The Infamous Mobb Deep.” Like many others in our generation, we had a front-row seat when all of this was changing. But, like the majority of hip hop fans, we didn’t really notice the impact that each era was having on hip hop until the whole thing was said and done.
In this next section, what we’ve done to make things easy to navigate, is organize each one of the main eras of hip hop into its own section, where we give a brief summary of the main points of each.
Let’s start from the beginning:
1968 – 1979 “The Coming of Hip-Hop in America”
Hip hop first started to form in the late 1960s with artists like Clive Campbell, also known as DJ Kool. Campbell was known for being the inventor of the “break” in hip hop, and more or less single-handedly bringing hip hop into the Bronx in 1970. It didn’t take too long after that for hip hop to start spreading like wildfire though.
Hip hop started catching on picking up momentum in huge block parties in the Bronx and Queens threw by the members of the Black Spades, an African-American group that followed the teachings of Martin Luther King Jr. Around the same time that all of this was taking place, time, hip hop was starting to become more and more pronounced, spreading out into other parts of the US, and finding it was down into myriad of styles and art forms. The late 1970s was when hip hop started making its first appearances in hip hop theater and film, and in hip hop fashion.
It became apparent that hip hop was going to be permanent when the Sugarhill Gang released “Rapper’s Delight,” and it climbed straight into the charts. “Rappers Delight” was the first ever hip hop single to break into the top 40 charts. While a ton of other things happened during this time period, these few people were the ones that really set the whole thing off…
Something else that you may find interesting that happened in the 1970s and 1980s is KC, also known as the Prince of Soul, who at the time was a rapper-lyricist with Pete DJ Jones, started to call himself an “MC. So, KC was the source of the term, “MC,” that has stuck with us still to this day. After that, and faster than you could blink an eye, DJs started releasing 12-inch records that people started rapping to, and the rest was history..
By the late 1970s, hip hop culture crept into the media and was becoming more widely accepted and loved by America. Billboard magazine put out an article entitled “B Beats Bombarding Bronx”, which made reference to the local uprise of hip hop and mentioned Kool Herc, another influential “father of hip hop.” In short, these are all of the people that started hip hop, and began the next phase of hip hop history that we know as “old school hip hop”
1979 – 1984 – Old School Is Born
When people refer to old school hip-hop, they’re referring to a time period of hip hop between 1976 and 1984, where we picked up a ton of new rappers and rap groups, and things were rapidly changing. Hip hop was still just a baby, but it was starting to really take its true form. The sound of hip hop music during the old school era can mainly be attributed to prominent figures in hip-hop such as; Grandmaster Flash, DJ Kool Herc, Kurtis Blow, The Sugarhill Gang, Grandmaster Caz, Doug E. Fresh, Jazzy Jay, and Fab Five Freddy, among others. The old school era is also often classified by shorter, easy going rapping styles, however, every song that was released in this time period, for many, seems to have done its part to make hip hop what it is today.
Political hip hop was next, with some rappers were getting a little more into the more explored socially relevant ideas… Like Brother D’s release of “How We Gonna Make the Black Nation Rise”, and Kurtis Blow’s release of “Hard Times” both of which made a huge impact because they were very moving. The political and social side of communicating through hip hop is what helped hip hop and black people become more understood and the whole culture become more ingrained in us.
The release of The Message in 1982 by Melle Mel and Duke Bootee, which was actually released under the name Grandmaster Flash and The Furious Five came out, and we picked up some of our favorite rappers from the old school during this time as well like; Public Enemy and N.W.A who both were known to be socially active and both who are accredited for shaping the oncoming movement of hip hop culture into more of a stylistic forms of free speech. More favorite rappers from this time period were, N.W.A., Eazy-E, Run-DMC, Dr. Dre, and Wu-Tang Clan, and I’m sure that’s leaving a ton of artists out…
Also during this time period, Grandmaster Flash formed one of the most influential rap groups ever, the Furious Five, and scratching was introduced officially into hip hop by Grand Wizard Theodore and was almost instantaneously picked up and developed further. Some other notable hip hop artists that influenced the progression of hip hop culture are; The Furious 5: Melle Mel, Kidd Creole, Cowboy (Keith Wiggins), and let’s not leave out The Cold Crush Four… ( Tony Tone, Grandmaster Caz, Charlie Chase, Easy Ad, and Almighty KG, JDL.
The Golden Age of Hip Hop and the Birth of New School – Mid-Late 1980s – Early 1990s
The Golden Age of hip hop refers to a time period between mid/late 1980s and early 1990s when hip hop was starting to blend in with all of the other-other genres of music and vice versa. By the early 1980s. It seemed like everything that was published during that time seemed to bring something unique to the table. The first rap record to actually come out by a non-rap group was “King Tim III,” recorded by the Fatback Band, but the introduction of Electronica and rock and roll started flooding in around the same time, so there is one word for that.. That is inevitable.
Right around the same time, Beastie Boys came out with License to Ill album, and the 808 drums were introduced to the production side of things. Run DMC was the first to do almost everything. They were the first to be on the cover of Rolling Stone, and first hip hop album to ever have a platinum album, and the first rap group to ever be on MTV. Then you have LL Cool J… Who came in and effortlessly took over the Hip Hop scene ever solo artist in hip hop. We were at a time in history when the majority of the listening earth was just opening up to Hip Hop, and every hip hop fan was eagerly awaiting the next hit song or EP…
During this time period, every EP that got released had something different to offer, hip hop, and that’s the way things seemed to stay until the end of the Golden Age era was over. The Golden Age brought us new favorites like Beastie Boys, KRS-One, Eric B. & Rakim, and De La Soul. It also handed us Kid ‘n Play, and The Fat Boys… DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince and MC Hammer.
The Golden Age also was responsible for giving us gangster rap, and new favorites of that subgenre like 2 Live Crew and Too Short…It handed us the coming subgenre of new school hip hop as well, and whatever they are going to call the time period we are standing in now after it’s over… During the Golden Era, there was a notable prominence black nationalism and hip hop was being used as a form of social protest in a way, with topics from Afrocentric living to drug use, and from crime and violence to religion and culture. People were sharing their hearts and minds with the world, and no one that liked hip hop (and there were millions by now) wanted them to stop.
Run DMC broke through the commercial barriers that had been set in place when hip hop was missing, causing an outpouring of gangsta rap, with artists like the NWA, and Dr. Dre and Snoop Doggy Dogg. West Coast rap began to blow up during this time, and the East Coast, who is said to have been the main contributors to the Golden Age kept up with everyone else stride for stride. De La Soul released Three Feet High and Rising,” and the time period between 1986 to 1993 in general seemed to bring out more hip hop records than any other time period to this day.
Maybe we will have another wave of fresh artists like this again soon. It seems like something you could almost predict when you think about the fact that a lot of the high quality rap instrumentals that you hear nowadays sound like they could be songs all by themselves.
It seems like there were bans and lawsuits at every other turn for a while, like the time Gilbert O’Sullivan’s song publisher sued Warner Brothers Records because he used the original Biz Markie’s song “Alone Again.” Or the time the Turtles tried suing De La Soul for sampling their music without asking in their 1968 track “You Showed Me.” Nevertheless, we made it through the Golden Age and to say the very least, we did so ***BLESSED***!
How Has Hip Hop Influenced American Culture? Final Thoughts
As it ends up, we’re probably in one of the eras of hip hop right now and can’t tell it, and most likely won’t see it until they point out another one that we’re standing in. We have a habit of getting so caught up with life that we miss things like this happening, or maybe no one really takes the time to analyze the facts at a granular level until it’s in the past. opinion, But one thing remains perfectly clear to any die hard hip hop fane… We gettin’ paid out here, so bring it on! If it goes like the old school era, the Golden Age Era… To be honest, who’s looking anyway? We’re all glad that they happened and most of us can’t wait to see what’s next~!
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