11 August 2012


Wow.  It's not like I've been living in a cave, but I didn't realize that the roots of hip hop and rap music formed as long ago as 1973.  The narrative is fascinating to anyone who loves music.  Check it out ~

"Clive Campbell (born April 16, 1955), also known as Kool Herc, DJ Kool Herc, and Kool DJ Herc, is a Jamaican-born DJ who is credited with originating hip hop music in the Bronx, New York City (image above, click to enlarge).  His playing of hard funk records of the sort typified by James Brown was an alternative both to the violent gang culture of the Bronx and to the nascent popularity of disco in the 1970s.  In response to the reactions of his dancers, Campbell began to isolate the instrumental portion of the record which emphasized the drum beat ~ the 'break' ~ and switch from one break to another to yet another.

"Using the same two turntable set-up of disco DJs, Campbell's style led to the use of two copies of the same record to elongate the break.  This breakbeat DJing, using hard funk, rock, and records with Latin percussion formed the basis of hip hop music.  Campbell's announcements and exhortations to dancers helped lead to the syncopated, rhymed spoken accompaniment now known as rapping.  He called his dancers 'break-boys' and 'break-girls', or simply b-boys and b-girls.  Campbell's DJ style was quickly taken up by figures such as Afrika Bambaataa and Grandmaster Flash.  Unlike them, he never made the move into commercially recorded hip hop in its earliest years.

" .... On August 11, 1973, DJ Kool Herc was a disc jockey and emcee at a party in the recreation room at Sedgwick Avenue.  Specifically, DJ Kool Herc

  • extended an instrumental beat (breaking or scratching) to let people dance longer (break dancing) and began MC'ing (rapping) during the extended breakdancing.... [This] helped lay the foundation for a cultural revolution.   (source:  History Detectives)

Sadly, in much of white culture, hip hop and rap have become synonymous with an offshoot subgenre, gangsta rap.  Gangsta rap's violent images and free use of profanity are threatening to many, and the rest of hip hop and rap music have been broadly and unfairly painted with the same brush of censure.  That's like hearing Gregorian Chant and using it to exemplify all of classical music.  Totally inadequate.

Hip hop started out (and remains) being about dancing and celebration.  The addition of rap is sometimes used as accompaniment to the lyrics, and other times used as social commentary, which is fair game.  Lyricists and satirists throughout the 20th and into the 21st century have done the same.  In fact, prior to the arrival of hip hop, the word "rap" was used in the hippie counterculture to mean to discuss personal or social issues, or to achieve rapport (rap) through random talk..  An easy transition from that usage to rapping as syncopated, rhymed spoken accompaniment to music.  And also an easy transition from musical rap to freestyle or battle rap, in which competing participants improvise a cappella or to a rhythm background, often dissing (putting down) one's opponents in rapid-fire rhyme.  Rapper Eminem's film 8 Mile includes several powerful, pulsing rap battles.

Bottom line, if you've never really paid attention to hip hop and rap, you're missing out on a vital component of modern music.

No comments:

Post a Comment