The Origins of Hip-Hop Culture – Transformational Creativity

For curious and discerning music aficionados and historians, hip-hop culture is important and can be transformational, especially to young people.

Origins of Hip-Hop

So, what are the origins of hip-hop? Hip-hop culture came from urban young people yearning to express themselves in what can also be called the rat race. The dance or music club scene is also an important part of the origins of hip-hop culture, where DJs and MCs began to talk over and between records and to scratch the vinyl.

Hip-hop scene in NYC in the 70sMulticulturalism and Rap

Another part of the origin of hip-hop culture is ethnic diversity. African-Americans bring a culture of talking braggadocio set to rhythm. Reggae from Jamaica also influenced Puerto Ricans in the 1980s, many of whom were moving to New York City. Because of this cultural cross-pollination, Puerto Rican rap and reggae, and New York rap and reggae all evolved simultaneously.

Breaking Down Hip-Hop

Many music historians and ethnomusicologists consider hip-hop a four-part culture, but it is really even bigger than that. The essential components that are a part of hip-hop culture are:

  • Rapping and rap music, which evolved from MC-ing and DJ-ing
  • MC-ing: An MC is a person who talks between songs at a dance club
  • DJ-ing: A DJ is a person who scratches the records and fades between songs in the dance club
  • Graffiti is considered the visual form of hip-hop culture and music.
  • B-Boying or break dancing is the physical expression of hip-hop culture.

Rap Fashion

One must also include fashion as a part of hip-hop culture. Baggy pants, sideways ball caps, and cool sneakers are all a part of it. In the club scene culture where hip-hop was partially birthed, club kids compete to have the most outrageous or eye-catching fashion.

Hip-Hop Documentary Education

There are four excellent documentary films that help to educate regarding the history and heritage of hip-hop. These films are recommended for those who want to learn more about rap and other parts of hip-hop culture.

  • Scratch (2001) Directed and edited by Doug Pray, Scratch explores the world of the hip-hop DJ and MC and explains the evolution from talking between records, to rap music, to scratching the vinyl records. Scratch also takes us through the advent of turntablism (rap music without words) and shows us the competitiveness of creating hip-hop.
  • Planet B-Boy (2007) B-Boy is alternatively known as break dancing and is not just for New York City street urchins anymore. Breakdancing has become a competitive art form that literally crosses cultural boundaries. Planet B-Boy has some amazing dance footage from competing teams all over the world including Japan, France, Germany, and South Korea.
  • Infamy (2005) Infamy is a documentary film that chronicles the works of some of the more famous graffiti artists from South Bronx, to North Philadelphia to San Francisco. These young graffitists with names like Saber, Toomer, and Earsnot, consider themselves to be guerilla artists working outside the law to create street designs.
  • Nerdcore Rising (2008) This film is essential for understanding hip-hop culture as it includes a little-known subculture within the culture of hip-hop called Nerdcore. Damian Hess is MC Frontalot, and Nerdcore is a small hip-hop movement that celebrates all things nerdy and geeky, including video game and computer culture.

The richest hip-hop artists todayRecommended hip hop listening: A Tribe Called Quest, Blackalicious, Blue Scholars, The Coup, De La Soul, Deee-Lite, Digable Planets, MC 900 Foot Jesus, DJ Dangermouse, Eric B and Rakim, The Fugees, Giant Panda, Gil Scott Heron, Grand Master Flash, Jadakiss, Apache Indian, Kool G Rap, Lady Sovereign, M.I.A., Mos Def, Nas, Pimp C, The Roots, Nappy Roots, Spearhead, YTCracker.

So, the next time someone wants to bash hip-hop culture, suggest some education via documentary films or make them a mix CD of some songs by the musical artists above.