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What is Hip-Hop?

Updated on May 10, 2015

Hip-Hop isn't just a genre, but a culture

Nas's Illmatic is one of the most influential and revered Hip-Hop albums of all time.
Nas's Illmatic is one of the most influential and revered Hip-Hop albums of all time.

How it all began

It all began back in 1973 in the Bronx at a Back-to-school party. DJ Kool Herc was the one running the music when he did something extraordinary with the turntables, he scratched the beat so that people could dance longer and then began rapping. It is widely believed that this event was the true spark that would unleash the flames of what we call hip-hop today.

Hip-Hop isn't exclusive to NYC but it used to be

N.W.A. helped pioneer a new form of hip-hop called Gangsta Rap.
N.W.A. helped pioneer a new form of hip-hop called Gangsta Rap.

The Principles of Hip-Hop

Hip-Hop was based upon five different pillars or principles that are often forgotten or ignored by many artists today. The five pillars are MCing, DJing, Breaking, Graffitti, and knowledge. MCing is basically rapping and singing along to a beat with rhythm. DJing is the art of creating the beats themselves and making sure it goes well with the lyrics if there are any. Breakdancing or B-Boying is the practice of non-rythmically dancing to a hip-hop beat with aerobatic and gymnastic movements. Graffiti is a style of art that consists of letters or images that are scrabbled, sometimes illegally, in a blocky and often unique style that is typically used to leave a mark or express one's opinions and can often be used to start debate (Banksy being one of the best examples.) The last pillar, knowledge, puts emphasis on knowing what's going on in the world around you and being willing to educate others of what you know in order to spread information. All of these pillars combine to create the cultural outlet that we come to know as hip-hop today.

5 Pillars of Hip-Hop

Visual depiction of the aforementioned Five Pillars of Hip-Hop.
Visual depiction of the aforementioned Five Pillars of Hip-Hop.

How it spread

For a while after hip-hop was first created, it remained largely unique to New York and more specifically the Bronx.It later spread throughout Queens and Brooklyn and by the late 70s, it had garnered a massive following of artists and admirers alike. This is mostly due to the blackout of 1977 which resulted in the looting of DJ equipment amongst otherthings that the residents of the Bronx originally couldn't attain due to the widespread poverty throughout the area. The time between 1982 and 1985 saw the release of several hip-hop related movies that expanded the artform's reach beyond New York City and to the rest of the United States as it collected a huge following from youth everywhere. This would later result in the creation of West Coast hip-hop or G-Funk which was characterized by upbeat instrumentals and party-oriented subject matter. This later attributed to the formation of groups like NWA and Compton's Most Wanted as well as a slew of solo-artists such as 2Pac and Ice Cube. From there, hip-hop led to the creation of several forms of media that further spread the culture throughout the world.

East Coast Vs. West Coast

The feud was sparked by a Bronx rapper known as Tim Dog when he released the controversial song "F*ck Compton" which dissed the entire L.A. rap industry but more so the members of N.W.A. He did this to voice his anger after being rejected by several record companies who preferred West Coast rappers over him. This feud was further perpetuated when in 1994, 2Pac publicly called out New York rappers Sean Combs, Andre Harrell, The Notorious B.I.G. and claimed that they had something to do with an incident that resulted in him being shot 5 times. Shortly after, The Notorious B.I.G. released a song on the B side of his hit single "Big Poppa" titled "Who Shot Ya". After this, 2Pac reacted by appearing in several tracks that openly dissed several East Coast rappers, most prominently The Notorious B.I.G. By this time, the media had become heavily involved in the feud and would constanly report on it, causing many to choose sides. Although The Notorious B.I.G. never openly insulted 2Pac, it is believed that many of his songs contained subliminal shots at the rapper, mainly his track "Long Kiss Goodnight". The feud came to a close after the murders of both 2Pac and The Notorious B.I.G. in 1996 and 1997 respectively.

One of the most talented MCs to grip the mic

A rapidly changing culture

Over the past few years, hip-hop has totally changed and is now led by several artists who fuse the artform with Pop music in order to reach the masses without as much difficulty. These artists such as Niki Minaj and Drake have helped turn hip-hop into the music you hear everytime you turn on a radio today.

A multitude of artists shifting the industry once more

Among those who have further brought hip-hop into the mainstream today, Drake is one of the most prominent.
Among those who have further brought hip-hop into the mainstream today, Drake is one of the most prominent.

Who's the best?

Who do you think is the best Hip-Hop artist of all time?

See results

Many talented rappers are for the most part forgotten today as they're being outshined by today's Pop/Hip-Hop fusion industry

Of the many lyricists on the Eastern side of the U.S., Big L was among the best
Of the many lyricists on the Eastern side of the U.S., Big L was among the best


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