If you know me and my family, you know our love for the hip hop culture runs true & deep for many reasons. Before I was even born, the movement was instilled in me and with each trip to the birth of it all, New York, my respect for its elements and all that encompasses the art has only grown.
Probably one of the most influential artistic shifts of the 20th century (in my opinion), hip hop, all started at 1520 Sedgwick Ave. in the Bronx, NY.
DJ Kool Herc, aka the Father of Hip Hop, is accredited with pioneering the movement as well as Grandmaster Flash and Afrika Bambaataa (aka the holy trinity) and others in the late 60s to early 70s who all brought a different musical influence to help make the genre what it is today.
Although there are many aspects to the hip hop culture, there are some main elements that makes up the art:
- Also known as dancing to the “break down” the break is what DJ Kool Herc helped bring to light in which all elements of a song disappear except for the percussion, aka the percussion break. He would then blend two breaks together in an extended loop that helped to introduce the next element – the dancers breaking to the beats.
- What became later known in the mainstream as “breakdancing” b-boys and b-girls are dancers who mix Caribbean, Latin American, African, jazz, and martial arts influences to dance over the DJ’s “breaks.”
- Breaking itself can be broken down into toprocks, go downs, footwork, freezes, power moves, etc. My dad was introduced to breaking in the late 90s and has grown in his knowledge and skill ever since…even battling one of the pioneer and legendary b-boys of the New York City Breakers.
- Before ever traveling to New York, him and my mother fell in love with the creative atmosphere of Festival International de Louisiane and knew that there was a calling for our family to be a part of the event. Unbeknownst to them, they were granted a small area of the entire international festival to work with known as Parc de Lafayette and they created an event mixed with live music, dance, and more that became known as Parc Jam.
- It wasn’t until a few years later, during another trip to Crotona Park in the Bronx, that he realized that the event they had created here in Louisiana, was just a snippet of what the original Park Jams were like when hip hop first began. You can read more about Parc Jam here and my dad’s story here.
- A disc jockey aka “DJ” is a person who mixes recorded music and plays it for an audience, both on radio or live.
- Although deejaying existed before hip hop, it was brought to the next level with the introduction of turntablism, which is the art of manipulating sounds to create new songs, mixes and beats.
- An emcee/MC which stands for “Move the Crowd/Master of Ceremonies” began as hosts of the popular hip hop parties when the movement first took off.
- It soon expanded to include spoken word and the art of rhythmic call-and-response with the audience, which is the poetic technique we now know as “rapping.”
- The improvisation of the technique later became known as “freestyling.”
- The visual aspect of the hip hop culture, “graffiti” existed before, but became associated with the hip hop movement as a way for the youth to express themselves artistically without the restrictions of censorship.
- The element introduced by Afrika Bambaataa himself and the Universal Zulu Nation is what makes hip hop – hip hop and the reason for it all. In order to understand hip hop, you need to have the knowledge of how the movement was created, why and what it represents. The visuals, the voices and the visions.
Now, I only skimmed the surface of the history of the hip hop movement, as there are so many more aspects that have influenced the genre to become what it is today. However, the history is just half of what makes me so passionate about it.
The heart is the other.
Hip hop then and now has been a powerful way for audiences who at one point in time were looking for a way to express themselves both artistically and in a positive manner.
Instead of fighting with fists, hip hop opened the battlefield to dance.
Instead of spreading hateful words, hip hop opened the door to showcasing your thoughts through poetry over a beat.
Instead of finding the negativity in our differences, hip hop told us to accept and then respect each other for what we are.
Don’t let the constant negativity that we are faced with in today’s society outshine the history and heart of not only hip hop, but artistic expression of the past and today.