The Origins of Hip-Hop Culture

Hip hop dates back to 1970 and is considered to be a cultural movement among Americans and African Americans. Dj Clive ‘Kool Herc’ is considered to be a founder of hip-hop music, he made hip-hop music’s blueprint and culture by building upon the Jamaican tradition of boasting or toasting impromptu sayings and poetry over music. Together with other DJs, they organized small concerts by connecting their equipment to the power lines and performing music at basketball courts and the historic building where hip-hop is considered to be born.

Herc replied on break-beat deejaying where the breaks of Funk song usually percussion-based were isolated and repeated for the purpose of all-night dance parties. This breakbeat DJing, which used rock, hard funk, and records with Latin percussion laid a beginning to the forming of the hip-hop culture. DJs such as Grand Wizard Theodore, Grandmaster Flesh, and Jazzy Jay developed and improved the use of breakbeats, including cutting and scratching. In 1983 Afrika Bambaataa and the Soulsonic Force released a track called Planet Rock by means of which hip-hop gained its strength. Bambaataa made some innovations into producing electronic sounds by using a drum machine and synthesizer technology and added these innovations of his to the known before rapping over disco beats. The importance of the music video for ‘Planet Rock’ lied in the fact that it reflected the subculture of hip hop musicians, graffiti artists, and breakdancers. Hip hop-related films released between 1983 and 19850 expanded the appeal of hip hop beyond the boundaries of New York. By 1985, the hip-hop culture became known all over the world, and very soon the hip-hop artwork and special ‘slang’ of US urban communities spread to Europe and Asia, and hip-hop acquired global scales.

The four pillars of hip hop consist in, Grafitti which is supposed to be a means of expression of emotions and feelings. Another element is DJing which helps to show respect to the great rappers who played their music earlier by playing their tunes and making an example of them. Thirdly, it is MCing or the art of mass combustion the main purpose of which is searching and developing new sources of clean energy. And finally, Breakdancing which is a pretty old art of dancing followed by those who prefer expressing their emotions in movements of their bodies rather than words.

What makes the hip-hop culture complete is hip-hop fashion. In the 1980s, sportswear and fashion brands attached themselves to the emerging hip hop scene; hip-hop icons wore clothing items such as brightly colored name-brand tracksuits, sheepskin and leather bomber jackets, Clark’s shoes, large eyeglasses, Kangol bucket hats, nameplates, name belts, multiple rings, and heavy gold jewelry. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, fashions and hairstyles reflected traditional African influences i.e. dreadlocks, Africa chains, and black, green, and red clothing. By the mid-1990s, hip hop fashion had taken on significant influence from the dress styles of street thugs and prison inmates which included baggy pants, black ink tattoos, bandanas, and shirttails outside one’s pants. In modern fashion hip hop, artists and executives started their own fashion labels and clothing lines, today, Hip hop clothing is produced by popular and successful designers.

Hip hop music though can trace its root in African America and West Africa it has penetrated all over the world has undergone various changes since the 1970s and yet retaining its originality. Over the years the hip-hop fans developed a very distinctive slang but because of the hip-hop’s music popularity, the slang got assimilated with different American dialects which are so numerous, and now some of the words are used even by non-hip-hop fans.

Work cited

  1. AfrikaBambaata.True meaning of hip hop.1995: Universal Zulu nation.
  2. George, Nelson. Hip-Hop America. New York: Penguin Books, 2000
  3. Light Alan (ed). The VIBE History of Hip-Hop. New York: Three Rivers Press, 1999
  4. McLeod, Kembrew. “Authenticity Within Hip-Hop and Other Cultures Threatened with Assimilation.” Journal of Communication. 1999. 49:134.
  5. Rodrick Rainey. Hip Hop Fashion, 2000: Sojones publication.