Music: Hip Hop Culture


Hip hop culture has been rapidly developing for the last century. It has complicated history and embraces not only music, but also other forms of art and general style of life. This culture has positively influenced a lot of spheres of American life and spread all over the world, gaining growing popularity. This paper seeks to find out the social, economic, and political factors that might have led to the growth of hip hop music in the US, namely in the South Bronx, New York City. It also seeks to trace the various fundamental elements of hip hop culture. In a most comprehensive approach, the paper will evaluate positive or negative influences hip hop culture has had on people’s way of life. 


Social, Political, and Economic Factors of Hip Hop Culture Origin

In the 1970s, the wave of hip hop music started to gain ground in the South Bronx, New York City. During this time period, hip hop focused on “MCing, breakbeats, and house parties”. A Jamaican-born DJ, Kool Herc, popularly known as DJ Clive is highly regarded as a pioneer of hip hop music. Herc used his residential apartment located at 1520 Sedgwick Avenue to trigger the growth of hip hop music. He was accompanied by other enthusiasts such as “DJ Afrika Bambaataa of the hip hop collective Zulu nation”. Several social factors can be held responsible to have triggered the rising recognition of hip hop music. 

Initially, when Kool Herc and others were starting this music style, they had a desire to break down racial barriers that were the order of the day in New York City. People were expressively divided on the basis of ethnicity. This was marked by poor relationship between individuals who had a negative perception towards their brothers and sisters - representatives of different races. Herc and his colleagues felt that it was only through music that individuals from different races could be brought together. As a result, they came up with hip hop music as a way of unifying people; hip hop fans were invited at house parties where only this music style could be played. The same was happening in the streets as the youths started to participate in rap battles in the streets and clubs. During all this time, individuals renounced their racial differences and enjoyed the music without paying attention to their ethnicity.

In the streets of South Bronx, poverty among individuals might have ignited the growing popularity of hip hop. Graffiti, rapping, and b-boying were introduced in parties where individuals could compete for some rewards. This led to a particularly big number of youths participating in the rap parties as a way of catering for their needs. By 1980s hip hop had greatly developed which consequently led to many hip hop artists making social statements through this type of music. This can be attributed to the fact that most people in the South Bronx had become fond of this genre of music.

Politically, since hip hop music gained a critical acclaim from society members, it became a platform through which politicians would air their manifestos to citizens. Political rallies could no longer be performed without entertaining the participants. Many hip hop DJs and artists were hired to amuse people during the campaigns. Some rap songs from these artists were meant to pass politician’s manifestos. Thus, the vast population of New York City and the US itself became familiar with hip hop music.

Economic factors that may have greatly contributed to the growth of hip hop music include the New York City blackout of 1997. During that time, The South Bronx, the birthplace of hip hop, witnessed widespread lootings, arsons and other disturbances. People pillaged a lot of shops, including electronic stores, wherefrom a lot of DJs’ equipment was stolen. It should be mentioned that before the crisis the equipment was very expensive partly because of low level of economy of the day and strong demand for such technological products. Nevertheless, hip hop equipment became sufficiently cheaper after the riots and could now be afforded by many people who could not have afforded it before.  As a result, hip hop genre grew at a great pace in this region. In addition to this, a lot of commercial breaks channeled on TV and radio were performed through hip hop. Therefore, as companies struggled to boost their sales and in turn promote the country’s economy, hip hop played a significant role on the level of the state prosperity.

Basic Elements of Hip Hop Culture

Without pioneers of the genre such as DJ Kool Herc and DJ Afrika Bambaataa, hip hop music could not come into existence. Their unflinching efforts, insistence, and music devotion helped hip hop to gain accruing popularity and settle in this country. Apart from being engaged in recording and playing of music they were also involved in popularizing of the hip-hop culture through numerous rap, house, and club parties. Other elements that are known to promote hip hop culture are b-boying, graffiti, rapping, and turntables.

B-boying, an element of hip hop also referred to as break-dancing, originated among the African American and Puerto Rican youths in New York City in early 1980s. This dance style then spread to other countries, such as Germany, Canada, Japan, France, etc. Break-dancing is an art of dance that incorporates four kinds of movements including downrock, power moves, toprock, and freezes. These moves are performed in tune to hip hop music. A practitioner of break-dancing is called a b-boy or a b-girl, or just a breaker. As this style started to gain its popularity, hip hop music was also spreading very fact. 

Graffiti is another element that is known to have immensely contributed to the growth of hip hop industry. Graffiti involves paintings or writings that are drawn on street surfaces such as walls or buses. Within the rise of hip hop culture, this form of art along with other elements became widely popular.  Rose states, “Lovers of hip hop, use their own form of graffiti to mark territory or to serve as an indicator of hip hop-related activities”. Such type of graffiti has constantly promoted the growth of hip hop music as in most cases it is drawn in relation to hip hop culture. 

Rapping is also called “MCing, spitting bars, and rhyming”.  It is rhythmical American poetry that makes use of chanted or spoken rhyming lyrics. It usually comprises of three components: delivery, flow, and content. What makes rapping different from spoken word poetry is that it is performed in tune to the beat. Rap form is the fundamental of hip hop music: in fact, hip hop music is not complete without verbal rhythm made by rapping. However, the lyrics must be read in line with the beats at the background.

Turntable art involves mixing sounds and making music using turntables and DJ mixer. DJs use turntable techniques such as beat mixing, scratching, and beat juggling. Turntables which have successfully settled in modern music originated from hip hop and hip hop culture. Kool DJ Herc and Afrika Bambaataa are known to be the initiators of this art tradition who have fixed the now established role of a DJ as hip hop main instrumentalist.

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Relationship with Hip Hop Culture and Its Influence on My Life

Hip hop music has been particularly influential in a number of ways. As already discussed earlier in this paper, it is clearly evident that music can be used as a way of communication. Through this type of music I have gathered profound knowledge regarding some issues in my life. For instance, I have learnt much about some events that took place in history. Having become familiar with hip hop music I am now in a position to discover various genres and learn inner structure of music history and classification. While trying to understand hip hop culture, I have gained immense knowledge about various electronic devices used to generate bits in music. In line with this, I have learned the relation between rap and bits generated by these electronic devices. In general, as a result of being a big fan of hip hop I have got to know a lot about music in general.

On the other side, hip hop music is often accused of negative influences on the life of many people, particularly on the youths. It is connected with the fact that hip hop music is sometimes accompanied by obscene videos that present half naked individuals. These performances stand against the ethics of my society and other communities all over the world. Last but not least, hip hop culture is associated with a lot of gang activities, for instance, rap gangs that participate in rap battles. Nevertheless, I suppose that being engaged in hip hop music does not necessarily mean being a member of a certain gang. For me, hip hop is firstly the culture, not the criminal way of life. 


In conclusion, various factors must be held responsible for the growth and the rising popularity of hip hop music. Pioneer DJs and artists represent charismatic individuals who have triggered this growth. Development of various elements of this culture, such as turntables, b-boying, graffiti, and rapping has led to the popularity of hip hop music industry. The study has also shown that hip hop music can influence the public either positively or negatively.

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