With more than 40 years history, Hip-Hop proved to be one of the defining cultures of the 20th century.
It all started with the urban renewal of New York, in particularly the building of the New York’s Cross Bronx Expressway which destroyed homes and jobs for many ethnic groups, especially affecting poor Hispanic and black communities which were displaced in mainly East Brooklyn and South Bronx.
And it all started in Bronx, with the first block Hip-Hop party believed to have taken place in August 1973. The early hip-hop music was a mixture of Latin American, mainly Jamaican reggae vocal, drum machines and synthesized beat. The spoken-word poetry culture of the 70s aimed at civil rights and was the social environment in which Hip-Hop music was created – political views and social needs were expressed through music.
Born out of the politically abandoned streets of New York, Hip-Hop has become, in many senses, a global language in which people around the world can express and identify themselves. The Hip-Hop culture went far beyond music and incorporated distinctive elements such as graffiti art, break dancing and dress code and attitude.
Becoming globally influential, it was not long until the urban subculture hit the commercial demand. Hip-Hop’s golden are was in the early 90s, with dominant socio-political flavor to later expand to the controversy gangster rap which got the media’s attention when two of the main figures Tupac Shakur and Notorious B.I.G. becoming victims of crime shootings. Once into the media spotlight, the subculture got commercially exploited to turn into a sales-machine and mainstream invasion of fashion.
Hip-Hop’s mainstream invasion also extended to the language, giving a plethora of words and idioms to our daily vocabulary, but what is the origin of the term Hip-Hop itself?
Hip-Hop were the first words on the genre’s first big hit the Sugarhill Gang’s Rapper’s Delight released in 1979.
Yet the term Hip-Hop is believed to have been firstly used to officially name the subculture in only 1982, when reporter Steven Hager published a longform piece in the Village Voice on the vibrant black youth movement which had displaced gang violence with music, dance, art, language and style, noting that: “In another five years, hip-hop could be considered the most significant artistic achievement of the decade.”
In the same year, New York Times published a review on D.J Hollywood’s gig as “phrased to the beat of a funk record and paced himself with a repeating refrain, usually..a variation on the nonsense formula ‘hip, hop, hip-hip-de-hop’”.
Only a few months later, Time went out with “This subculture, nicknamed hip hop, is about assertiveness, display, pride, status and competition”.
Though, the words “Hip” and “Hop” have a long story in the African American culture. With Hop often related to the 20s and the times of the Harlem Swing (Lindy Hop) and Hip to the term of enlightenment, cultivated by slaves from the West African nations, there might be a much easier explanation.
In November 2012, during a lecture at Cornell University, Afrika Bambaataa (American DJ from Bronx known as “The Godfather” and “Amen Ra of Hip Hop Culture”) was asked how, he had settled on Hip-Hop to describe the youth movement that he had helped to create, and his answer was brilliantly simple: ”This is hip and when you feel that music you gotta hop to it, so that’s when we called it ‘hip-hop.’”