EXAM 14 – PART 2
Historically, hip hop’s roots are heavily influenced by the island of Jamaica. Hip hop began in
the inner city of New York, specifically the Bronx, by Jamaican-born Kool Herc (Clive
Campbell), in 1967. He was a disk jockey who distinguished himself by playing obscure dance
music. Kool Herc would focus on the instrumental vamp portion of songs, rather than the vocal
portion of the track. Using multiple turntables as his instrument, he extended and blended breaks
from different recordings. These breaks were similar to dub plates, or versions, used by Jamaican
DJs. In true Jamaican style, neighborhood street performances by DJs took place by tapping into
electrical power from light poles to power their sound systems (boom boxes).
Two important early hip hop DJs were Afrika Bambaataa and Grandmaster Flash. Bambaataa
conceived hip hop to have a positive effect on the black urban community, offering artistic
expression as an alternative to gang violence. Grandmaster Flash developed the technique known
as “scratching;” manually turning the turntable platter back and forth while the stylus rested on
the vinyl record to create a rhythmic noise.
• Listening example: “The Message”
Artist: Grandmaster Flash Rapping is often another component of hip hop, in which a rhythmic recitation is done over hip
hop music. Rapping can be traced back historically to Africa where griots (priest poets) recited
the history of their people in a speech-song style. Rapping eventually evolved from MCing, or
talking to the audience between or during the playing of records at dance events. MCing could be
done by the DJ or someone who had the specific role of being the MC (master of ceremonies).
From announcements, to improvised rhythmic introductions to songs and over the breaks, MCing
became an art form, eventually known as rapping. Another characteristic commonly found in hip
hop music is sampling, whereby digital snippets from various recordings are mixed together to
make a new song.
The first important record label for hip hop was Sugarhill. What SubPop was to grunge,
Sugarhill was to hip hop. Sugarhill’s first big hit came in 1979 with the Sugarhill Gang’s release
of “Rapper’s Delight,” making hip hop an instant international phenomenon.
• Listening example: “Rapper’s Delight”
Artist: The Sugarhill Gang
Though hip hop originated in the Bronx, Run-D.M.C. took hip hop to the next level of
recognition and popularity. The group successfully married real street hip hop with rock
elements, including the prominent use of guitar, leading to unprecedented sales and popularity
for hip hop, leading to appearances on American Bandstand, MTV, and Live Aid. • Listening example: “King of Rock”
West Coast hip hop began much later than New York hip hop. West Coast hip hop started with
artists like Ice-T improvising over East Coast hip hop recordings. Ice-T helped to identify a
distinctive West Coast style which eventually became known as “gansta rap,” a genre that deals
with topics of drugs and gang violence. For example, Ice-T released his song “Cop Killer,” in
response to the riots that erupted after the acquittal of the police officers involved in the police
brutality charges against the Los Angeles police department for the beating of the black motorist,
Relevant West Coast hip hop artists include Snoop Doggy Dog from Long Beach, California and
N.W.A. (Niggaz with Attitude) from Compton, California. Snoop Dog’s gangsta rap status was
solidified when he was arrested for first-degree murder charges in 1993, enhancing his career.
N.W.A.’s 1989 album, “Straight Out of Compton,” was the height of rap rebellion, profanity,
violent stories, and hostility toward women. Other controversial hip hop releases include 2 Live
Crew’s 1989 album, “Nasty as They Wanna Be.” This album became the first recording ever to
be officially designated by a court as obscene. • Listening example: “Straight Outta Compton”
Artist: N.W.A. (Ice Cube, MC Ren & Eazy-E)
• Listening example: “Who Am I (What’s My Name)?”
Artist: Snoop Doggy Dog A more modern and prominent sub-genre of hip hop is “crunk,” a style that originated in Atlanta
Georgia. It is characterized by a heavy bass and choruses chanted by the crowd. Crunk began
with Lil Jon & the East Side Boyz when they released their album “Get Crunk, Who U With: da
A big part of hip hop’s tradition includes a mentoring system known as “posse tracks” or “crew
cuts.” In this system, a well-established rapper will bring a fledgling onto his or her recording
project to launch the new artist’s career. A strong proponent of this practice is New Orleans
rapper Master P, who aggressively emphasized posse tracks on his No Limits label as a big part
of his marketing plan in the late 1990s. On the West Coast, Dr. Dre mentored his apprentice,
Snoop Doggy Dog, as well as other new acts on his 1992 album, “The Chronic.” On the East
Coast, New York’s Wu-Tang Clan also recorded and released crew cuts. Wu-Tang’s 1993
album, “Enter the Wu-Tang: 36 Chambers,” helped launch solo careers for several artists,
including Ol’ Dirty Bastard, RZA, and Ghostface Killah.
Hip hop was male-dominated in its early years, but women were intrigued by the genre and
wanted a piece of the action. They wanted to show that they could be just as tough as the men
and to offer a rebuttal to the male domination in the songs. They also pursued hip hop as a new
creative vehicle and to make a name for themselves.
One of the first significant women in hip hop was Queen Latifah. Her 1989 debut album “All
Hail the Queen” included the single “Ladies First,” featuring England-born rapper Monie Love.
This recording is one of the most significant feminist hip hop recording to date, inspiring pride in
women and changing the role of women in the hip hop genre. Salt-N-Pepa has been the most
enduring of all female rap groups. The girl trio emerged in 1986 with “Hot, Cold, and Vicious,”
one of the many female hip hop rebuttals to lyrics by male rappers.
• Listening example: “Ladies First”
Artist: Queen Latifah (with Monie Love) • Listening example: “Shoop”
Hip hop was started by DJs and the rapper MC’s role was to support the DJ. The original
purpose of early rap lyrics was to brag about the DJ. As rap lyrics became more of the focus
within the music, the DJ’s prominence began to fade until it disappeared from hip hop. It was not
until mixtapes were created that the revival of the DJs in the 1990s and 2000s came about. A
mixtape, which usually