Essay on African American Hip-hop Music



Essay on African American Hip-hop Music

Hip-hop is a culture that originated from the ashes of disco and the establishment of funk music (PQ, 2016, N. p). In the early 70s, disco became the latest trend and many funk groups began playing disco. However, with the advancement in technology, funk music started to become more technology driven with the absorption of more electronic sounds from drum machines and synthesizers. As a result of this development, funk music became the novel dance music in urban America by the mid-70s. Notwithstanding, with the economic collapse, gang violence increased and white middle class people relocated to the suburbs, leaving the music industry in disarray. Given that most night clubs and discos remained closed during this period, urban music was introduced back to the public through street performances with the help of mobile sound equipment known as “Sound Systems.” DJs would play popular genres of music in these block parties, but mixed together percussive breaks in songs. These rhythmic reinterpretations in the form of DJs blending and mixing breaks became the most anticipated parts of songs where individuals danced to the most (PQ, 2016, N. p). As a result, breakdancing; which is an element of hip-hop based on these breaks was born.Essay on African American Hip-hop Music

One of the most influential early hip-hop Djs was DJ Kool Herc, who is often described as the founding father of hip-hop. His technique entailed isolating the instrumental section of a record that accentuated the drumbeat or “break”, then switching from one break to another with the help of a pair of turntables. By playing two copies of the same record, he extended the break and this method of turntablism influenced the rise of hip-hop music. To increase the hype during performances, DJs were often accompanied by Masters of Ceremonies, otherwise referred to as MCs who were tasked with entraining the crowd, presenting the DJs, providing spoken vocals over the music and speaking or rhyming to the audience. Hence, MCing became an essential element of hip-hop. Building on the rapport of MCing through speaking over music, rap was born and it entailed artists speaking in coherence with a particular beat. Rapping became a prominent element of hip-hop giving producing influential rappers and hip-hop artists in the process. One of the most influential figures to emerge from New Yorks street hip-hop music was Afrika Bambaata, also referred to as “The Godfather” pictured below (PQ, 2016, N. p). He guided the city’s youth away from gang violence and helped them express themselves through hip-hop by rapping, MCing, Djing, breakdancing, drawing graffiti and beatboxing. His songs “Looking for the Perfect Beat” and “Planet Rock” which can be accessed through this link have become hip-hop anthems.Essay on African American Hip-hop Music

After the explosion of diversity in the 80s and 90s, hip-hop music became more commercial. By late 1990s, hip-hop was the top selling music genre. Hip-hop has continued to be famous in the 21st century and it has not only achieved global recognition but also influenced styles, music and culture in the United States and around the world.  Hip-hop has had a significant influence on the black community in the United States, as well as, the society as a whole. In this regard, hip-hop is more than just music; it is a culture. Over the past three decades, hip-hop has uplifted and influenced America by providing a voice to individuals seeking to deliver their message. Critics of hip-hop claim that this genre of music is aggressive in nature and fosters social rebellion. Nonetheless, the presence of provocative lyrics does not negate the fact that hip-hop is a vocal outlet for various individuals in the United States and around the world. Hip-hop has provided an opportunity or platform for rappers, MCs and visual artists to express their sentiments regarding the government, the society and the treatment of African Americans in the United States for decades (Odenthal, 2016, N. p). Such an outlet is vital for uplifting the African American community and would be of extreme benefit to the whole society as well if individuals appreciated the avenue of expression hip-hop offers rather attack the culture.

There is no denying that certain opinions of critics about hip-hop are reasonable. However, these assertions do not in any way mitigate the general influence of hip hop as a prominent medium of cultural affection and social mobility, especially for African Americans and other marginalized communities. Music is a powerful technique for creating social awareness given that it reflects ideals, trends and conditions in the society, as well as, inspires attitudinal social change and progression. To this end, hip-hop, particularly rap music is a modern response to conditions of poverty, joblessness and disempowerment (Odenthal, 2016, N. p). Such drive for social change and progression through hip-hop has led to the development of individual and community identities in the form of famous artists and MCs that are contemplated as strong black national icons in the hip-hop culture. Artists such as Tupac, G Funk, Snoop Dogg and MC Hummer pictured below acted and continue to act as mouthpieces of a generation and community in need of direction and guidance in terms of voice and identity.Essay on African American Hip-hop Music

There are incessant discourses regarding the extent of hip-hop’s ability to impact a society. However, the fact remains that hip-hop developed from the 90s to present day retains heavy cultural significance and plays a vital role in the progressions of the United States culture (Odenthal, 2016, N. p). It is not just a prominent and historically significant factor of the African American community that represents widespread sentiment of conventionally oppressed and marginalized communities and a reflection of sociopolitical woes, but also a culture that is a vehicle for social awareness and commentary, as well as, a medium for public debate.


Works Cited

Odenthal, Kathleen. “How Hip-Hop Music Has Influenced American Culture And Society”. Spinditty, 2016, Accessed 7 Mar 2018.

PQ, Rory. “Origins Of Hip-Hop Culture | Dubspot”. Dubspot Blog, 2016, Accessed 7 Mar 2018.