Read The Introduction, and Part 1
Part 2 – Rap is Born
In the mid 1970s, DJs still owned the parties and were held in reverence. DJs such as Kool Herc, Afrika Bambaataa, and Grand Master Flash quickly became legends. They all strove to improve their DJ skills and soon employed MCs (masters of ceremony) to help them run the parties. An MC’s job was to hype up the crowd and introduce the DJ. This allowed the DJ to concentrate on the technical aspects of delivering a good set.
MCs used the toasting style that Kool Herc had made popular. They started off the DJ introductions with slick rhymes. The toasting started to become more intricate and eventually ended up with the MC rapping verses. At this point the raps would not be considered songs, but it would not be long before rapping became an element all on its own.
The first rap record recorded was by the Fatback Band and it featured King Tim III and was released in 1979. Shortly thereafter The Sugar Hill released “Rapper’s Delight”. They rapped over the break to Chic’s “Good Times”. This record was really just a reflection of what had happened at the block parties.
Songwriting took a step up in 1980 when Kurtis Blow released “The Breaks”. He spoke about issues of poverty but the record still had a party-type vibe and didn’t delve into the topic too deeply. In 1982, Grand Master Flash and The Furious Five released a record that really dealt with the daily life and socioeconomic realities of the black neighbourhoods. This record was called “The Message,” and this is the record that really convinced people what the power of rap had to offer.
It wasn’t long before the DJ, who had been the focus and creative force behind hip-hop was regulated to the back while the rapper took the forefront. I think that this is something that is often overlooked in the culture today. Rap music used to be about the DJ. We cannot forget this important part of our history and culture.
PART 3 – The Shift to the MC
Read The Introduction
It is hard to define the exact time that hip-hop was created. There are so many influences that came together to form the culture and many of them far pre-date hip-hop.
Where did it come from? It was born out of dancing and the love of music.
DJs began to play parties and realized that partygoers liked dancing to the breakdown of the record. A break is the part of a song where there is no singing and the rhythm is stripped down to a simple drum pattern and some back up. DJs soon learned that they could use two record players playing the same song in order to prolong the break. As soon as the breakdown ended on one record, the DJ would time it so that it would immediately play again on the other record. This way, the DJ could extend a thirty-second break indefinitely. Thus breakdancing was born.
One DJ is credited as starting up the culture of hip-hop in the Bronx. While it can be argued that a lot of elements came together to form the culture, his contributions cannot be ignored. His name was Clive Campbell, better known as Kool Herc. In 1973 he deejayed his first block party. These parties were held outside and were the starting point of hip-hop.
You didn’t need money to be part of this. All you needed was one DJ, two record players, a mixer, and two copies of a record. Hip-hop wasn’t even used to describe this cultural phenomenon until years later.
It moved beyond the DJ just playing a record and kids dancing. Kool Herc brought a new element to it from his native land of Jamaica. It started out simple enough. He would try to hype up the crowd by saying short, pithy rhymes over the sound system. He adapted this technique from the reggae style known as toasting. At this point, rapping still did not exist. The DJs played music, occasionally talked in rhyme to hype up the crowd, and people danced.
It was a great equalizer because DJs could plug into streetlights for power. They didn’t need to pay money to go to a club to listen to and enjoy music. Block parties became a cultural phenomenon in the 1970s and quickly developed into something more. In 1974 Lovebug Starski started to refer to this culture as hip-hop but the term didn’t catch on for a while.
PART 2 – Rap is Born
Culture is defined in the Webster’s Dictionary as “the customary beliefs, social forms, and material traits of a racial, religious, or social group.”
Hip-Hop is a way of life for a certain group of people. It has unique rules and customs that are observed. As such, hip-hop is clearly a cultural movement.
Rap and hip-hop are not the same thing. Rap is the music. Hip-hop is the name of the culture that is built around the music. Krs-One, legendary hip-hop artist put it best, “Rap is something you do. Hip-hop is something that you live.”
There are four elements to hip-hop.
All of these artistic elements are related and form the basis of hip-hop culture. I will be covering these elements in detail in my upcoming series of posts, A Brief History of Hip-Hop.
These four elements of the culture are universally accepted. Many people have tried to add to this list, but there is quite a debate about what is and should be included. Some will argue that fashion is an element. Some would say that beatboxing needs to be added. Others argue that skateboarding is a part of the culture as well. I believe that hip-hop is a diverse culture that needs to include the main four elements. The other elements that can be suggested are complementary and not completely necessary to define this culture.
A lot of people don’t understand what hip-hop is all about. I hope that my serial will help educate those who wish to learn about this great culture. I may even make a presentation to accompany these posts. Stay tuned to Silent Cacophony for more.