“Rap is something you do. Hip Hop is something you live.” ~ KRS-One
Hip Hop music has been around for decades and is now celebrating its 50th anniversary. The legendary Hip Hop genre has been the driving force of popular music culture for years. It has become a significant influence and source of inspiration worldwide — lyrically, musically and visually.
Early Hip Hop music saw its roots in the 1970s in the New York City borough of the Bronx. It started as a collaboration among intersecting groups of Black, Latinx, and Caribbean American youth at block parties — community gatherings that featured DJs playing soul and funk music. NYC DJs like DJ Kool Herc, Grand Wizzard Theodore, Grandmaster Flash, and Afrika Bambaataa began to experiment with different techniques during parties, including longer percussive breaks (called “breakbeats” or simply “the breaks”), turntable techniques, scratching, freestyle, and improvised vocals based on Jamaican “toasting.” They’re often credited as pioneers of modern Hip Hop and Rap music.
One example is “Rapper’s Delight” by Sugar Hill Gang, a song that came to heavily influence mainstream hip-hop today.
In 1984, several Hip Hop albums — especially from artists Run-DMC, LL Cool J, and the Beastie Boys — introduced what became called “new school Hip-Hop.” This style emphasized drum machine beats, minimalism, shorter songs (which were more radio-friendly), and socio-political commentary. These artists shifted away from the party rhymes and funk influences of “old-school Hip Hop.”
The late 1980s and early 1990s were the golden age of Hip Hop, in which many performers enjoyed huge mainstream success while introducing major innovations with each new record. The era also saw the rise of gangsta rap, a subgenre that emphasized the lifestyle of inner-city youth and was characterized by artists like Schoolly D, Ice-T, and NWA.