As we approach the end of Black History Month, it is essential to shine a light on a culture that is of paramount importance during its celebration. This culture is none other than hip-hop culture. While hip-hop has its month in November, National Hip-Hop History Month, which was declared by Congress last year, is strictly dedicated to events amid the all-inclusive genre of all races and ethnicities. Black History Month is generally dedicated to pivotal moments in African-American culture. As the musical accomplishments of black people in America are often highlighted, the identity of hip-hop culture is also important to African-American history.
The existence of hip-hop is a product of the generational authenticity of Northeastern American black youth. It was a response to the conditions surrounding the political, economic, social and cultural reality of New York’s black youth. With the early 1970s serving as a post-civil rights era, the social climate was filled with progressive revolutionary acts. The 1970s saw the heyday of the Black Arts Movement with contributions like The Last Poets, Gil-Scott Heron, for example, which featured a flair for poetic songwriting that was a precursor to the MC element of hip-hop.
According to author Bakari Kitwana, the early eras of hip-hop reflect popular culture, globalization, the pervasiveness of segregation, racial implications, and the quality of life of young African Americans born between the years 1965 and 1984. This is evident with hip-hop. most revered artists including Tupac Shakur, Nas and Kanye West, whose parents were active as civil rights activists and musicians. Hip-hop was a response to the state of insecurity faced by young black and Latino people in the South Bronx. The disco lifestyle was common, and as youngsters tried to partake in top-notch activities, they were completely denied. In response, they developed a fascination with curating essential sounds, dance moves, and teams with whatever resources were available.
DJ Kool Herc conceptualized this act by creating the breakbeat. He selected two unique records and played them simultaneously, isolated the dance part of an infectious funk, soul or R&B record, extending it into a sequence that allowed b-boys and b-girls in full rise to shine. Herc’s sidekick, Coke La Rock’s act of using the microphone during jams for shoutouts, crowd participation, and announcements was the trigger for the hip-hop MC. So an activity rooted in the desire of South Bronx youth spawned a trend that traveled throughout the tri-state area.
Hip-hop culture has spread around the world, creating pivotal moments in African American culture. The 1970s established elements of hip-hop, the DJ, MC, graffiti artist and b-boy. Disc jockeys were the main attraction of the hip-hop scene, with each pioneering DJ bringing an instrumental tactic to the craft. DJ Kool Herc, Grandmaster Flash, Afrika Bambaataa, Grand Wizard Theodore are heralded as critical pioneers of the DJ element of hip-hop introducing tactics such as breakbeats, fast mix theory, scratching and mixtapes. All are black men, respectively.
The MC quickly became a heard-on-wax talent and was quick to attract vocals in nearby towns. The fledgling culture was met with class acts including The Funky Four Plus One More, where hip-hop saw one of its first female rappers, MC Sha Rock, The Sugarhill Gang, Cold Crush Brothers, Treacherous Three and The Sequence . Philadelphia’s black youth were also favored by the emerging culture of New York. Lady B’s “To The Beat Y’all” hit the airwaves in 1979, confirming that the once underrated hip-hop genre had a purpose beyond a mere leisure activity.
When hip-hop entered the 1980s, it became a solidified way of life among black youth in America and the demographic’s premier musical genre. The Golden Age emerged with a new generation of advanced talent and transformed the genre into an industry that changed the lives of young black men and women. Hip-hop represented the evolution of young black people in America who lived amid the later events of black liberation, bringing ultimate relevance to the discussion of black excellence. Hip-hop will forever remain relevant to the black history theorem.