In America’s society today hip hop is one of the most listened to genres, despite it being one of the last genres to form. The music genre known as hip-hop originated in the early 1970’s, specifically beginning in the South Bronx of New York City. The hip hop genre is so popular because it is more than just a genre, it is a culture that has influenced America since the 1970’s. The culture of hip hop has four elements involved in it. The elements are mcing, djing, break dancing, and the art of graffiti. These four elements together make up what we call hip hop.
The four elements of hip hop and the aspects behind them come together to form a culture that primarily gave societies in America an outlet. First and foremost, the hip-hop culture started in New York and had a huge influence on poor black communities. In July of 2018 Ian Lawrence gave a ted talk title “Why Hip Hop is World Culture”. Being from New York himself, Lawrence talks about how the hip-hop culture was created during a difficult time in New York. New York in the 1970’s was a very violent time, unemployment was high, gangs were forming, and drugs were becoming popular. At 8 minuets of the ted talk Lawrence explains how each element of hip-hop gave the struggling people of New York a way to survive these conditions that they were facing. He says that “rap songs gave stories and warnings, parties gave people outlets and murals gave people a voice.” The 1970’s of New York was a time of urban renewal, which caused a lot of troubles for the poor. This wave of urban renewal was creating more housing but at the same time it scared off already thriving business. It started to force African American, Puerto Rican, and jewish families out of their homes. Leaving all the neighborhoods without any jobs. People were forced to move to places like east Brooklyn and South Bronx where gang violence was very prevalent and attracting many people. In chapter 1 of Jeff Chang’s book Can’t Stop Won’t Stop he states that “If blues culture had developed under the conditions of oppressive, forced labor, hip hop culture would arise from the conditions of no work.” (13) Without any work due to the urban renewal the culture of gangs and violence began to form. The culture that hip hop created became a way out of the gangs and struggles of the socioeconomics factors. The shortfall of the socioeconomic factors made employment for minors extremely low. Besides New York the rise of gang violence also hit Los Angeles from the 1970’s to the 1980’s. In the 1980’s the gang violence was growing thicker, mainly between gangs of the same ethnicity. As new generations of the gangs were stepping in, the law enforcement was struggling to maintain the violence. It was inevitable for people to join the gangs because they thought that was the only option that they had. But hip hop gave them another option, a better alternative. The hip hop culture was growing, and people started to steer away from the gangs. Getting themselves involved in the culture of hip hop. With the four elements of hip hop there were countless activities that could occupy peoples time. Some people stuck to one element while other explored them all. The people of the city found joy and happiness and turned the hip-hop culture into a lifestyle. It was a form of self-expression and something that they enjoyed doing.
Each element of the hip-hop culture had a different effect on the people of America. The element of graffiti had a huge impact on society. This was an uplifting thing for the underprivileged communities. In the 1970’s Graffiti was starting to become a more known and common among many people. Citizens of the city became fascinated and intrigued with the art and wanted to explore it. The purpose of tagging was not to mark up the city’s property. It was to show the world who you were and what you represented. It was a way for people to let out their emotions and communicate how they were feeling or what they were going through. Many people who were apart of tagging didn’t realize how much it meant to the people that were doing the graffiti. Each tag had a special meaning behind it that only the person who drew it knew about. It began to spread throughout America because of the advancement of technology. Photographers would see the graffiti on the trains and would be amazed, so they would take pictures to capture what they had just seen. It began to spread because tourist who are not from the area would see the graffiti, then send it to their people back where they’re from. This caused a ripple effect of graffiti getting the attention it deserved. Breakdancing also known as B-boying is an element of the hip-hop culture that targeting the kids in the city the most. Many kids that got involved in B-boying came from poor urban communities living in the projects. The kids used b-boying has an outlet for them to express themselves. Dj Kool Herc, the Godfather of Hip Hop, was known has the best Dj. He was the best of the best at the time and brought a lot of people together with his music. The music he played at his parties moved people and made them want to dance. Dj Herc was able to use rhythm and beats to keep people engaged into the song. He knew. The elements of rhythm and beats makes hip hop so appealing because people can really connect to the music. Good artists know how to bring all these elements together like the rhythm, beat, tempo and lyrics to create music that will make people dance and bop their head. The music and the art of b-boying correlate with each other because you can’t dance without a good sound that makes your body want to move. B-boying was a street thing and brought kids together. This was the culture of hip hop brought. It changed the lives of young kids in New York and kept them busy. It steered them away from the violence that was surrounding their communities. The element of rap has had the most influential impact on American society. Rapping first gained popularity in the U.S. in the 1970s as a kind of street art, especially among African American teenagers. Since the 1970’s rap music has been about storytelling. In rap music there are many stories being told about the everyday lives of the rappers.
To this day rappers tend to use their lyrics in a form of a story to tell the truths about their lives or what they are going through at the moment. A lot of rappers create poetic narratives with characters and settings, conflict, climax and resolution while also rhyming their words and making it flow to the beat of the song. To this day rappers use a form of rap that is called political rap. This is where the lyrics are focused on what is going on in society politically. In 2017 Joyner Lucas released a single on November 28th called “I’m Not Racist.” In this song Lucas talks about the lives about white and black people in America, and how there is a disconnect between the different cultures. He raps from each side prospective including many stereotypes that society has formed about the two races. It raises the message of what America is like at the moment and how it is treating its people. The song is uncomfortable to listen to but needs to be talked about. It creates a conversation that most people are too afraid to have. Joyce Lucas uses his platform as a rapper to use his skills to end the violence between whites and blacks.
All of the elements of hip hop were a positive alternative for people to express themselves. No one was automatically good at tagging, breakdancing, rapping or djing. They all took time, practice, dedication, and hard work. That is what the hip-hop culture is about. Coming together as one a creating something special. Hip hop gave that to the poor communities in major cities, allowed them to slow the cycle of violence and hatred. It was and still is a movement for expressing themselves and what they are going through.
Chang, Jeff. 2005. CAN’t STOP WON’t STOP. New York: St. Martin’s Press.