Hip Hop Overview and Timeline

Hip Hop Overview and Timeline - The Elements and Eras of...

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Unformatted text preview: The Elements and Eras of Hip Hop Culture by Dr. James Peterson In the last 30 years Hip Hop culture has developed from a relatively unknown and largely ignored inner city culture into a global phenomenon. The foundational elements of Hip Hop Culture (DJ—ing, MC-ing, Breakdance, and Graffitiz‘Graf] are manifest in youth culture across the globe, including Japan, France, lGermany, South Africa, Cuba, and the UK. Considering its humble beginnings in the South and West Bronx, the global development of Hip Hop is an amazing cultural feat. Yet its global popularity suggests and reflects its culturally diverse origins. Moreover, the presence of rap music and other elements of the culture in marketing and advertising signal American mainstream acceptance. In fact, it's dominance in popular culture almost hides the negative and at times malicious treatment of Hip Hop in the public sphere. With all of its attendant complexities and apparent contradictions, Hip Hop is one of the most difficult cultural phenomena to define. In 1967, Clive Campbell also known as the legendary DJ Kool Herc, immigrated to NYC and settled in the West Bronx. Kool Herc was born in Kingston Jamaica, the birthplace of another great musical forefather, the legend, Bob Marley. Herc, borrowed elements of yard culture in Jamaica: especially the penchant for throwing spontaneous parties outside (ie. public spaces}. For the most part, scholars and historians agree that DJ Kool Herc is one of the most notable founding figures of Hip Hop culture. He DJ—ed some of the earliest hip hop jams, occasionally in basements, but usually outside in the streets or in the park. Kool Herc was famous for his 6 feet tall speakers, nicknamed the Herculoids. He himself stands about 6 foot 5 inches tall—literally and figuratively a giant in Hip Hop. By the mid-70s DJ Kool Herc’s parties were becoming well known in New York City. In fact Hip Hop ‘jams’ were an affordable alternative to pricey disco clubs. As early Hip Hop DJs began to develop the various techniques of early DJ-ing, the potential of the culture emerged in excitement amongst young B-boys and B-girls. The early Hip Hop DJs invented the concept of scratching, skillfully manipulating vinyl records to sonically rupture recorded music and play fragments of it back at will. Even before scratching was developed, DJs isolated and looped break beats from popular records. Break beats, the portion of a song where the music and vocals take a back seat to the beat, became the signature sound of Hip Hop, hence the evolution of Break Boys or B-Boys who relished the extension of the most danceable moments of popular soul and disco music. Early B—Boys would battle and 9 through battling the various technical aspects of Breakdanclng were honed and developed. There were several crews of young folk who participated in the development of Break Dancing. One of the earliest and now most legendary Breaking crews is the Rock Steady Crew. Bronx b—boys (b—boysfgirls are currently known as imbibers of Hip Hop culture that creatively participate in 2 or more primary elements of the culture), Jimmy D. and Jojo established the legendary Rock Steady Crew; joined by Crazy Legs and Lenny Len in 19?9). In addition to DJs and break dancers, there were also MCs offat these early Hip Hop jams. As a point of clarification, all MCs rap, but not all rappers are MCs. A rapper is an entertainer. An MC is an artist who is committed to perfecting the crafts of lyrical mastery and call—response audience interaction. MCs were not initially (as they are now) the front men and women of Hip Hop culture. Noted MC, KRS ONE once remarked that as an MC he was happy to just carry his DJs crates. These days Hip Hop culture, especially rap music, tends to marginalize most of the foundational elements of the culture and over emphasizes the role of the MC which stands for Master of Ceremonies in standard parlance. However, according to Rakim, an MC :1- ‘ who is widely referred to simply as “the god, MC means move the crowd' or ‘Mic Control.“ MCs hone their skills through freestyling and battling as well. Free style rhyming is when an MC raps without aid of previous rhymes committed to paper or memory. Much like their Jazz improvising counterparts, a free—styling MC pulls lyrical rifts and cadences from an ever—evolving repertoire in order to perform spontaneous rhymes that reflect their immediate environment andfor address the present opponent. Battling is when MCs engage in lyrical combat in a series of discursive turns. In fact battles between MCs have become legendary and at times notoriously violent on and off record. The final foundational element of Hip Hop culture is represented by the graffiti artist. To many people, graffiti artist is an oxymoron. Graffiti is vandalism. It is against the law to spray paint names and images on public property. Somewhat unlike the other elements of Hip Hop culture, graffiti completely predates the development of the other three elements. Graffiti actually dates back to Old World, pre—modern times. But there are some distinct qualities to how and why graffiti has developed in Hip Hop culture. The earliest documented Graf moniker belongs to Greece born, Demetrius from 183 Street in the Bronx. He made himself famous by tagging Taki 183 throughout the five boroughs of NYC via subway trains. This moment is distinct for several reasons. 1) Considering Hip Hop’s global prominence 10 in the early part of the new millennium, the multi—cultural origins of Hip Hop certainly explain some of its universal appeal. A Greek Graf writer fit in perfectly with a diverse array of cultural constituents, including African Americans, Jamaicans, West Indians, Puerto Ricans, Asians, Dominicans, Cubans, etc. 2) Several scholars have referred too much of the activity of early adopters of Hip Hop culture as a process of reclaiming public spaces. Sometimes this reclamation is done through sound; consider the boom boxes of yesteryear or the current boom—box—like sound systems in cars. But sometimes this is done through the writing of names and images onfin public spaces. 3) The use of the subway, as a means to circulate the tag, Taki 183, throughout the five boroughs was a masterstroke. It underscored the urge to manipulate public property and services for the benefit of youth culture and in particular here, the processes of self identification amongst inner city youth. In addition to the four foundational elements of Hip Hop culture (DJ, MC, Graf, and Dance), there are several secondary elements of the culture as well. These elements include fashionfmodes of dress, entrepreneurship, and complex systems of knowledge (particularly elaborate language and other linguistic phenomenon). Fashion has always been a component of Hip Hop culture. After all, the DJs, B—boys, B—girls, and MCs had serious dress codes. Some of the earliest brands of choice were Adidas, Puma, Lee Jeans, Cazal (eyeglasses) and Kangol (hats). Some of the early graf artists would spray paint names and designs onto sweatshirts, jackets, sneakers and hats. So a distinct sense of fashion was present early. As the culture grew in popularity, fashion became the outward sign of Hip Hop culture’s entrepreneurial sensibility. Hip Hop clothing brands such as Karl Kani, Cross Colours, and eventually Phat Farm, FUBU, and Rocawear all signified the fact that youth influenced by and living through Hip Hop culture were deeply invested in economic empowerment most readily manifest in owning one’s own business. Entrepreneurship should not be confused with aspirations to ‘bling.’ Bling Bling came into vogue during the Platinum era of Hip Hop (which will be discussed below), and actually reflects earlier proclivities of African American culture; what Zora Neale Hurston referred to as ‘the will to adorn.’ Wearing platinum jewelry and sporting gold teeth can be viewed as a cultural strategy by young people to floss their financial means and to thereby overcome social invisibility in a materialist society. It is a means of self—identification and self—promotion that harkens back to early African American and American traditions. The Bling Bling — Will to Adorn trajectory underscores the knowledge element 11 of Hip Hop culture. Knowledge Reigns Supreme Over Nearly Everyone — KRS ON: a simple acronym functioning as the MC moniker of Kris Parker, formally of BDP (Boogie Down Productions), gestures toward the value of knowledge especially for the initiates of Hip Hop. Outsiders or even younger Hip Hoppers may not have heard of KRS ONE. They may not know who he is. They may not know that he started his recording career with the group BDP. They may not know what BDP stands for; they may not know that the Boogie Down is a nickname for the Bronx, the birthplace of Hip Hop. This is one example (albeit a very simple one) of thousands of linguistic cues, local references, acronyms, and code names that require constituents of Hip rr'r Hop culture to be “in the know. If you don't know — you better ask somebody.’ All of this creative culturally diverse energy tends to mask some of the socioeconomic factors that set the stage for Hip Hop’s early developments. Note here, that one of the most promising scholars of Hip Hop culture, Imani Perry, warns against deficiency models for defining Hip Hop. That is to say, the following discussion about the socioeconomic contexts for Hip Hop culture is not an attempt to account for the developments of Hip Hop in total. The significance of various socio— economic factors in the various developments of the culture will be readily apparent. The outsourcing of high tech jobs has become an issue in the first decade of the new millennium, but outsourcing US jobs has been a challenge for working class and impoverished folks since the early 1970's. In the 19605 most US urban centers were economically sound based upon huge manufacturing industries. As these industries outsourced labor and developed advanced technological means to manufacture their products, unemployment increased. In New York City, this de— industrialization, was complemented by the erasure of public school support for the arts and musical training. In the Bronx, the construction of a beltway for commuters displaced thousands of residences. The combination of these economic factors created a stifling environment for young people in inner cities in the mid—19705. With residential depression and few outlets for artistic expression, young people were relegated to an economically and artistically stagnant environment. For ready reference, view the 1982 film, Wild Style. Not only is the film a documentary journey through the early days of Hip Hop culture; but it is shot in the Bronx, and unless you visited the south Bronx circa 1979, these are some of the most authentic images of the setting for the early developments of Hip Hop culture. There are several other dates and historical figures of note. In 197’4, Afrika Bambaataa transformed one of New York City's largest and most violent gangs into 12 Hip Hop culture’s first organization the ZULU nation. Even today the ZULU nation is one of the most publicly active, communally oriented organizations in Hip Hop. Bambaataa along with DJ Busy Bee Starski are credited with coining the term Hip Hop (in reference to those original partiesljams) in the same year'. In 1975, Grand Wizard Theodore discovered the scratch, that monumental DJ—ing technique where DJs deliberately rupture a vinyl sound recording to produce the now legendary scratching sound so often associated with Hip Hop DJs and music producers. For more important dates, please refer to the Timepiece Timeline at the conclusion of this essay. From these origins, Hip—hop’s development can appropriately be broken down into several eras: The Old School Era: From 1979 to 1987 hip hop culture cultivated itself in and through all of its elements usually remaining authentic to its counter cultural roots in the post—industrial challenges manifested in the urban landscape of the late 20th “mil Artists associated with this era included Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, The Sugarhill Gang, Lady B, Big Daddy Kane, Run DMC, Kurtis Blow and others. The Golden Age Era: From 1987—1993 Rap and rappers begin to take center stage as the culture splashes onto the mainstream platform of American popular culture. The extraordinary musical production and lyrical content of rap songs artistically eclipse most of the other primary elements of the culture (br‘eakdancing, graf art, and DJ—ing). Eventually the Recording Industry contemplates rap music as a potential billion dollar opportunity. Mass mediated rap music and Hip—hop videos displace the intimate, insulated urban development of the culture. Artists associated with this era include: Run DMC, Boogie Down Productions, Eric B and Rakim, Salt—N—Pepa, lQueen Latifah, De La Soul, A Tribe Called Quest, Public Enemy, NWl—‘r, and many others. The Platinum Present: From 1994— the present Hip Hop culture has enjoyed the best and worst of what mass mediated popularity and cultural commodificatlon has had to offer. The meteoric rise to popular fame of gangsta rap in the early 905 set the stage fora marked content shift in the lyrical discourse of rap music toward more and more violent depictions of inner city realities. Millions of magazines and records were sold, but two of Hip—hop’s most promising artists, Biggie Smalls and Tupac Shakur' were literally gunned down in the crossfire of a media fueled battle between the so—called East and West Coast constituents of Hip Hop culture. With the blueprint of popular success for rappers laid bare, several exceptional artists stepped 13 into the gaping space left in the wake of Biggie and Tupac. This influx of new talent included Nas, Jay—Z, Master P, DMX, Big Pun, Snoop Doggie Dogg, Eminem, and Outkast. The current era of Hip Hop is still unfolding, but since the demise of Tupac Shakur and The Notorious B.I.G., an era of battling amongst MCs and crews of MCs has taken root even as the Platinum era seems to be waning. It is no longer simply good enough to be gangsta or to be rich and ‘bling—ed’ out. These days you need to be gangsta, rich and prepared to at least do lyrical battle in the name of your crew andfor your position in Hip Hop culture. One needs only to study the career of Curtis Jackson (aka 50 Cent) to witness how battling has become a centerpiece in the business of Hip Hop culture. By the mid 1990's, Hip—hop culture also emerged as an area of serious study on the university level. Courses on hip—hop culture, history and aesthetics were formed in college classes across America. Due largely to student demand and interest, these courses analyzed the origins and significance of hip—hop culture. Originally housed at Harvard University’s W.E.B. Du Bois Institute, the Hip—hop Archive founded in 2002 by Marcyliena Morgan is an example of this important academic and pedagogical development. Dr. Morgan has since repositioned the archive at Stanford University. 14 The Timepiece Hip—Hop Timeline by Dr. James Peterson The Old School Era (a sundial timepiece) 1967 Clive Campbell aka DJ Kool Herc (Hip Hop's first DJ} immigrates to the West Bronx in NYC from Jamaica. 1968 Rucker Park is a must stop for top college and pro basketball stars, eager to prove themselves. Julius Erving, Wilt Chamberlain, Kareem Abdul Jabar, establish the legacy maintained by the likes of Allen Iverson, Stephon Marbury, Ron Artest, and Elton Brand. The Rucker Tournament, the Rucker Pro League and the Entertainer's Basketball Classic are legendary touchstones for Hip Hop’s love affair with athletics. 1968—9 James Brown records and releases “Funky Drummer" (one of the most sampled drum tracks in Hip Hop History} and “Say It Loud (I'm Black and I'm Proudi." 1969 Greece born, Demetrius from 183 Street in the Bronx makes himself famous by "tagging" Taki 183 throughout the five boroughs of NYC. 1973 DJ Kool Herc DJs his first party 1974 Afrika Bambaataa leaves the Black Spades (one of the largest and most violent gangs in New York} to form Hip Hop's first organization, the ZULU Nation. 1974 Busy Bee Starski, DJ Hollywood, andfor Afrika Bambaataa coin the term, Hip Hop. 1975 - Grand Wizard Theodore discovers the scratch. 1976 The first pieces (i.e. graf—like murals) appear on NYC subway trains. 1977 Bronx B. Boys, Jimmy D. and Jojo establish the legendary Rock Steady Crew. (Joined by Crazy Legs and Lenny Len in 1979). 1979 Sugarhill Gang 5 Rapper’s Delight" spends 12 weeks on the Billboard Pop Chart, ushering in the era of the MC with all of its lyrical battles and authorial challenges. 1980 The Times Square Graffiti Show indicates the mainstream's brief love affair with Hip Hop’s visual art. 1980 The High Times Crew is arrested for Break Dancing. The first photos of Break Dancing enter mainstream circulation. 1980 The first rap radio show debuts on WHBI, Mr. Magic's Rap Attack. 15 The Golden Age (a stopwatch timepiece) 1983 Run DMC's “Sucka MC's" signals the end of the Old School Era and the dawn of Hip Hop's first “pop” stars. 1984 “Roxanne Roxanne" released by UTFO spawning 1005 of response “dis” records. KDAY becomes LA’s and this country’s first rap—formatted radio station. 1984 Rick Rubin and Russell Simmons form Def Jam in a dorm room. 1986 Run DMC's “Walk this Way" enters heavy rotation on MTV. 1988 NWA’s first album, Straight Outta Compton, introduces Gangsta Rap to the mainstream (ICE-T, Schoolly D, and BDP have defined the genre earlier for Hip Hop culture}. 1988 Basguiat (the first Hip Hop visual artist to be recognized by “high culture” art circles) dies from a heroin overdose at the age of 27. 1989 Public Enemy scores Spike Lee’s film, Do the Right Thing {the single is entitled Fight the Power} positioning political rap and the director at the center of urban culture. 1990I 2 Live Crew is arrested for performing songs from As Nasty as They Wanna Be. First hmendment advocates testify on their behalf and they are released, but Explicit Lyrics Labeling is bom. 1990 September'——The Fresh Prince ofBei—Airdebuts on NBC, marking the first sitcom starring a Rapper. 1991 Soundscan technology becomes widespread and rap music usurps pop/rock as America's most eagerly consumed music. 1991 Rapperiactor Ice Cube, actors Cuba Gooding Jr., Lawrence Fishburne and Morris Chesnut star in the film Boyz N the Hood. Directed by John Singleton 1991 Lyricist Lounge in NYC starts their open mic sessions. 1991 Sway, King Tech and DJ Joe Qulxx broadcast the Wake Up Show in the Bay area on KMEL. 1992 FUBU Clothing is launched 1992 Karl Kani begins production of his distinctively logoed, loose-fitting, street— chic sportswear. Within two years, aided by ads that feature artists like Snoop Doggy Dogg and Tupac Shakur, the company will earn between $30 million and $40 million. The NUW Age (a platinum Timepiece) 1993 Hip Hop's greatest producer releases his first masterpiece (The Chronic 16 featuring Snoop Dogg and Tha Doggpound}. Dr. Dre also produced NWA's first two albums as well as various R&B artists prior to this release. 1993 VIBE magazine is launched with Snoop Doggy Dogg on the cover. Snoop subsequently appears on the September 30th Rolling Stone cover {with Dr. Dre), even though his highly anticipated Doggy style debut hasn't come out yet. 1994 Sean Puffy Combs establishes Bad Boy Records. The notorious B.I.G. releases Ready to Die {Bad Boy). 1994 February——Wu Tang Clan releases their debut album Enter the Wu Tang (36 Chambers], (LouleCA}. 1994 Snoop Dogg releases his debut album Doggy Style (Death RowlInterscope). 1995 The Roots album, Do You Want More, brings live instruments back into Hiphop popularity. 1996 September 13——Tupac Shakur dies from gunshot wounds after being shot at while driving through Las Vegas with Death Row CED Suge Knight 1997 March-—Rapper Notorious 8.1.6. dies of gunshot wounds while sitting in his car after attending a Vibe magazine industry party. 1998 Dre discovers Eminem and produces Em's debut album, on Interscope Records, The Slim Shady LP (1999]. 2000 — present: Popular Hip Hop artists reduce lyrics to Dionysian exploits and experiences. Jay—Z and DMX supplant Biggie and Tupac as THE MCs of Hip Hop Culture. The well recorded battle between Nas and Jay—Z coupled with the popularity of Hollywood’s version of Eminem's life story {8 Mile} reinvigorate the dominance of MCs in Hip Hop and popular culture. “The Elements and Eras of Hip—Hop Culture” and the “fimeplece Hip—Hop Timeline" were written by Dr. James Peterson. Dr. Peterson is an assistant professor of English at The Pennsylvania State Universityr Ablngton. 17' ...
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This note was uploaded on 09/14/2011 for the course EDUCATION 101 taught by Professor Leajacobson during the Spring '10 term at Temple.

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Hip Hop Overview and Timeline - The Elements and Eras of...

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