Hip hop music is a musical genre that developed as part of hip hop culture, and is defined by four key stylistic elements: rapping, DJing/scratching, sampling (or synthesis), and beatboxing. Hip hop began in the South Bronx of New York City in the 1970s. The term rap is often used synonymously with hip hop, but hip hop also denotes the practices of an entire subculture.
Rapping, also referred to as MCing or emceeing, is a vocal style in which the artist speaks lyrically, in rhyme and verse, generally to an instrumental or synthesized beat. Beats, almost always in 4/4 time signature, can be created by sampling and/or sequencing portions of other songs by a producer. They also incorporate synthesizers, drum machines, and live bands. Rappers may write, memorize, or improvise their lyrics and perform their works a cappella or to a beat.
Origin of the term
Creation of the term hip hop is often credited to Keith Cowboy, rapper with Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five. However, Lovebug Starski, Keith Cowboy, and DJ Hollywood used the term when the music was still known as disco rap. It is believed that Cowboy created the term while teasing a friend who had just joined the U.S. Army, by scat singing the words “hip/hop/hip/hop” in a way that mimicked the rhythmic cadence of marching soldiers. Cowboy later worked the “hip hop” cadence into a part of his stage performance, which was quickly used by other artists such as The Sugarhill Gang in “Rapper’s Delight“.
Universal Zulu Nation founder Afrika Bambaataa is credited with first using the term to describe the subculture in which the music belonged; although it is also suggested that it was a derogatory term to describe the type of music. The first use of the term in print was in The Village Voice, by Steven Hager, later author of a 1984 history of hip hop.
1970s - Origins
The roots of hip hop are found in African-American music and ultimately African music. The griots of West Africa are a group of traveling singers and poets who are part of an oral tradition dating back hundreds of years. Their vocal style is similar to that of rappers. The African-American traditions of signifyin’, the dozens, and jazz poetry are all descended from the griots. In addition, musical ‘comedy’ acts such as Rudy Ray Moore and Blowfly are considered by some to be the forefathers of rap.
Within New York City, griot-like performances of spoken-word poetry and music by artists such as The Last Poets, Gil Scott-Heron and Jalal Mansur Nuriddin had a significant impact on the post-civil rights era culture of the 1960s and 1970s.
Hip hop arose during the 1970s when block parties became increasingly popular in New York City, particularly in the Bronx, where African American and Puerto Rican influences combined. Block parties incorporated DJs who played popular genres of music, especially funk and soul music. Due to the positive reception, DJs began isolating the percussion breaks of popular songs. This technique was then common in Jamaican dub music and had spread to New York City via the substantial Jamaican immigrant community. One of the first DJs in New York to use dub style mixing was the Jamaican-born DJ Kool Herc, who emigrated to the United States in 1967. Dub music had become popular in Jamaica due to the influence of Americansailors and rhythm & blues. Large sound systems were set up to accommodate poor Jamaicans who couldn’t afford to buy records and dub developed at the sound systems. Because the New York audience did not particularly like dub or reggae, Herc switched to using funk, soul and disco records. As the percussive breaks were generally short, Herc and other DJs began extending them using an audio mixer and two records.
Turntablist techniques, such as scratching (seemingly invented by Grand Wizzard Theodore), beat mixing/matching, and beat juggling eventually developed along with the breaks, creating a base that could be rapped over. These same techniques contributed to the popularization of remixes as the looping, sampling and remixing of another’s music, often without the original artist’s knowledge or consent, can be seen as an evolution of Jamaican dub music, and would become a hallmark of the hip hop style.
Jamaican immigrants also provided an influence on the vocal style of rapping by delivering simple raps at their parties, inspired by the Jamaican tradition of toasting. DJs and MCs would often add call and response chants, often consisting of a basic chorus, to allow the performer to gather his thoughts (e.g. “one, two, three, y’all, to the beat”).
Later, the MCs grew more varied in their vocal and rhythmic delivery, incorporating brief rhymes, often with a sexual or scatological theme, in an effort to differentiate themselves and to entertain the audience. These early raps incorporated the dozens, a product of African American culture. Kool Herc & the Herculoids were the first hip hop group to gain recognition in New York, but the number of MC teams increased over time.
Often these were collaborations between former gangs, such as Afrikaa Bambaataa‘s Universal Zulu Nation – now an international organization. Melle Mel, a rapper with The Furious Five is often credited with being the first rap lyricist to call himself an “MC.” During the early 1970s B-boying arose during block parties, as b-boys and b-girls got in front of the audience to dance in a distinctive and frenetic style. The style was documented for release to a world wide audience for the first time in documentaries and movies such as Style Wars, Wild Style, and Beat Street. The term “B-boy” was coined by DJ Kool Herc to describe the people who would wait for the break section of the song, getting in front of the audience to dance in a distinctive, frenetic style.
Although there were many early MCs that recorded solo projects of note, such as DJ Hollywood, Kurtis Blow and Spoonie Gee, the frequency of solo artists didn’t increase until later with the rise of soloists with stage presence and drama, such as LL Cool J. Most early hip hop was dominated by groups where collaboration between the members was integral to the show. An example would be the early hip hop group Funky Four Plus One, who performed in such a manner on Saturday Night Live in 1981.
Hip hop music was an outlet and a “voice” for the disenfranchised youth of low-economic areas as the culture reflected the social, economic and political realities of their lives.
Influence of disco
Hip hop music was both influenced by disco and a backlash against it. According to Kurtis Blow, the early days of hip hop were characterized by divisions between fans and detractors of disco music. Hip hop had largely emerged as “a direct response to the watered down, Europeanised, disco music that permeated the airwaves”, and the earliest hip hop was mainly based on hard funk loops. However, by 1979, disco instrumental loops/tracks had become the basis of much hip hop music. This genre got the name of “disco rap”. Ironically, hip hop music was also a proponent in the eventual decline in disco popularity.
DJ Pete Jones, Eddie Cheeba, DJ Hollywood, and Love Bug Starski were disco-influenced hip hop DJs. Their styles differed from other hip hop musicians who focused on rapid-fire rhymes and more complex rhythmic schemes. Afrika Bambaataa, Paul Winley, Grandmaster Flash, and Bobby Robinson were all members of this latter group.
In Washington, D.C. go-go emerged as a reaction against disco and eventually incorporated characteristics of hip hop during the early 1980s. The genre of electronic music behaved similarly, eventually evolving into what is known as house music inChicago and techno in New York.
Transition to recording
The first hip hop recording is widely regarded to be The Sugarhill Gang‘s “Rapper’s Delight“, from 1979. However, much controversy surrounds this allegation as some regard “King Tim III (Personality Jock)” by The Fatback Band, which was released a few weeks before “Rapper’s Delight”, as a rap record. There are various other claimants for the title of first hip hop record.
By the early 1980s, all the major elements and techniques of the hip hop genre were in place. Though not yet mainstream, hip hop had permeated outside of New York City; it could be found in cities as diverse as Atlanta, Los Angeles, Washington, D.C., Baltimore, Dallas, Kansas City, San Antonio, Miami, Seattle, St. Louis, New Orleans, Houston, and Toronto. Indeed, “Funk You Up” (1979), the first hip hop record released by a female group, and the second single released by Sugar Hill Records, was performed by The Sequence, a group from Columbia, South Carolina which featured Angie Stone.
Despite the genre’s growing popularity, Philadelphia was, for many years, the only city whose contributions could be compared to New York City’s. Hip hop music became popular in Philadelphia in the late 1970s. The first released record was titled “Rhythm Talk”, by Jocko Henderson.
The New York Times had dubbed Philadelphia the “Graffiti Capital of the World” in 1971. Philadelphia native DJ Lady B recorded “To the Beat Y’All” in 1979, and became the first female solo hip hop artist to record music. Schoolly D, starting in 1984 and also from Philadelphia, began creating a style that would later be known as gangsta rap.
The 1980s marked the diversification of hip hop as the genre developed more complex styles. Early examples of the diversification process can be identified through such tracks as Grandmaster Flash’s “The Adventures of Grandmaster Flash on the Wheels of Steel” (1981), a single consisting entirely of sampled tracks as well as Afrika Bambaataa‘s “Planet Rock” (1982), which signified the fusion of hip hop music with electro. In addition, Rammellzee & K-Rob‘s “Beat Bop” (1983) was a ‘slow jam’ which had a dub influence with its use of reverb and echo as texture and playful sound effects. The mid-1980s was marked by the influence of rock music, with the release of such albums as King of Rock and Licensed to Ill.
Heavy usage of the new generation of drum machines such as the Oberheim DMX and Roland 808 models was a characteristic of many 1980s songs. To this day the 808 kickdrum is traditionally used by hip hop producers. Over time sampling technology became more advanced; however earlier producers such as Marley Marl used drum machines to construct their beats from small excerpts of other beats in synchronisation, in his case, triggering 3 Korg sampling-delay units through a 808. Later, samplers such as the E-mu SP-1200 allowed not only more memory but more flexibility for creative production. This allowed the filtration and layering different hits, and with a possibility of re-sequencing them into a single piece.
With the emergence of a new generation of samplers such as the AKAI S900 in the late 1980s, producers did not require the aid of tape loops. Public Enemy‘s first album was created with the help of large tape loops. The process of looping break into a breakbeat now became more common with a sampler, now doing the job which so far had been done manually by the DJ. In 1989, DJ Mark James under the moniker “45 King”, released “The 900 Number”, a breakbeat track created by synchronizing samplers and vinyl.
The lyrical content of hip hop evolved as well. The early styles presented in the 1970s soon were replaced with metaphorical lyrics over more complex, multi-layered instrumentals. Artists such as Melle Mel, Rakim, Chuck D, and KRS-One revolutionized hip hop by transforming it into a more mature art form. The influential single “The Message” (1982) by Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five is widely considered to be the pioneering force for conscious rap.
During the early 1980s, electro music was fused with elements of the hip hop movement, largely led by artists such as Cybotron, Hashim, Planet Patrol and Newcleus. The most notable proponent was Afrika Bambaataa who produced the single “Planet Rock“.
Some rappers eventually became mainstream pop performers. Kurtis Blow‘s appearance in a Sprite commercial marked the first hip hop musician to represent a major product. The 1981 song “Christmas Wrapping” by the new-wave band The Waitresses was one of the first pop songs to use some rapping in the delivery.
Nationalization and internationalization
Prior to the 1980s, hip hop music was largely confined within the context of the United States. However, during the 1980s, it began its spread and became a part of the music scene in dozens of countries. In the early part of the decade, B-boying became the first aspect of hip hop culture to reachGermany, Japan, Australia and South Africa, where the crew Black Noise established the practice before beginning to rap later in the decade. Musician and presenter Sidney became France’s first black TV presenter with his show H.I.P. H.O.P. which screened on TF1 during 1984, a first for the genre worldwide. Radio Nova helped launch other French stars including Dee Nasty whose 1984 album Paname City Rappin’ along with compilations Rapattitude 1 and 2 contributed to a general awareness of Hip Hop in France.
Hip hop has always kept a very close relationship with the Latino community in New York. DJ Disco Wiz and the Rock Steady Crew were among early innovators from Puerto Rico. combining English and Spanish in the lyrics. The Mean Machine recorded their first song under the label “Disco Dreams” in 1981, while Kid Frost from Los Angeles began his career in 1982.
Cypress Hill was formed in 1988 in the suburb of South Gate outside Los Angeles when Senen Reyes (born in Havana) and his younger brother Ulpiano Sergio (Mellow Man Ace) moved from Cuba to South Gate with his family in 1971. They teamed up with DVX from Queens (New York), Lawrence Muggerud (DJ Muggs) and Louis Freese (B-Real), a Mexican/Cuban-American native of Los Angeles. After the departure of “Ace” to begin his solo career the group adopted the name of Cypress Hill named after a street running through a neighborhood nearby in South Los Angeles.
Japanese hip hop is said to have begun when Hiroshi Fujiwara returned to Japan and started playing Hip-Hop records in the early 1980s. Japanese hip hop generally tends to be most directly influenced by old school hip hop, taking from the era’s catchy beats, dance culture, and overall fun and carefree nature and incorporating it into their music. As a result, hip hop stands as one of the most commercially viable mainstream music genres in Japan, and the line between it and pop music is frequently blurred.
New school hip hop
The new school of hip hop was the second wave of hip hop music, originating in 1983–84 with the early records of Run-D.M.C. and LL Cool J. As with the hip hop preceding it, the new school came predominately from New York City. The new school was initially characterized in form by drum machine-led minimalism, with influences from rock music. It was notable for taunts and boasts about rapping, and socio-political commentary, both delivered in an aggressive, self-assertive style. In image as in song its artists projected a tough, cool, street b-boy attitude. These elements contrasted sharply with the funk and disco influenced outfits, novelty hits, live bands, synthesizers and party rhymes of artists prevalent prior to 1984, and rendered them old-school. New school artists made shorter songs that could more easily gain radio play, and more cohesive LPs than their old school counterparts. By 1986 their releases began to establish the hip hop album as a fixture of the mainstream. Hip hop music became commercially successful, as exemplified by the Beastie Boys‘ 1986 album Licensed to Ill, which was the first rap album to hit #1 on the Billboard charts.
Golden age hip hop
Hip hop’s “golden age” (or “golden era”) is a name given to a period in mainstream hip hop—usually cited as between the mid 1980s and the mid 1990s—said to be characterized by its diversity, quality, innovation and influence. There were strong themes ofAfrocentricity and political militancy, while the music was experimental and the sampling, eclectic. There was often a strong jazz influence. The artists most often associated with the phrase are Public Enemy, Boogie Down Productions, Eric B. & Rakim, De La Soul, A Tribe Called Quest, Gang Starr, Big Daddy Kane and the Jungle Brothers.
The golden age is noted for its innovation – a time “when it seemed that every new single reinvented the genre” according to Rolling Stone. Referring to “hip-hop in its golden age”, Spin’s editor-in-chief Sia Michel says, “there were so many important, groundbreaking albums coming out right about that time”, and MTV’s Sway Calloway adds: “The thing that made that era so great is that nothing was contrived. Everything was still being discovered and everything was still innovative and new”. Writer William Jelani Cobb says “what made the era they inaugurated worthy of the term golden was the sheer number of stylistic innovations that came into existence… in these golden years, a critical mass of mic prodigies were literally creating themselves and their art form at the same time”.
The specific time period that the golden age covers varies slightly from different sources. Some place it square in the 1980s and 1990s – Rolling Stone refers to “rap’s ’86-’99 golden age”, and MSNBC states, “the “Golden Age” of hip-hop music: The ’80s” and ’90s”.
Gangsta rap and West Coast hip hop
Gangsta rap is a subgenre of hip hop that reflects the violent lifestyles of inner-city American black youths. Gangsta is a non-rhotic pronunciation of the word gangster. The genre was pioneered in the mid 1980s by rappers such as Schooly D and Ice T, and was popularized in the later part of the 1980s by groups like N.W.A. Ice-T released “6 in the Mornin’“, which is often regarded as the first gangsta rap song, in 1986. After the national attention that Ice-T and N.W.A created in the late 1980s and early 1990s, gangsta rap became the most commercially lucrative subgenre of hip hop.
N.W.A is the group most frequently associated with pioneering gangsta rap. Their lyrics were more violent, openly confrontational, and shocking than those of established rap acts, featuring incessant profanity and, controversially, use of the word “nigger”. These lyrics were placed over rough, rock guitar-driven beats, contributing to the music’s hard-edged feel. The first blockbuster gangsta rap album was N.W.A’s Straight Outta Compton, released in 1988. Straight Outta Compton would establish West Coast hip hop as a vital genre, and establish Los Angeles as a legitimate rival to hip hop’s long-time capital, New York City. Straight Outta Compton sparked the first major controversy regarding hip hop lyrics when their song “Fuck Tha Police” earned a letter from FBI Assistant Director, Milt Ahlerich, strongly expressing law enforcement‘s resentment of the song. Due to the influence of Ice T and N.W.A, gangsta rap is often credited as being an originally West Coast phenomenon, despite the contributions of East Coast acts like Boogie Down Productions in shaping the genre.
The subject matter inherent in gangsta rap has caused a great deal of controversy. Criticism has come from both left wing and right wing commentators, and religious leaders. Gangsta rappers often defend themselves by saying that they are describing the reality of inner-city life, and that they are only adopting a character, like an actor playing a role, which behaves in ways that they may not necessarily endorse.
In 1990, MC Hammer hit mainstream success with the multi platinum album Please Hammer, Don’t Hurt ‘Em. The record reached #1 and the first single, “Can’t Touch This” charted on the top ten of the billboard hot 100. MC Hammer became one of the most successful rappers of the early nineties and one of the first household names in the genre. The album raised rap music to a new level of popularity. It was the first hip-hop album certified diamond by the RIAA for sales of over ten million. It remains one of the genre’s all-time best-selling albums. To date, the album has sold as many as 18 million units.
In 1992, Dr. Dre released The Chronic. As well as helping to establish West Coast gangsta rap as more commercially viable than East Coast hip hop, this album founded a style called G Funk, which soon came to dominate West Coast hip hop. The style was further developed and popularized bySnoop Dogg‘s 1993 album Doggystyle.
The Wu-Tang Clan shot to fame around the same time. Being from New York City’s Staten Island, the Wu-Tang Clan brought the East Coast back into the mainstream at a time when the West Coast mainly dominated rap. Other major artists in the so-called East Coast hip hop renaissance included The Notorious B.I.G., Jay-Z, and Nas. (See the article on the East Coast-West Coast hip hop rivalry.)
The Beastie Boys continued their success throughout the decade crossing color lines and gaining respect from many different artists.
Record labels based out of Atlanta, St. Louis, and New Orleans gained fame for their local scenes. The midwest rap scene was also notable, with the fast vocal styles from artists such as Bone Thugs-n-Harmony, Tech N9ne, and Twista. By the end of the decade, hip hop was an integral part of popular music, and many American pop songs had hip hop components.
World hip hop
In Haiti, hip hop was developed in the early 1980s, and is mostly accredited to Master Dji and his songs “Vakans” and “Politik Pa m”. What later became known as “Rap Kreyòl” grew in popularity in the late 1990s with King Posse and Original Rap Stuff. Due to cheaper recording technology and flows of equipment to Haiti, more Rap Kreyòl groups are recording songs, even after the January 12th earthquake.
In the Dominican Republic, a recording by Santi Y Sus Duendes and Lisa M became the first single of merenrap, a fusion of hip hop and merengue.
New York City experienced a heavy Jamaican hip hop influence during the 1990s. This influence was brought on by cultural shifts particularly because of the heightened immigration of Jamaicans to New York City and the American-born Jamaican youth who were coming of age during the 1990s. Hip hop artists such as De La Soul and Black Star have produced albums influenced by Jamaican roots.
In Europe, Africa, and Asia, hip hop began to move from the underground to mainstream audiences. In Europe, hip hop was the domain of both ethnic nationals and immigrants. British hip hop, for example, became a genre of its own and spawned many artists such as Wiley, Dizzee Rascal, The Streets and many more. Germany produced the well-known Die Fantastischen Vier as well as several Turkish performers like the controversial Cartel, Kool Savaş, and Azad. Similarly, France has produced a number of native-born stars, such as IAM and Suprême NTM, MC Solaar, Rohff, Rim’K or Booba. In the Netherlands, important nineties rappers include The Osdorp Posse, a crew from Amsterdam, Extince, from Oosterhout, and Postmen. Italy found its own rappers, including Jovanotti and Articolo 31, grow nationally renowned, while the Polish scene began in earnest early in the decade with the rise of PM Cool Lee. In Romania, B.U.G. Mafia came out of Bucharest‘s Pantelimon neighborhood, and their brand of gangsta rap underlines the parallels between life in Romania’s Communist-era apartment blocks and in the housing projects of America’s ghettos. Israel‘s hip hop grew greatly in popularity at the end of the decade, with several stars bothPalestinian (Tamer Nafer) and Israeli (Subliminal).
In Asia, mainstream stars rose to prominence in the Philippines, led by Francis Magalona, Rap Asia, MC Lara and Lady Diane. In Japan, where underground rappers had previously found a limited audience, and popular teen idols brought a style called J-rap to the top of the charts in the middle of the 1990s.
Latinos had played an integral role in the early development of hip hop, and the style had spread to parts of Latin America, such as Cuba, early in its history. In Mexico, popular hip hop began with the success of Calo[disambiguation needed] in the early 1990s. Later in the decade, with Latin rap groups like Cypress Hill on the American charts, Mexican rap rock groups, such as Control Machete, rose to prominence in their native land. An annual Cuban hip hop concert held at Alamar in Havana helped popularize Cuban hip hop, beginning in 1995. Hip hop grew steadily more popular in Cuba, because of official governmental support for musicians.
The Brazilian hip hop scene is considered to be the second biggest in the world, just behind American hip hop. Brazilian hip hop is heavily associated with racial and economic issues in the country, where a lot of black people live in a bad situation in the violent slums, known inBrazil as favelas. São Paulo is where hip hop began in the country, but it soon spread all over Brazil, and today, almost every big Brazilian city, such as Rio de Janeiro, Salvador, Curitiba, Porto Alegre, Belo Horizonte, Recife and Brasilia, has a hip hop scene. Racionais MC’s, MV Bill, Marcelo D2, Rappin Hood, Jay Nano, Thaíde and Dj Hum, Bonde do Tigrão, Bonde do Rolê, GOG, RZO are considered the most powerful names in Brazilian hip hop.
West Coast hip hop
After N.W.A broke up, Dr. Dre (a former member) released The Chronic in 1992, which peaked at #1 on the R&B/hip hop chart, #3 on the pop chart and spawned a #2 pop single with “Nuthin’ but a “G” Thang.” The Chronic took West Coast rap in a new direction, influenced strongly by P funk artists, melding sleazy funk beats with slowly drawled lyrics. This came to be known as G-funk and dominated mainstream hip hop for several years through a roster of artists on Death Row Records, including Tupac Shakur, whose single “To Live & Die in LA” was a big hit, andSnoop Dogg, whose Doggystyle included the songs “What’s My Name” and “Gin and Juice,” both top ten hits.
Detached from this scene were other artists such as Freestyle Fellowship, The Pharcyde as well as more underground artists such as the Solesides collective (DJ Shadow and Blackalicious amongst others) Jurassic 5, Ugly Duckling (hip hop group), People Under the Stairs, The Alkaholiks, and earlier Souls of Mischief represented a return to hip-hops roots of sampling and well planned rhyme schemes. Also the west coast has avant-garde Hip Hop label known as the Anticon record, where artist such as Dose One, Sole (artist), and many others make experimental Hip Hop music that goes beyond the status quo.
East Coast hip hop
In the early 1990s East Coast hip hop was dominated by the Native Tongues posse which was loosely composed of De La Soul with producer Prince Paul, A Tribe Called Quest, The Jungle Brothers, as well as their loose affiliates 3rd Bass, Main Source, and the less successful Black Sheep &KMD. Although originally a “daisy age” conception stressing the positive aspects of life, darker material (such as De La Soul’s thought-provoking “Millie Pulled a Pistol on Santa”) soon crept in.
Artists such as Masta Ace (particularly for SlaughtaHouse) & Brand Nubian, Public Enemy, Organized Konfusion had a more overtly militant pose, both in sound and manner. Biz Markie, the “clown prince of hip hop”, was causing himself and all other hip-hop producers a problem with his appropriation of the Gilbert O’Sullivan song “Alone again, naturally”.
In the mid-1990s, artists such as the Wu-Tang Clan, Nas and The Notorious B.I.G. increased New York’s visibility at a time when hip hop was mostly dominated by West Coast artists. The mid to late 1990s saw a generation of rappers such as the members of D.I.T.C. such as the late Big L andBig Pun.
The productions of RZA, particularly for Wu-Tang Clan, became influential with artists such as Mobb Deep due to the combination of somewhat detached instrumental loops, highly compressed and processed drums and gangsta lyrical content. Wu-Tang affiliate albums such as Raekwon the Chef‘s Only Built 4 Cuban Linx and GZA‘s Liquid Swords are now viewed as classics along with Wu-Tang “core” material.
Producers such as DJ Premier (primarily for Gangstarr but also for other affiliated artists such as Jeru the Damaja), Pete Rock (With CL Smooth and supplying beats for many others), Buckwild, Large Professor, Diamond D and The 45 King supplying beats for numerous MCs regardless of location.
Albums such as Nas‘s Illmatic, Jay-Z‘s Reasonable Doubt and O.C.‘s Word…Life are made up of beats from this pool of producers.
Later in the decade the business acumen of the Bad Boy Records tested itself against Jay-Z and his Roc-A-Fella Records and, on the West Coast, Death Row Records.
The rivalry between the East Coast and the West Coast rappers eventually turned personal, aided in part by the music media.
Although the “big business” end of the market dominated matters commercially the late 1990s to early 2000s saw a number of relatively successful East Coast indie labels such as Rawkus Records (with whom Mos Def gained great success) and later Def Jux; the history of the two labels is intertwined, the latter having been started by EL-P of Company Flow in reaction to the former, and offered an outlet for more underground artists such as Mike Ladd, Aesop Rock, Mr Lif, RJD2, Cage and Cannibal Ox. Other acts such as the Hispanic Arsonists and slam poet turned MC Saul Williams met with differing degrees of success.
Diversification of styles
In the late 1990s, the styles of hip hop diversified. Southern rap became popular in the early 1990s, with the releases of Arrested Development‘s 3 Years, 5 Months & 2 Days in the Life Of… in 1992, Goodie Mob‘s Soul Food in 1995 and OutKast‘s ATLiens in 1996. All three groups were fromAtlanta, Georgia. Later, Master P (Ghetto D) built up a roster of artists (the No Limit posse) based out of New Orleans. Master P incorporated G funk and Miami bass influences; and distinctive regional sounds from St. Louis, Chicago, Washington D.C., Detroit and others began to gain popularity.
In the 1990s, elements of hip hop continued to be assimilated into other genres of popular music. Neo soul, for example, combined hip hop and soul music. In the 1980s and 1990s, rapcore, rap rock and rap metal, fusions of hip hop and hardcore punk, rock and heavy metal became popular among mainstream audiences. Rage Against the Machine and Limp Bizkit were among the most well-known bands in these fields.
Digable Planets‘ 1993 release Reachin’ (A New Refutation of Time and Space) was an influential jazz rap record sampling the likes of Don Cherry, Sonny Rollins, Art Blakey, Herbie Mann, Herbie Hancock, Grant Green, and Rahsaan Roland Kirk. It spawned the hit single “Rebirth of Slick (Cool Like Dat)” which reached #16 on the Billboard Hot 100
Though white rappers like the Beastie Boys, House of Pain and 3rd Bass had had some popular success or critical acceptance from the hip hop community, Eminem’s success, beginning in 1999 with the platinum The Slim Shady LP, surprised many.
The popularity of hip hop music continued through the 2000s. In the year 2000, The Marshall Mathers LP by Eminem sold over ten million copies in the United States and was the fastest selling album of all time. Nelly‘s debut LP, Country Grammar, sold over nine million copies. In the 2000s, crunk music, a derivative of Southern hip hop, gained considerable popularity via the likes of Lil Jon and the Ying Yang Twins.
Hip hop influences also found their way increasingly into mainstream pop during this period mainly the mid 2000s. In the East Coast, popular acts during this period included 50 Cent, whose 2003 album Get Rich or Die Tryin’ debuted at number one on the U.S. Billboard 200 charts.
In addition to the mainstream success, the United States also saw the success of alternative hip hop in the form of performers such as The Roots, Dilated Peoples, Gnarls Barkley and Mos Def, who achieved significant recognition. Gnarls Barkley’s album St. Elsewhere, which contained a fusion of funk, neo soul and hip hop, debuted at number 20 on the Billboard 200 charts. In addition, Aesop Rock‘s 2007 album None Shall Pass was well received, and reached #50 on the Billboard charts.
Decline in sales
Starting in 2005, sales of hip hop music in the United States began to severely wane, leading Time magazine to question if mainstream hip-hop was “dying.” Billboard Magazine found that, since 2000, rap sales dropped 44%, and declined to 10% of all music sales, which, while still a commanding figure when compared to other genres, is a significant drop from the 13% of all music sales where rap music regularly placed. NPR culture critic Elizabeth Blair noted that, “some industry experts say young people are fed up with the violence, degrading imagery and lyrics.”
Others say the music is just as popular as it ever was, but that fans have found other means to consume the music.” It can also be argued that many young people now download music illegally, especially through P2P networks, instead of purchasing albums and singles from legitimate stores. For example, Flo Rida is known for his low album sales regardless of his singles being mainstream and having digital success. His second album R.O.O.T.S. sold only 200,000+ total units in the U.S., which could not line up to the sales of the album’s lead single “Right Round“. This also happened to him in 2008. Some put the blame on the lack of lyrical content that hip hop once had, another example is Soulja Boy Tell ‘Em‘s 2007 debut album souljaboytellem.com was met with negative reviews. Lack of sampling, a key element of hip hop, has also been noted for the decrease in quality of modern albums. For example, there are only four samples used in 2008’s Paper Trail by T.I., while there are 35 samples in 1998’s Moment of Truth by Gang Starr. The decrease in sampling is in part due to it being too expensive for producers. In Byron Hurt‘s documentaryHip Hop: Beyond Beats and Rhymes, he claims that hip hop had changed from “clever rhymes and dance beats” to “advocating personal, social and criminal corruption.” Despite the fall in record sales throughout the music industry, hip-hop has remained a popular genre, with hip-hop artists still regularly topping the Billboard 200 Charts. In the first half of 2009 alone artists such as Eminem, Rick Ross, Black Eyed Peas, and Fabolous all had albums that reached the #1 position on the Billboard 200 charts. Eminem’s album Relapse was one of the fastest selling albums of 2009. In 2010, six hip hop acts topped the Billboard 200; Ludacris, B.o.B, Drake, Eminem, Lil Wayne and Kanye West. In 2011 so far Nicki Minaj has topped the Billboard 200 and Wiz Khalifa has topped the Billboard Hot 100.
Innovation and revitalization
It was in the later 2000s that alternative hip hop finally secured a place within the mainstream, due in part to the declining commercial viability of gangsta rap as well as the crossover success of artists such as OutKast, Kanye West, and Gnarls Barkley. Not only did OutKast’s Speakerboxxx/The Love Below receive high acclaim from music critics, manage to appeal to listeners of all ages, and span numerous musical genres – including rap, rock, R&B, punk, jazz, indie, country, pop, electronica and gospel – but it also spawned two number-one hit singles and has been certified diamond by selling 11 times platinum by the RIAA for shipping more than 11 million units,becoming the best selling rap album of all time as well as winning a Grammy Award for Album of the Year at the 46th Annual Grammy Awards being only the second rap album to do so. Industry observers view the sales racebetween Kanye West’s Graduation and 50 Cent‘s Curtis as a turning point for hip hop. West emerged the victor, selling nearly a million copies in the first week alone, proving that innovative rap music could be just as commercially viable as gangsta rap, if not more so. Although he designed it as a melancholic pop rather than rap, Kanye’s following 808s & Heartbreak would have a significant effect on hip hop music. While his decision to sing about love, loneliness, and heartache for the entirety of the album was at first heavily criticized by music audiences and the album predicted to be a flop, its subsequent critical acclaim and commercial success encouraged other mainstream rappers to take greater creative risks with their music. During the release of The Blueprint 3, New York rap mogul Jay-Z revealed that next studio album would be an experimental effort, stating, “… it’s not gonna be a #1 album. That’s where I’m at right now. I wanna make the most experimental album I ever made.” Jay-Z elaborated that like Kanye, he was unsatisfied with contemporary hip hop, was being inspired by indie-rockers like Grizzly Bear and asserted his belief that the indie rock movement would play an important role in the continued evolution of hip-hop.
The alternative hip hop movement is not limited only to the United States, as rappers such as Somali–Canadian poet K’naan, Japanese rapper Shing02, and Sri Lankan British artist M.I.A. have achieved considerable worldwide recognition. In 2009, TIME magazine placed M.I.A in the Time 100 list of “World’s Most Influential people” for having “global influence across many genres.” Today, due in part to the increasing use of music distribution through the internet, many alternative rap artists find acceptance by far-reaching audiences. Several burgeoning artists such as Kid Cudi and Drake have managed to attain record-breaking, chart-topping hit songs, “Day ‘n’ Night” and “Best I Ever Had” respectively, which they both released on free online mixtapes without the help of a major record label. The pair, along with other new artists such as Wale, The Cool Kids, Jay Electronica, and B.o.B, openly acknowledge being directly influenced by their nineties alt-rap predecessors in addition to alt-rock groups while their music has been noted by critics as expressing eclectic sounds, life experiences, and emotions rarely seen in mainstream hip hop.
Content Courtesy of Rapworld.com