Friday, May 20, 2016

Crash Course on Hip Hop History

Hiphop is a culture. In that culture are three elements:
  •           Rap
  •           Dance
  •           Graffiti

To understand how HipHop became what it is today, let’s go back to where it started. This is, by no means, a comprehensive piece but will serve as a good guide to those who want a crash course.

DJ Kool Herc (real name Clive Campbell) is largely recognized as the father of HipHop. He was born and raised in Jamaica. By the 70s, he made a living as a DJ in New York. However, HipHop’s foundation was laid five decades prior.

The Foundation

Mid 20s - A street dancer named Earl Tucker (aka Snake Hips) developed dance moves that is now used as the basic foundation of HipHop dance, floats and slides. It was picked up by many other dancers and continuously evolved. 

By the 50s, Soundclash launched a contest among DJs and the two finalists were Coxsone Dodd’s “Downbeat” and Duke Reid’s “Trojan”. This is when the concept of ‘battles’ began.

Note: During this time, African Americans were still considered nothing more than slaves. They had no rights and no protection. 

Meanwhile, by 1959 Parks Commissioner Robert Moses started relocating middle class immigrants out of the Bronx, New York in order to build roads and trains. Gradually, only the lower class, comprised primarily of African Americans, were left in Bronx, New York. Along with the poverty came crime, addiction and other social problems.

Important Kang Gary Quotes

Businesses moved out and the government started paying less attention to the community. As the social condition worsen, James Brown, the father of soul, performed at The Apollo where his drummer, Clayton Fillyau introduced the break beat. This became the foundation of breakdancing.

DRUM BREAKS: (0:18 - 5:25) Clyde Stubblefield Drum Breaks: (0:47 - 1:22 & 1:41)
Funky Drummer Bonus Beat Reprise: (1:21

By 1965, Muhammad Ali recited a poem that is largely acknowledged as a big influence in what we now know as rhyme in HipHop. 

Two years after, 1967, Clive Campbell moved from Jamaica to New York. In High School, he became known as Hercules because he was big. He later changed his name to Kool Herc.

By 1968, a gang roamed the streets of New York to draw on the walls. This is the rise of graffiti. The group was initially called Savage Seven. As members left and new ones added, they changed the name to Black Spades before settling to Zulu Nation.

Meanwhile, in Jamaica - DJ U-Roy became popular using a singing style called toasting in the ‘70s. Toasting is when DJs talk over the beat to hype the crowd. 

Meanwhile, almost 1600 miles north, in New York, The Last Poets released their full length album. The Last Poets is a group of street poets and musicians who believed that ‘fighting’ should be done through art (poetry and music) rather than brawl or guns. They believe their protest against the condition in which African Americans are forced should be done through art, not guns. That groups had evolving members and it was the combination of Jalaluddin Masur Nuriddin and/or Umar Bin Hassan that made it "mainstream". 

Many acknowledges that The Last Poets may actually be the actualization of what we know now as rapping not just because of their poetry over sound but because they were the first ones to garner a larger crowd to listen to their sentiments against the oppression, poverty and downright injustice. 

However, it is also important to note that way before toasting, there were griots. Griots were African oral historians and praise-singers. They passed on history, tradition and beliefs through spoken word. 

By 1972, a group called The Black Messengers appeared on The Gong Show. They protested the seeming disinterest of the government to extend assistance to the Bronx. However, they were forced to change their name in order to avoid controversy.

A year later, DJ Kool Herc djdfor his sister’s party. After observing, through his past gigs, that crowd would usually get hyped during the drum break, he lengthened that part by using two turntables and having the same long playing album on both. When the drum break happens, he would play one after the other, lengthening the drum break. He also started toasting.

Other DJs followed suit. Grandmaster Caz, Grandmaster Flash, and Afrika Bambaataa started playing at parties all over the Bronx neighborhoods. This is also when ‘HipHop’ as a term was used by DJ/MC/Crowd Pleaser Lovebug Starski.

By 1975, Herc started working at the Hevalo Club. He got Coke La Rock to rhyme at parties to hype the crowd. Clark Kent joined later on.

Meanwhile, DJ Grand Wizard Theodore was practicing DJing in his garage when his mother called him. He held on to the spinning record to listen to his mother and accidentally invented the scratch.

These parties where DJs would play were primarily attended by African Americans. It started becoming a protest against disco which was more popular among middle class youth. That divide started becoming the inspiration of many rhymes. As young people from the middle class danced to recorded beats, African Americans gathered in open parking lots or cramped garages.

Toasting eventually became rapping and the subjects of their raps evolved from mere ways to hype the crowd to express their anger, protest and frustrations against the oppression. As related by DJ Kool Herc, it became an oppression music. 

More and more rappers started using metaphors to be able to express their protest without calling the attention of their oppressors. It allowed them to exercise their creativity, intellect and wit while protesting without alarming authorities. It was important for them to get their message across without  getting caught because doing so would get them killed. 

While white masters saw rap as a form of entertainment for slaves, it became a powerful form of resistance, expression and art. 

When DJ Afrika Bambaataa performed at the Bronx River Center. He battled Disco King Mario which started DJ and rap battles as we know today. 

In 1977, JoJo, Jimmy Dee, Easy Mike, and P-Body formed a Bboy crew called The Rock Steady Crew. Battles sparked a sub-culture, wars and battles of African Americans against each other. The original essence of being an expression against oppression was getting lost. 

DJ Kool Herc was stabbed at one of his parties. It severely affected his career but his contemporaries continued.  

Russell Simmons decided to manage a rapper, Kurtis Blow, who, in turn, hired Simmons’ brother Run, as his DJ. Run came from his ability to move from one turntable to another, creating even greater mash ups. 

Kurtis inspired major labels to start looking at rappers as a viable money making celebrity. Several crews were formed but the next major turn happened in 1979. Sugarhill Gang’s “Rapper's Delight” entered the Billboard chart at #36. 

HipHop is now an official business venture. 

By 1981, the first all white HipHop crew was formed, The Beastie Boys

By 1983, Ice T emerged from California and started Gangsta Rap. Up until this point, East Coast maintained HipHop as a form of social protest but Ice T's success put another spin on HipHop, making rhymes that "breastbeats" rather than inspire or protest. 

This started the East Coast vs West Coast battle. 

By 1984, UTFO’s “Roxanne Roxanne” diss song inspired more than a hundred responses one of which was by a 14-year old rapper. 

That same year, Michael Jackson borrowed a Bboy move and used on the Grammy. We now know it as the "moonwalk". 

From here on, the movement of HipHop is a bit more traceable so I will stop here. 

I do hope that you got something out of it and if you have questions, do drop us a line: editor @ leessangclown dot com. 

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