Hip-hop is a contemporary wave of civilization consisting of music, style, and art. Hip- hop is one of the most famous music genres in the world of music. The genre has been made very famous in America in the recent decades by young African -American artistes. Currently, its fame and appeal has spread worldwide.
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This paper will extensively analyze the origin of the hip-hop genre with special focus given to its African roots. The paper will as well analyze four elements that are influenced by hip-hop culture. The four elements include Disk jockey, Graffiti, Rappers and the break dance.
Additionally, the paper will extensively look at four contemporary artistes, their influence on other artists, genres, culture, religion and political as well as the economy. Finally, the paper will look at other genres that led to the development of hip-hop genre, and draw a comparison of specific musical traits found in hip-hop as opposed to earlier genres.
Origin of Hip Hop
The term hip-hop is a mixture of two break-up colloquial speeches -“hip” which was used as African American dialect as early as 1898, denoting current or knowledgeable, and “hop”, for the hopping association (Kimberly, 2004). Hip-hop music has its source in African-American music and African music. The genre is associated with a group of traveling West African singers and poets termed the Griot (Kimberly, 2004).
The style of singing of the Griot was similar to that of current rappers. According to Forman & Neal (2004), Keith cowboy was the first artiste credited with creation of the term Hip-hop. He did not intend on a new music genre name; rather, his intention was teasing a friend who had joined the US Army. Moy (2004), notes that Keith and DJ Hollywood used the term Hip-hop when the music was still known as disco rap.
The actual time in which Hip hop as genre was adopted in the US is still not clear but according to Forman & Neal (2004), the Griot -like presentation of spoken words had a great bang on post-civil war period i.e. the American society of the 60s.
In actual sense, Hip-hop was for the first time generally accepted as a culture in New York City in the 1970s, through the block parties that were made famous by the combination of African- American and the Puerto Rican influence. Mostly, the music would be played in nightclubs within New York City (Hess, 2007).
Hess (2007), in addition, notes that from 1970s, the development of Hip-hop as a culture has been very complex due to immigrants from different parts of the world, who in one way or another equally contributed to the dynamic hip-hop culture as it is known today. Of specific importance in the development of Hip-hop music in US and New York City in particular is the American sailor DJ Kool Herc, who on migrating from Jamaica in 1967 started Dup style mixing that became extremely popular in Jamaica.
Elements that are influenced by Hip Hop culture
Disk Jockeys popularly called DJ is one of the four essentials that are influenced by the Hip-hop civilization. Popularly known as DJ or deejay, a disk jockey is a person who picks and play recorded music in effort to entertain his or her audience. Initially, disk was a term used to refer to gramophone; while disc was used to refer to compact disc.
Today, the phrase includes all types of music playback, regardless of the medium. Several kinds of disc jockeys currently exist; and they include Radio deejays that are responsible for introducing and playing music that is transmitted on radio waves or on Internet radios.
The other type of DJs is the club DJs who determine and play music in bars and nightclubs, at raves or even in arena. Hip-hop deejays select and play music using various turntables, often to support one or more musicians popularly known as MC’s. Similarly Hip-hop deejays may in addition do disc spinning or scratching to produce percussive reverberation (Weigant, 1999).
Weigant (1999) further observes that in reggae a singer who rap, or makes conversation over pre-recorded beat tracks where the person choosing and singing them is known as a selector. Mobile DJs on the other hand traverse with transportable sound systems and play recorded music at assortment of events.
Since the inception of Hip-hop culture in the 70s, the art of deejaying has undergone tremendous changes, with almost every other kind of deejaying having something to copy from the Hip-hop deejaying (spears, 1999). Spear remarks that clear illustrations are changes experienced in nightclub deejaying as well as reggae deejaying where the ideologies of hip-hop scratching, cross fader stabs and mixing is nowadays very prominent.
As Hip-hop continues to spread all over the world, so will some of the elements such as Graffiti, which are heavily influenced by the culture. Political activists and gangsters used, according Emery (2004), graffiti as a form of expression.
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They were used to mark political boundaries as well as forming a sign of belonging to a certain group of gangs. Emery (2004), however, observes that the hip-hop civilization has indeed incorporated other meanings to graffiti; currently, tattoos and other funny drawings on one body is an indication of one’s loyalty to the hip-hop culture.
Emery (2004), further notes that the affiliation flanked by graffiti and hip-hop customs arises from the emergence of latest and progressively more complicated and omnipresent type of the practice in vicinity where other essentials of hip-hop were developing as art forms- through a profound overlap connecting persons who wrote graffiti and those who adopted other fundamentals of the culture.
Though there has always been a contradiction between Hip hop and Rap, Mitchell (2004), observes that Hip hop is not Rap and goes to the extent of defining, Rapping as a technique of transmitting a message, like singing, whining and whistling. Mitchell (2004) further clarifies that according to the founders of Hip-hop, it was meant to be a sub-culture, or means of living and governing one’s life.
However, this did not restrain Hip-hop to have effect on Rap music and mostly in US and Jamaica. The Jamaicans who migrated to the US found it hard to refrain themselves from incorporating the reggae genre with Rap and eventually resulted into a brand of music called Ragga or dancehall.
Break dance is a major element of hip-hop music that evolved in 60s. It is a dynamic style of dancing that incorporates a person dancing in such a way as to portray that person as one without a Skeleton. The dancing style evolved as part of the Hip-hop revolution and so far, it has been incorporated in other genre of music and not just hip-hop (Perkins, 1996). Perkins (1996), in addition, observes that a popular move of the break dance is called the Head spin, a shift in which a person seizes their whole body mass on their head.
Famous contemporary artists of Hip hop Music
Tupac Amur Shakur
Tupac Amaru shakur is one of the most celebrated Hip-hop musicians of all the time (Olson, 2005). He was born of Afeni Shakur and Billy Garland in 1971 on the east Harlem in New York City (Olson, 2005). His parents were active members of an organization fighting for the rights of black minority in New York (Olson, 2005). Olson (2005) further notes that Shakur was a promising artiste from his young age and apart from regularly participating in drama and plays in high school, he was one of the best poet and rapper in school.
Though very promising as an artiste, Shakur did not live long to enjoy fully the fruits of his talent. In late 1993, in a group of his friends and brother, Shakur formed a music group called ‘thugs life’ and happened to record only one album, which was produced by Johnny “j” Jackson (Olson, 2005). The album went gold i.e. selling millions of copies, with most of the songs in the album hitting platinum in sales as well as topping the billboards for records (Olson, 2005).
Conflict with Law
Most of Shakur’s early songs were perceived to encourage violence and anarchy and mostly against the law enforcing officers (Olson, 2005). Olson (2005) in particular notes a case involving a young black man who was arrested over the killing of a police officer.
After a thorough investigation, the young man was found to be a diehard of Tupac music and of concern in the case, was the fact that the young man was listening to Tupac songs in his Walkman radio cassette in the instance when he committed the crime. This led a request from the then vice president of the US that such music from Shakur is done away with from the countries music stores.
Being a talented artiste notwithstanding, Shakur’s short life was full of controversies and most of his adult life was spent either in jail or in law court’s corridors. In two notably instances, he was jailed for shooting a law enforcing officers as well as for sexual molestation.
Nevertheless, his fame followed him inside prison where, while still serving his sentence for sexually molesting a woman, he released an album that went on record for both the best selling album by a single rapper serving jail term, as well as for topping billboards for five consecutive weeks.
Tupac shakur met his death in Las Vegas after attending a boxing match featuring Mike Tyson. He was shot five times and died few days later due to respiratory problem as well internal bleeding caused by the gunshots.
What made shakur to stand out among his peers and other competing musicians of his time were his immense talent and his originality (Olson, 2005). Olson (2005), further notes that many rappers of the 90s attest that almost every single rapper of the time borrowed something from the life of Tupac. His social activism against black injustices was another factor that propelled him to such magnitude of fame, almost making him a legend in the Hip-hop world
Kanye West was born in 1977 in Atlanta Georgia to an English professor mother and award winning photographer father. His parents separated when West was young, hence was partly raised by his mother in Chicago and occasionally stayed with his father during the summer vocations.
Hip hop Life
West’s hip-hop life started early in life, though in a very controversial way. After completing high school, West enrolled in the University to study arts, but later dropped out after only one year. He later confessed that he was not learning fast enough while at school and consequently the decision to drop out, because life was teaching him better.
West, contrary to many other great Hip-hop artistes has a reputation of recording inspirational songs, which differs from many other songs from artiste in the same genre. Of particular importance in West way of life is his appreciation of God given talent to inspire and help the needy. He was among the artistes who participated in a 2005 music concert that took place in 5 different continents of the world, trying to recommend world leaders and mostly from developed countries to increase their efforts in trying to eradicate poverty in Africa.
Through his sole effort, Kanye West has revolutionalized the Hip-hop music i.e. changing the tradition negative perception associated with the Music to a socially acceptable standing. Initially, Hip-hop reflected a chaotic and gangster like sort of entertainment. Many hip-hop artistes have been banned by different governments of the world for their dirty hip-hop lyrics, which many perceive as a bad inspiration to the young generation
Influence of Tupac Shakur and Kanye West on other artists, genres, cultural, political, economical influences, religious etc
Many great hip-hop artistes have so far influenced the life of other artiste, world cultures and economies. However, Tupac Shakur and Kanye West’s influence stands out compared to the rest of the artistes.
Influence on other artistes
The effect of Tupac Shakur was evident both while alive and later in life after his death. In many interviews, many hip-hop artistes concurred that Tupac did not sound or copied anyone who lived before him. He was just himself and that alone encouraged many artistes making them to believe in themselves very much and in the process became very successful in their music careers.
Similarly, Kanye West has had an equal effect on other artistes, with many describing him as a phenomenon in the music industry. West is reputed for his unique qualities in music production and equally for his enormous talents in writing, composing as well as singing. West has in the process helped many renowned and seasoned musicians such as Jay z, Mary J Blinge, Beyonce and many others
Tupac shakur single handedly revolutionalized the Hip-hop culture. Starting from music itself, it was during his time that hip hop music was able to escalate to the level it is today. Hip hop became popular the world over as a result of the rivalry between the east coast and west coast groups of hip hop musician. On clothing, style and fashion, Tupac became a fashion icon and everything he wore was an instant hit to be emulated by all especially the youths (Price 2006).
It is further observed by Price (2006) that sagging trousers, fitting tops ,gangster-like and prison cloths became an instant dressing style, most of which were associated or originated from shakur. The other part of culture to be influenced by Shakur was in art. This particular concept took the Hip-hop world with complete craziness as almost every musician was drawn a tattoo on his or her body.
This art became so popular that even non-musician also participated in the drawing. Tupac in particular had more than one tattoo and one was dedicated to his first Hip-hop group called the Thug life. Other elements associated with Hip-hop sub culture included strange hairstyles, Gold teeth the crucifix among many others. On the hairstyle Tupac in person was bald headed a shaving style he is almost synonymous with. However, other artiste would be found pleating their hair while others would entertain funny haircuts.
Hip Hop’s economic influence became more pre-eminent upon Tupac Shakur’s death. Economically, Hip-hop was viewed as the cheapest means of making one a multi millionaire over night. To some extent, this proved to be true. Posthumously, Tupac had sold millions of albums worth millions of Dollars.
West on the other side has as well registered an overwhelmingly large fortune from his music career. The industry, with no doubt, is capable of changing one’s life overnight. Owing to the influence of Tupac, many more musicians started the race to be the next millionaires (Donalson, 2007).
Additionally, Donalson (2007), remarks that this resulted in recording and selling of multi millions music projects and that apart from music, Tupac hugely benefited from his talents in acting where he was featured in quite many movies. Once again, this became another source of wealth and almost every Hip-hop musician turned an actor or simultaneous performed both roles.
Other genres that lead to the development of Hip hop Music.
Before hip-hop became what it is today, several other genres had eased toward the development of Hip-hop. Of particular concern was the Griot-like performance associated with rapping poetry. Other genres included the Dup music that originated from Jamaica as well as the famously genre known as disco, which was mostly played in rave at nightclubs.
Comparison of specific musical traits found in hip-hop as opposed to earlier genres
Compared to the earlier genres, hip-hop has so much revolutionalized such that one may fail to establish any relationship between Hip-hop and the earlier genres. The performance of hip-hop for instance has greatly changed in that an artiste can perform in any venue be it a stadium, or in night clubs (Roy, 2004. Roy (2004), notes that earlier genres had specific avenues and that it was extremely hard for one to perform anywhere like it is the case today.
Similarly, Roy (2004) notes that the way hip-hop is performed currently is different from the way it was played in earlier genres. Earlier genres did not incorporate much of electric instrument and mostly relied on simple instrument, which is definitely the case today.
Looking hundreds of years back, one cannot fail to marvel at the long journey that Hip-hop has so far endured to be the darling of many today. Starting with its origin from West Africa through the traveling Gloit musicians, Hip-hop has undergone tremendous revolution. Hip-hop of today is very different from the way it was initially composed and played.
The genre has as well taken part in changing people’s day-to-day way of life starting from economic, cultural to political. Along the tiresome journey, it has had it high and low moments, claiming lives of many great artistes while at the same time helping to spread inspiration message of hope to the homesteads of millions of needy people worldwide.
Nevertheless, Hip-hop has as well attracted admirers and critics. Many critics perceive the music as a bad inspiration to the young people; this was occasioned by its gangster- like stand and thus has been fought in many fronts. Many Hip-hop artistes have for long been on collision course with the law due to the kind of rebellious attitudes it ferments. Consequently, most of the genre’s critics spearheaded campaigns for its ban.
Overall, the genre has fought off many critics and today it still stands shoulder high as a favorite genre. With the initiatives from new artiste to modernize the genre, it is beyond doubt that Hip-hop will attract more admirers. Slowly, hip-hop lovers have been keen on changing the negative perception, beliefs and attitude some members of society have of the genre.
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