Musically, hip hop was started by DJ Kool Herc. On moving to the South Bronx, New York from Jamaica Herc brought a style of DJing previously heard on Jamaica's sound systems. Herc found reggae to be unpopular and began to play funk, progressing to extending the drum breaks by using two copies. This new style became popular with dancers who were known as Break Boys or B Boys, later to be called breakdancers. The extended drum breaks also created room for the DJ and, later, emcees to rap. The supposed four elements of hip hop only really came together when hip hop was sold to the wider public as a "new thing". This happened from 1979 with the release of Rappers Delight by The Sugarhill Gang. The definitive written history of the birth of hip hop is still David Toop's Rapattack.

A culture that grew from the american art form of jazz. Still heavily an African-American culture, it has grown to transcend racial boundaries.

This culture has four main aspects, those being deejaying, mcing, breakdancing, and graffiti art. To be a participant or member of hip-hop, one must either present a special talent or skill for one of these aspects, or simply be capable of enjoying them thoroughly.

Many refer to hip-hop as a musical form; although such a broad term is out of place in this age of specialization.

How to define what I've tried to live for the past 15 years?

It starts with this, Your own words in your own voice.

Hip Hop is your story, it is your participation.

Never mind HIS story
Tell a little about your story
The Real Story

Everything that is important to Hip Hop is about your creativity, it's about expressing who you are and what you are, in your own words, and in this way making a contribution to what Hip Hop is.

Hip Hop is a form of positive creation

Hip Hop started with DJ's and turntables making new music from old to please crowds at parties in the Bronx. MC's were added to the mix to give a vocal aspect. Graf existed on its own well before Hip Hop got started, but its spirit of creativity on your own terms mixed well with Hip Hop and the two grew together for a while. Break Dancing broke more than just bones, it redefined what modern dance could be and did so from a street level, outside of the art houses that dance had become. Again, your art, your expression.

Hip Hop started from the street
It's not soft it's a gristled beat
Old, that's a no no
Hip Hop must be fresh and original

Whatever Hip Hop truly is it is more than a specific sound or look, more than what defined it yesterday or defines it today. A sub-culture? In a way, but Hip Hop made a new movement for its time. It took the roots of what Andy Warhol did of sampling modern culture and turned it to music, mixing it with electronica and poetry, taking along with it the anger and ferocious belief in itself of Punk. In doing so it released a flood of sampling in music and art that has overtaken almost everything in modern media. From the modern forms of dance music to the latest in video installation displays in art galleries, Hip Hop was an enabling force in the way it freed people from the constrictions of the culture that went before it.

If you want understand what Hip Hop is then you must create. To observe is to miss the point. And in your creation remember always that the focus is yours, the message and the medium what you choose it to be. The only real restriction is that it must be about you, not the imaginary you that you wish to present (the mistake of Gangsta Rap) but the you that is real.

Don't depart
From the heart

Express your wants and desires, political opinions. Talk of your race (White or Black or Whatever) and your place in society. Do it musically, do it in verse, in story, in photographs and in painting. Do not restrict yourself to the current isms and boundaries that define what culture IS, redefine culture as you create it. Break rules and do so with a pride in who you are and what your creation stands for.

Remember in your expression that you are unique and have a unique perspective. No-one can truly understand your angle. But remember also that you are not alone, whatever your position in this world you share common values and experiences with many others. If you express the truth of who you are you will find common ground and true communication with those others.

I said before pride in who you are. This is important. If you are to express what and who you are you must ready yourself for others to judge and be critical of both you and your form of expression. Have pride and ignore it. If someone wants to help by suggesting how you might improve then fine. Merely to critisize is nothing. Critics are easily made. Expressing yourself with real truth is one of the hardest, if most rewarding, things you can do. Remember also in this not to be quick to judge others expression. Have respect. Expect respect.

And if they look at you like you're insane
And they start calling you scarecrow
and say you ain't got no brain
Tellin' folks that you suddenly gone lame
That white folks have finally co-opted your game
Or worse yet implying that you don't really know
That's the same thing they said about us
A long time ago.

A word about what people perceive as Hip Hop today. It isn't what you see on MTV. With their vehement self-expression and radical new sound The Clash are more B Boy than Snoop Doggy Dog will ever be. With its diversity of culture and use of technology to create a new medium Everything2 comes closer to the true spirit of Hip Hop than anything Eminem could dream of creating.

And Hip Hop as a musical form in its own genre still exists today. It is pumped out by small German crews with cheap videos. It's made in London by angry young guys with an extreme passion for noise. It exists wherever someone gets up and mixes, strings words together on a mic and does so for the passion of doing it and the want to tell their story.

Be true to yourself. Create. Oh, and Enjoy yourself. This is utmost in importance.


Note, I know the quotes in bold are not exact. But, hey, they had a remix!

Hip Hop is a culture. It's a style. It's how you talk, it's how you dress, and it's how you live daily.

Let's not forget the elements though. Hip Hop consists of four distinct elements/pillars:

1. The DJ. Recongized as the backbone of hip hop, the DJ or turntablist provides the music and therefore controls the mood of his audience. A good DJ should be able to get a feel for his listeners and provide what they want to hear. If they want to dance, he needs to play dance-able music. If they want to chill, he should play something more mellow. As has been said, Kool DJ Herc was the first to extend the break of the record by playing two of the same record and switching back and forth between them. The DJ is the main ingredient of hip hop, and everyone else is his arms and legs.

2. The MC or emcee. Short for Master of Ceremonies, the MC calls the crowd and gets them pumped. He might spit a rhyme or two, but originally MC-ing wasn't about rapping. Rap came later and almost killed hip hop. The MC is really about speaking verbally for the DJ, or making announcements.

3. The B-Boy. A b-boy is a breakdancer. In fact the term "b-boy" is short for "break-boy." But here, "break" didn't come from breaks on the record, but rather street terminology. If you were "breaking" at a party, you were causing trouble or acting crazy. It also referred to the status of the people living in the Bronx. You could say, "He broke. He went through a breaking point." So the exaggeration was applied to the dance at the time.

4. Graffiti. Graffiti is wild style art. It usually takes the form of spraypaint on the sides of buildings or boxcars, which is illegal. But graff is still art, which sparks many debates between pro-graff and anti-graff groups. Some don't consider graffiti an element of hip hop, and this holds true with low quality tags, but in general it fits with hip hop very well.

Hip Hop lives and breathes. It is a way of life and a state of mind. The beauty of Hip Hop is that it is a positve reaction from people living in a negative environment (the ghettos/projects). How can that not be respected, if not embraced by society?

There seems, to me, to be two great advantages to Hip Hop: that one doesn't need to have a good voice, and that much more content can legitimately be crammed into the lyrics. The first point is fairly self-explanatory, although I'll admit that it's not an immutable law: neither Anthony Keidis or Peter Garrett had a good singing voice, but both have been successful singers. Still, regarding the second point, consider two songs: Nice to Know You, by Incubus (a Rock song); and Full Moon, by The Herd (a Hip Hop song). The former song has 137 words; the latter 509, 3.7 times more words than the former. You could also consider the words per minute, which is 29.1 for the Rock song and 110.3 for the Hip Hop song, making the Hip Hop's 3.8 times larger.

Is this a good thing? I don't know, but I think anyone who's ever written an essay with a 1000-word limit would agree when I say that it's easier to say what you mean when you have more time to speak. One could argue that it takes much more skill to deliver a message with fewer words, and I'd agree; but I'm of the opinion that the message itself is more important than the delivery, so if it can be delivered better with more words, then it should be. Bob Dylan or Paul Kelly may have been able to depict the moribund outback town more forcefully, but it's unrealistic to expect every lyricist to be a Dylan or Kelly, isn't it? My real point is that Hip Hop has the potential to give much more lyrical bang for your proverbial buck.

It's also strange to consider the differences in content that you see between Hip Hop lyrics and other genres'. It's OK, for instance, for a Hip-Hop artist to write a song solely about how good a lyricist they are. You can hear these songs everywhere, it seems like Scribe (a New Zealander Hip Hop artist) writes songs about nothing else, with ostentatious titles such as "F.R.E.S.H.". This is done in other genres, sure; but when it is, it is much less acceptable to an audience. So even if Hip Hop does give a greater opportunity for a message to be delivered, it is often shamelessly squandered.

Also, it seems like a much greater degree of transparency or candidness is expected of Hip-Hop lyrics; or perhaps I should say that they're the exception to the general rule that lyrics don't necessarily need to make any sense. Most non-Hip-Hop lyrics that actually mean something are brimming with obscure imagery and seemingly unnecessary phrases, so that many of them can be said to make sense in the same way that Finnegans Wake can. OK, perhaps that's an exaggeration, but Hip Hop lyrics are definitely expected to be much more immediately comprehensible than others, so decoding or analysis is usually unnecessary. Perhaps this isn't even a good thing, I'm not in any position to say.

It seems that the occupations of composer and poet have intersected to some degree: mainstream instrumental music is extremely rare nowadays, whereas 150 years ago it was the reverse. So in light of the amalgamation of poetry and popular music, I think of Hip-Hop lyrics as being a divergence from that: it is more like rhyming prose than poetry. You wouldn't get away with saying "Perspective pries her once weighty eyes and it gives you wings" in a short story, nor would you in a Hip-Hop song, but it's the norm in other genres.

Log in or registerto write something here or to contact authors.