Professor Frederick Lau
23 June 2014
This research paper will be discussing the origins and development of hip-hop music, some of the characteristics that define hip-hop as a musical genre, and the social significance of hip-hop from its creation up until current day. The purpose of this paper is to inform and enhance the understanding of hip-hop music, drawing connections between musical stylistic origins and social influence throughout history on hip-hop music to create an unbiased, accurate account of how hip-hop music came to be what it is today. The genre of hip-hop music formed in the 1970s amongst African American Groups in urban New York City, during a time when “block parties” and it’s associated music started to become extremely popular. Credited with founding hip-hop music, DJ Kool Herc, an immigrant from Jamaica, started to extend the percussive breaks in popular funk and soul music (Dyson). This new sound became so popular that DJs needed to start using two turntables to lengthen percussive breaks, effectively creating an entire new sound and new genre of music (Bekman). Hip-hop music is characterized by four main elements: rapping, scratching (DJing), break dancing, and graffiti (Chang). Because music is dynamic and constantly changing, hip-hop started to develop sub-genres within hip-hop, such as southern trap music or west coast gangsta rap. Hip-hop music in different regions started to develop their own unique style of hip-hop, and although all of these sub-genres could be considered “hip-hop,” the music adapted and started to reflect some of the social issues within the region.
In order to further inform and achieve the goal of creating an unbiased account of how hip-hop music came to be what it is today, I have organized my paper into two main sections. The first section will detail the origins and development of hip-hop music, concentrating on the historical context, hip-hop’s creation and influences, and some key characteristics that represent hip-hop music. The next section will be discussing the social significance and cultural impact of hip-hop music, with emphasis on media interpretation of hip-hop music, media and hip-hop merchandise, as well as hip-hop music and fashion. In order to understand the various influences that have shaped hip-hop music, a brief historical background will be given in the first section.
ORIGINS AND DEVELOMENT OF HIP-HOP MUSIC
America through the 1960’s was a country facing severe social unrest, as many sub-cultures were at conflict with the changing laws and attitudes of American society. Of the various political and social movements of the decade, the African-American Civil Rights Movement was the most famous and highlighted racism and prejudice in American society that has greatly impacted the African-American sub-culture. Though the African-American Civil Rights Movement was created to end racial segregation and discrimination and enforce voting rights, American society was very slow to adopt these new ideals, and African-Americans were still treated by many as lower class citizens. Despite the movement being able to influence legislation to outlaw racial segregation and discrimination, it was not able to completely change the attitudes of a deep-rooted prejudiced American society (Woodward). No longer were black people required to live in certain areas, use separate bathrooms, go to separate schools, and hold only certain types of jobs. Although this was a step in the right direction, the reality at this time was that black people were still generally poorer due to their history of lower paying jobs, lacked higher-level education because only now were black people allowed to attend school with the same resources as white people, and lacked the ability to rise in social standing because of such a long history of oppression. Black people were confined to the inner cities of large urban areas, and were