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The Evolution of Hip Hop Music and Culture: How It Has Shaped Society

Updated on June 25, 2019
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Jay Z, Kanye West, and Drake are familiar names to lovers of hip hop music. Few would disagree that they have immense influence over today's society.

Hip hop has made inroads into many aspects of life. We explore how Jay Z and other modern musicians have shaped young minds.

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Defining Hip-hop Culture: The TImeline

1. Hip Hop - The First Wave

For many, hip hop culture is synonymous with rap music. However, it is a diverse culture that comprises four main elements- deejaying, rapping, b-boying, which encompasses hip-hop dance and complex body language described as postural semantics.

This culture took root much earlier than many thought it did. Hip hop has its origins in mostly in the predominantly African-American South Bronx region of New York City, and it started in the 1970s.

In 1972, a Greek-American teenager tagged another teen named Taki 183, with Taki being his name and 183 identification number. They began to produce art on walls all over the New York City subway. Youths in the Bronx, Queens, and Brooklyn began to follow their example and started to steal into train yards when it was dark to spray-paint walls and wire fences.

The four elements of hip hop are tied together because of their shared environment. The first notable hip-hop deejays were DJ Kool Herc, Grand Wizard, Afrika Bambaataa, and Grandmaster Flash, who developed the 'Break Beat' (the part of a song without drum beats).

Breakdancing, a mix of acrobatic and airborne movements, headspins, and backspins, soon evolved. Deejays also found new ways to manipulate turntables. Many used the art of needle dropping, developed by Grandmaster Flash.

2. The New School Of Rap

A new wave of rappers came to be in the mid-1980s, with prominent names like Run-MC at the forefront. These new rappers fused rap with hard rock. Other primary innovators of this genre were LL Cool J, who brought romance to rap, and the Beastie Boys, white rappers who made digital sampling (extracting music or sound from other recordings electronically) all the rage. Then, there was Public Enemy, who introduced rap with black political ideology.

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How has hip hop music influenced society

One cannot understand Hip Hop culture without studying its history. Rap came about in the Bronx in the 1970s as a form of poetry and political protest. It often discussed adverse neighborhood conditions and isolated the area from the rest of New York. It was a captivating synchronization of rhymes and oral beats. Its irreverent nature made it a staple of urban youth culture.

Hip Hop has traversed the US borders to influence youth all over the world. Its deeply-rooted ideas allowed people worldwide to receive it with open arms. The irreverent messages of hip Hop traversed the globe and influenced young people the world over, particularly in East Africa. It was the foundation for urban youth culture. Hip hop, therefore, can generate millions of dollars in revenue for advertisers yearly.

The far-reaching influence of hip-hop allowed artists to explore mediums beyond the music industry. Hip-hip today Isn't just a music culture but a lifestyle. It has made an impact on everything, from politics to food. Although its messages are mostly irreverent, artists have used it to send positive messages. This art form has exacted global justice and freedom.

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Proponents of Hip-hop Culture

So, who are the proponents of hip hop in this day and age? Here are a few hip hop musicians whom many people know and love, according to Billboard magazine. Each has impacted society in different ways.

1. Drake

Canadian rapper Drake, also known as Aubrey Drake Graham, first gained fame as a teen actor in the drama, Degrassi: The Next Generation.

So, how did an actor become one of the hottest names in Hip Hop? Drake realized his calling in music and became intent on pursuing a career in the field.

His debut album, Thank Me Later, entered Billboard at number 14. It also topped the Rap Songs charts and won the Best Rap Solo Performance accolade at the 53 Grammy Awards. The Recording Industry Association of America certified it platinum.

Drake credits rappers like Kanye West and Jay Z for influencing his rapping style. Dance hall artists like Vybz Kartel inspired the Caribbean infusions that characterize his music.

How has he made an impact on society? Drake is a somewhat controversial figure who is well-known for creating egotistical lyrics that touch on sensitive topics, e.g., money, women, and idealizing them. He has given music lovers of today and different perspective on these issues.

2. Eminem

Born Bruce Mathers III, Eminem is still the rapper to beat, despite having been a player in the music industry for many years. Having sold over 300 million records, he is the bestselling hip hop artist of all time. He is a member of the group D12, and the other half of the hip hop duo Bad Meets Evil. The Rolling Stone magazine has crowned him the King of Hip Hop.

Having the courage of his convictions has allowed him to influence society. He points out its shortcomings in with artistic integrity. He has given a voice to people who live in the Ghettoes.

3. Tupac

Born on June 16, 1971, in East Harlem, 2Pac (Tupac Amaru Shakar) was a rapper and actor. Rolling Stone Magazine refers to him as one of the greatest musical artists of all time. He died at the age of 25, the victim of an assassination, in 1996. Rumors are rife that he is alive.

2Pac's impact was that he elevated rap from a vernacular, street fad to an art form. He connected with people of all races and backgrounds. Most importantly, he enabled impoverished young people to embark on creative careers. He established the Tupac Amaru Shakur Family Foundation and the Tupac Amaru Shakur Center for the Arts.

4. Kanye West

Kanye Omari West is an American rapper, songwriter, and fashion designer. He was born on June 8, 1977, in Atlanta, Georgia. After West's parents divorced, he and his single mother moved to Chicago, Illinois. At the age of 10, West temporarily moved to Nanjing, China, because his mother was teaching at Nanjing University. As a child, art such as poetry and drawing fascinated him. By the age of 13, West was already recording hip-hop songs. West received a scholarship for several universities as a teenager but dropped out after recognizing that the universities he was attending were not meeting up with his expectations.

Kanye West went on to be a producer in the late 1990s, for musicians such as D-Dot and The Go-Getters. As time went on, he began working more well-known artists, like Nas and The Notorious B.I.G.

By the year of 2000, Kanye West got signed with Roc-A-Fella Records, since Jay-Z saw "pure talent" in him.

How he has influenced society:

Kanye popularized soul sampling, or the use of soul elements in rap music. He first did this in his album, Blueprint.

He also raised the standards for rap music. The artist emerged in the early 2000s, the era of the bling rapper and the Timbaland sound. Nearly every rapper of the era glorified a materialistic lifestyle, but West changed this perspective. Upon the release of his album, The College Dropout, he described his persona as that of a regular guy with no trappings.

West made rap more socially conscious and accessible. He started the era of social awareness in rap music.

5. The Notorious BIG

Also known as Christopher George Latore Wallace, The Notorious BIG came from Brooklyn, New York. Sadly, gunners murdered him in a drive-by shooting in Los Angeles. He was only 24.

BIG married Faith Evans and had two children, Tyanna and Christopher Wallace II. His first album, Ready to DIe, is a widely-acclaimed hip-hop classic. His second album, Life After Death, spawned songs like Hypnotize and Kick In the Door.

How he influenced Society:

BIG gained fame for his part in the West-Coast-East Coast rivalry between himself and Tupac. He and Tupac had differences about who wrote their songs first.

Then, some artists worldwide who have made waves but not so much noise.

6. Khan Rotem

Khan Rotem is a rap artist from Israel who performs all around the world. He uses his skills to champion peace and an end to all conflicts.

7. Amkoullel

This Malian rap star was a bright law student who decided that music was his calling. He raps about subjects that he knows too well - corruption, human rights, and respect. He declared that Mali is in a state of emergency in his song, "SOS."

8. Lam Tungwar

Born in South Sudan, Tungwar's early beginnings were tough. He was a child soldier for a few years. An inspiring star, he used his experience to tell the world about the ravages of war. He travels to raise awareness of the hazards of armed conflicts.

Hip hop has become an integral aspect of mainstream society. Like it or not, no one would disagree that it's here to stay for a least a while.

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    • ChitrangadaSharan profile image

      Chitrangada Sharan 

      8 weeks ago from New Delhi, India

      An interesting and informative article about Hip-Hop music, it’s origin and how it has become so popular. And you also mentioned that it’s different from the rap music. Nice videos too.

      Altogether, a well written and well researched article. A pleasant and must read for those, who love Hip Hop culture.

      Thanks for sharing the interesting details.

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