The End of an Era The determined, tight community and musical culture of African Americans has been disenfranchised since the beginning of American history, but because of those important characteristics, it has overcome many hardships to get to where it is today. The culture has gone from slavery to having an African American President all while preserving it’s original culture. The passing of the Civil Rights Act in 1964 left the African American culture with the motivation more than ever to be heard.
Black Radio Black Radio played an important role by being a musical and cultural preserver. It reflected the customs and values of the day in particular communities and was the primary source of information and enjoyment, especially for young people. The importance and integrity of Black Radio DJs has been in speeches by prominent people such as Martin Luther King Jr.
The Change Being a musical and cultural preserver, black radio had played music styles such as blues and jazz reflecting the progress of the cultures music. However, there was a fear that dignified DJs would get on the airwaves and spread that dignity to the listeners, so big companies sought out to hire undignified and dirty DJs who would no longer present good information. Black Radio did no longer language itself so that old and new generations could identify and relate to it. Young people felt excluded when bubble gum and Europeanized versions of disco started being played.
The Beginning Hip Hop was a direct response to the watered down, Europeanized, disco music that was smothering the airwaves In the early 70’s a Jamaican DJ named KoolHerc moved to New York’s West Bronx. With him he brought his Jamaican style of DJ where he would improvise rhymes over dub versions of reggae records. Since NY wasn’t into reggae at the time, he started doing his rhymes over instrumental sections of the days popular music. Since these breaks were short he figured out how to extend them using an audio mixer and two identical records. This style was quickly picked up by many artists including AfrikaBambaataa and Grandmaster Flash.
Block Parties Block parties were a place that people from the community would all gather and dance or watch performances from DJs. It is somewhat similar to dance circles from early African American music history. The music being played at these events was not music heard on the radio. Music such as James Brown, Sly & Family Stone, Gil Scott Heron and even the Last Poetswould have been heard. This is how a younger generation began to build off a musical tradition abandoned by its elders.
Block Parties This is where hip hop took its form as DJs and MCs would chant and rhyme over the music. At first DJs would use slang phrases and acknowledge certain people in attendance which would evoke a sort of call and response where people would begin to shout out their own names and slogans all to the beat. Later, in an effort to be different, DJs began to incorporate rhymes and recite outdated “dozens” and “schoolyard rhymes” which were familiar with the African American music culture. Soon, rappers were the only vocal feature at these parties. A microphone and two turntables were all that was needed. Besides a few break dancers, large numbers of people would gather around to listen to the emcee.
The First Emcee Team As DJ KoolHerc turned more of his attention to Djaying, he gave the microphone duties to two friends name Coke La Rock and Clark Kent. This was the first emcee team and the model for many to follow. Most rapping was done in groups like this until much later.
Hip Hop Culture Hip hop is the culture from which rap emerged. Initially it consisted of four main elements: graffiti art, break dancing, djaying(cuttin' and scratching) and emceeing (rapping). All of these were forms of self expression and a response to an older generation's rejection of the values and needs of young people.
Hip Hop Culture Rap caught on because it gave young urban New Yorkers a chance to freely express themselves. It was also available to anyone. You didn’t have to have money or take lessons or anything. It was just about verbal skill which could be practiced and perfected almost any time. Rap also had unlimited challenges. It had no set rules except to be original and rhyme on time to the beat. You could rap about anything and thus allowed people to inject their personality and perspective on their culture.
The Next Stage The novelty of rap began to wear off and the best of the game began to look for new ideas. What they came up with was more elaborate routines where they would harmonize and rhyme to tunes of popular songs. For example the tune to Gilligan’s Island was often used. Some of the most popular groups at the forefront of these new ideas were: AfrikaBambaataa, Chief Rocker Busy Bee, Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Four ,Grand Wizard Theodore and the Fantastic Romantic Five, Funky Four Plus One More, Crash Crew, Master Don Committee.
Recording No Hip Hop was recorded until the early 80’s. The first records put out were Fat Back Band's King Tem III and Sugar Hill Gang's Rapper’s Delight The introduction of recording put new meaning in hip hop because it provided a way for rappers to be heard all over the world
Rapper’s Delight This music example is Sugarhill Gang’s Rapper’s Delight. It is one of the two first ever recorded hip hop songs. You can hear the new style of harmonizing as well as a hint of call and response. They are also rapping over a popular tune. Click the icon to hear.
Growth Though still not mainstream, Hip Hop had grown beyond the limits of New York. By the 1980’s, it had reached places such as Los Angeles, Washington DC, Baltimore, Dallas, Kansas City, San Antonio, Miami, Seattle, St. Louis, New Orleans, Houston, Toronto, and Philadelphia, which was the closest to New York in terms of it’s impact. Needless to say that with the growth and out-branching came variances in style.
New School Some developments, like the drum machine and synthesizer, helped hip hop to develop even further. Groups like Run DMC, Beastie Boys, and LL Cool J started a new style of rap that was based off drum machine beats tinged with elements of rock. This style was known for taunts and boasts about rapping, socio-political commentary, and an aggressive, self assertive style. They began to portray a tough, cool, b-boy attitude.
Beastie Boys & Run DMC This and the next slide are examples of the New School style. Both show great examples of having all the former characteristics like call and responseand harmonizing as well as the new characteristics of boastful rapping and self-assertive tough guy attitude. Beastie Boys – New Style
Run DMC – Run’s House
Gangster Rap A lot of the African American culture in LA during the mid 1980’s was categorized by drugs, violence, and gangs. It was an oppressed culture that had nowhere else to go. American culture in general was plagued by drugs, but police took a special interest in African Americans and treated them unjustly and with brutality. At the same time there were gang wars and amazing violence in the streets. Young African American’s began to use rap as a way to tell the world what was really going on.
NWA Eazy-E was an ex-drug dealer from the suburb of Compton and after seeing his brother murdered decided to get out of drug dealing and into rapping. He founded NWA and Ruthless Records who both would play a huge role in promoting the new genre. NWA’s lyrics were more violent, openly confrontational, and shocking than those of established rap acts, featuring incessant profanity and, controversially, use of the word “nigger“. The release of their album “Straight OuttaCompton” established West Coast hip hop as a vital genre, and establish Los Angeles as a legitimate rival to hip hop's long-time capital, New York City. The songs on that album gave explicit detail as to what was happening to that culture. They opened the public’s eye to what the African American culture was experiencing. It received so much attention that it earned a letter from FBI Assistant Director, Milt Ahlerich, strongly expressing law enforcement’s resentment.
NWA Here is an example of NWA and their new style of gangster rap.
The Positive Side Hip hop hadn’t become only an expression of the negative. In an effort to preserve their culture, rappers gave possitive encouragement to stay off drugs. As hip hop gained mainstream success, rappers became role models for young people and a tangible means to get out from the poverty and lowly life that society restricted them to.
This is a song off the same NWA album as the last song, however, the lyrics are more positive. They encourage to stay off drugs and as the title of the song says, “express yourself”. This positive attitude was an attempt to preserve their culture and stop it from going down the road it was on.
MTV With the success of NWA and other rap groups, the genre was beginning to get mainstream play. In 1988 After years of being neglected by the mainstream media, hip-hop got its own show on MTV called "Yo! MTV Raps.“ This new form of media would once again add new meaning to hip hop. It gave these artists a means to capture and share with the world a visual of the current state of their culture.
East Coast/West Coast Feud In the mid 1990’s fame and money brought about a civil feud. East Coast rappers, like Bad Boy Records, had their own style of grittier and aggressive hip hop and began to take back chart dominance from the growing West Coast gangster rap success. The feud reached great heights as the artists from both sides put their efforts into lyrics that would discredit and cut down the other. Not until the murdurs of two rappers, TupacShakur and Notorious BIG, one from each side, did the feud eventually sizzle out and the culture be undivided again.
Hip Hop Today Hip hop today is still a culture where predominantly young African Americans can express their views and ideas and speak out against a society that is continually discriminating. Hip hop is ever evolving as is the culture around it. However, you can trace back to African American roots through characteristics that are still evident in the music today. Call and response, beat driven songs, and dance are still characteristics found in the music. Also found in hip hop today is the characteristics that hip hop defined along the way. Among these are: slang phrases, rhyming over popular tunes, harmonizing, and boastful rapping.
Jay Z To conclude this presentation I wanted to give an example of a present day hip hop artist whom I like the best. Jay Z knows how to relate to his culture and the previously mentioned characteristics can be found throughout his music.
Bibliography The History of Hip Hop, Davey D. http://www.daveyd.com/