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Hip hop

Hip hop is a cultural movement that began amongst urban (primarily, but not entirely, African American) youth in the United States, but has since spread around the world. The four main elements of hip-hop are: emceeing, deejaying, graffiti art, and breakdancing. The term has since come to be a euphemism for rap music to much of mainstream audiences; they are not, however, interchangeable -- rapping (emceeing) is the vocal expression of lyrics in sync to a rhythm beneath it.

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Origins of hip hop

Hip hop music

U-Roy, one of the earliest Jamaican dub musicians
Hip hop music is related to the griots[?] of West Africa, traveling singers and poets whose musical style is reminiscent of hip hop. Some griot traditions came with slaves to the New World. The most important direct influence on the creation of hip hop music is the Jamaican style called dub, which arose in the 1960s. Dub musicians like King Tubby (who is often said to have invented dub) isolated percussion breaks because dancers at clubs (sound systems) preferred the energetic rhythms of the often-short breaks. Soon, performers began speaking in sync with these rhythms. In 1967, a Jamaican immigrants like DJ Kool Herc brought dub to New York City, and it there evolved into hip hop. In Jamaica, dub music has diversified into genres like ragga and dancehall.

DJ Kool Herc
Herc was one of the most popular DJs in early 70s New York, playing at neighborhood parties (block parties[?]), and he quickly switched from using reggae records to funk, rock and, later, disco, since the New York audience did not particularly like reggae. Herc and others DJs extended the percussive breaks using an audio mixer and two records, and other mixing techniques soon developed. Performers spoke while the music played; these were originally called MCs (Master of Ceremonies or Mic Controller) and, later, rappers. Originally, these early rappers focused on introducing themselves and others in the audience, with some improvisation and a simple four-count beat, along with a simple chorus. Later MCs added more complex lyrics, often humorous and incorporated sexual themes. By the end of the 1970s, hip hop music was beginning to become a major commercial and artistic force and had spread throughout the United States. During the 1980s and 90s, hip hop gradually became mainstream (a transition usually considered to have been completed in 1992) in the US and, to a lesser degree, worldwide.

Graffiti art

One of the earliest and most important gangs was the Savage Seven (later, as they increased in number, the Black Spades), who included future old school rap star Afrika Bambaataa. The Black Spades were followed by many other gangs, and graffiti art arose to mark boundaries between them, among other purposes. Graffiti as an art had been known since at least the 1950s, but really began developing in earnest in 1969 and flourished during the 1970s. Originality was very important for grafffiti artists; for example, in 1972, one well-respected graffiti artist called Super Kool[?] replaced the dispersion cap on his spray paint with a wider one, found on a can of oven cleaner. This is still a common practice. By 1976, graffiti artists like Lee Quinones[?] began painting whole murals using advanced techniques. Some of the most memorable of Quinones' work was political in nature, calling for an end to the arms race, for example.


see also: Feuds and rivalries in hip hop music

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