Hip-hop 101

If asked to describe hip-hop most would mention 50 Cent, Eminem or maybe even Subliminal. But hip-hop's recent roots trace back to the 1970s in the Bronx, NY, and its deeper genealogy reaches back to West Africa and the Caribbean. It is a culture that encompasses music, dance, artwork within four main subsets - DJing, MCing, breakdancing, and graffiti. Hip-hop began three decades ago as a grassroots musical movement at neighborhood block parties New York City. DJs like Kool Herc, a Jamaican immigrant, and Afrika Bambaataa, another one of the forefathers of hip-hop, would spin records and use mixing techniques to blend funk, rock, and disco, highlighting the percussion sections to create the ideal dance beats. The DJs were the stars of these block parties, but the dances were also hosted by MCs (Masters of Ceremonies) who would provide spoken words over the beats. MCing eventually evolved into what is now commonly referred to as rapping. Soon the MCs emerged from the background to dominate hip-hop music, beginning with artists like Kool Moe D and the Sugar Hill Gang. Breakdancing is hip-hop music's dynamic and unique dance counterpart. It takes its name from the "break" section of songs that DJs would emphasize in hip-hop's early days. During the break section hip-hop dancers, or b-boys and b-girls as they're also known, would perform their best moves. Breaking developed alongside hip-hop in the South Bronx, but its style is similar to Capoeira, the dancing/martial arts hybrid which was created by slaves in Brazil. Graffiti, like the other elements of hip-hop, developed as an urban art form. During the '70s it appeared on the subways of New York, but graffiti's roots go back to protest street art of the '50s. Soon it expanded onto the walls of NYC and to cities and even art galleries throughout the US and the world. Gradually, hip-hop flourished, and each of its components gained widespread appeal. Artists like Run DMC were among the first to achieve success outside the underground. Their collaboration with Aerosmith, "Walk This Way," produced by Jewish producer and Def Jam Records co-founder Rick Rubin, was the first hip-hop track to make the Billboard Top 10. Run DMC, the Beastie Boys, KRS-One and Public Enemy ushered hip-hop through the transitional period of the 1980s and by 1992 hip-hop music was firmly established within mainstream culture. It was then that 2Pac, NWA (Niggaz With Attitude) and others came onto the scene and popularized their style of gangsta' rap. 2Pac's feud with East Coast counterpart Notorious B.I.G. garnered national attention that culminated in 2Pac's murder in September 1996, and Notorious's death six months later. Both murders remain unsolved. Since then hip-hop has continued its evolution and expansion. For years, hip-hop has contained a definitively raucous party-centric vibe, with artists like Snoop Dogg and Nelly charting hit after hit. However recent success by Common and Kanye West has signaled a reemergence of conscious hip-hop, a term used to describe rappers with a more social or spiritual agenda.