Hip-hop is one of the most popular music art forms of our time. Whether you’re hearing it on the radio, in popular TikTok audios or in the soundtrack of your favorite Netflix series, we are constantly subjected to hip-hop in one way or another.
But how did we get here? How did hip-hop begin its rise to fame and garner such public attention?
Well the origins of hip-hop are just as rich as its current industry. Its history, message and dissemination have roots in struggle and joy. Hip-hop as a music genre began to publicly emerge in the Bronx during the 1970s.
Economic problems in New York City during this time led to a severe lack of recreational activity for lower class youth and adults alike.
This would lead to hip-hop music becoming not just a way to pass the time but a form of artistic expression. Their art would reflect their environment and challenges.
Often this resulted in an expression of racial hardships faced by Black and Latinx communities, issues of povert and most importantly an outpouring of culture.
In the 80s more resources and instruments became available to these artists such as drums, synthesizers and samplers. This made the tools to make more complex beats more accessible resulting in more elaborate music. Along with allowing elaborate music to be easier to make, it would also greatly increase how much hip-hop music was being made in general.
Hip-hop’s popularity would skyrocket and would give birth to other music forms as it progressed in sound.
This would include influential conscious rap artists of the Black Power Movement like N.W.A., Nas and Mos Def. My favorite of these is N.W.A. These works were often political in nature and related back to the system that was responsible for many of the issues referenced in hip-hop music.
Specialist in hip-hop culture, Isobel Trot, describes it as “a reactionary response to mainstream culture – an oppositional force.” This is very different to how other music genres are described, showing how far the reaches of hip-hop’s cultural impact go. It went against the grain, and this excited people.
I think it’s also significant that the artists who made this music were taking a significant risk. Not only were they putting out new types of music, but they were putting out controversial messages that were important to them. This propels taking risks for your art to a whole new level as many people will not receive this message gracefully.
Towards the mid-80s and early 90s, hip-hop was in its golden age. Music educator, Rory PQ, in the music industry categorized this period by “its explosion of diversity, influence, stylistic innovation, and mainstream success.”
As the 90s came to an end, hip-hop had been solidified as a very important part of music and culture. Artists came to the forefront that we know and love like Tupac, the Notorious B.I.G. and Snoop Dogg. From this point, hip-hop would only come closer and closer to what we see today.
Within the musical world, hip-hop is often categorized as more than just a style of music. It is considered a lifestyle and a “cultural movement.” It could be found in, and can still be found, so much of what Black communities did and interacted with the world around them.
Hairstyles, physical art, decor, lifestyle and artistic expression in general were influenced by hip-hop, and it continues to do so as it becomes more and more popular.
As widely known as it is, we often forget in the light of this popularity that this music stemmed from these marginalized communities who made local art out of what they knew without a ton of resources or revenue. They would make art with what they had and they would mobilize a mass artistic movement that we are constantly witness to today.