Hip hop is a vibrant and dynamic musical genre that originated from a group of poets and singers that traveled throughout West Africa known as griots. The culture of the griots was passed on through generations of African-Americans. In the 1960s and 1970s, poets, accompanied by music, began performing throughout the New York area, with The Last Poets, Gil Scott Heron, and Jalal Mansur Nuriddin being among the most influential. As block parties became increasingly popular during the 1970s, DJs began isolating funk and soul drum breaks. Because these breaks were short, DJs implemented two turntables in order to extend the break indefinitely.
The ability to juggle and extend these breaks became the backbone of hip hop. As turntable techniques evolved, sampling, scratching, and beat juggling would allow DJs to create musical backdrops that were entirely new. Eventually, the mc, or master of ceremonies, began saying catchphrases to keep the crowd engaged and excited. This evolved into rapping, the art of saying rhymes over music. Although DJ Kool Herc, the father of hip hop, Grand Wizard Theodore, and Africa Bambaataa and the United Zulu Nation were some the important, early pioneers of the music, it was not until the Sugar Hill Gang recorded “Rapper’s Delight” in 1979 that hip hop music started becoming popular.
This record solidified beats and rhymes format of hip hop music. However, hip hop experienced exponential growth and evolution during the 1980s and 1990s. The rhyming schemes became more complex and intricate, while the subject matter became substantive. The music continued to evolve as a generation of producers emerged who revolutionized the technique of sampling. Other producers began composing original music, as the boundaries of the music continued to be pushed.
From its lowly street origins, hip hop has become a billion dollar business. Hip hop culture has influenced and nurtured new and existing genres of music, fashion, and American culture. Despite the naysayers of thirty-years ago, hip hop music is here to stay.