Read The Introduction, Part 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8
Since its very beginnings, hip-hop has had distinct regional sounds. The art form was born in the Bronx but even then there were distinct styles in three different sections of the town. In the late 1970’s DJ’s three DJs were representing the sound of their respective neighbourhoods. Kool Herc held down the west side of the Bronx, Afrika Bambataa was influential in the southeast, and Grand Master Flash took over the center portion of the city.
The Bronx is the undisputed birthplace of hip-hop. Its popularity took it worldwide but there were some growing pains along the way. MC Shan came out with a record in which rapped with pride about being from the neighbourhood of Queensbridge. BDP came out with The Bridge is Over, a battle record, to make sure everyone knew that The Bronx is what hip-hop was all about.
In time, all areas of New York became accepted in hip-hop. Rappers could claim that they were from any of the five boroughs and they would be accepted without question. It was harder for rappers to come out from any other region of the country. New York was hip-hop and it wanted to keep the music to its own.
When rap became popular, it would not be held to the city boundaries. Rappers came out from the South but didn’t get much acceptance until recently. One area where rappers were more widely accepted was from the Los Angeles area. It made sense too. LA has a lot in common with the Big Apple.
In 1994, Bad Boy Records owned the New York sound. The record label was home to one of the biggest rappers of all time, The Notorious B.I.G. Meanwhile, on the West Coast, Death Row Records had a hot star by the name of 2Pac. These two MCs used to be friends. They had a falling out and it became public. Since Biggie was the biggest thing in New York and 2Pas was the biggest thing in LA, the media hyped up the beef between the two as an East Coast vs. West Coast battle.
The East Coast vs. West Coast was akin to a hip-hop civil war. It was almost expected that you needed to chose a side and remain loyal to it. The sounds coming from both coasts were quite unique and had a lot to offer. Hip-hop should not be dismissed because of geographical reasons. But the media fueled this battle, the regional mindset that hip-hop sprang forth from fueled this battle, and the fans bought into it.
Hip-hop history had always been intricately tied to battling. It didn’t feel wrong at the time. Unfortunately, it went horribly wrong and both generals of this civil war fell victim to it. 2Pac was murdered and a few months later Biggie was murdered as well. Both murders have gone unsolved for over ten years.
Hip-hop has learned to be more accepting of regional sounds now in light of the tragedy of losing two of the best rappers ever. We can hear distinct regional sounds now not just from the East Coast and West Coast, but also from the South, the Midwest, Chicago, Atlanta, Canada, and many, many more. The sounds are often distinct enough that you can tell where a record was made from the vibe of it. While this isn’t always the case, the regional influences have had quite an effect on the music being produced today.
Next up – The Conclusion of this 12 part series