Where did hip hop originate? Who were its founder that started the legendary genre? Hip hop was born in the Bronx in the late 1970s. As a form of self-expression, this subculture emerged from African American and Latino communities. It began as an underground movement focusing on breakdancing, graffiti, and DJing.
The Origin of Hip Hop
In the beginning, hip hop pioneers threw block parties and mixed records to keep people dancing for an extended period of time. To create original sounds, they experimented with scratching and beat-juggling.
DJ Kool Herc
Jamaican immigrant, Kool Herc, born Clive Campbell, is arguably hip hop‘s most influential figure. His innovative technique called “breakbeat” allowed dancers to show off their dance skills during extended instrumental sections of funk songs. This technique was a mixing practice he adapted from Jamaican dub music.
In addition to DJing, Herc threw legendary block parties in the Bronx. When Kool Herc and his sister organized the “Back to School Jam” in their recreation room at 1520 Sedgwick Avenue in 1973, they made history in the Bronx. Hip hop is credited with starting the movement due to this legendary gathering.
He also performed with other DJs and MCs. Aspiring hip hop artists were able to showcase their talents at these parties. The individuals dancing to Kool Herc’s music were dubbed B-Boys and B-Girls. Those are abbreviations for Break-Boys and Break-Girls. The crowd was galvanized by his rhythmic shouts. DJ Kool Herc remains an icon within the genre and inspires younger generations of DJs and music enthusiasts.
The hip hop movement was also shaped by Afrika Bambaata, professionally known as Kevin Donovan. In addition to dance parties, he founded the Universal Zulu Nation – a collective dedicated to social justice. As a former gang member, Afrika Bambaata became interested in DJing and creating music to promote peace. Bambaataa’s mixes were heavily influenced by funk, soul, and electro-funk. He also spread messages about social issues through his music, such as advocating for anti-drug use. Afrika Bambaataa’s hit single “Planet Rock ” was released in 1982 with his group Soulsonic Force. It combined electronic music with traditional hip hop beats. This created a distinct sub-genre called electro-funk.
Most importantly, the Universal Zulu Nation introduced hip hop to young people. These modes of expression were grouped by Bambaataa as the “four elements” of hip hop: rapping, breakdancing, DJing and visual art.
Grandmaster Flash turned the needle in hip hop with his backwards mixing style. With the help of previously unheard turntable tricks like “backspinning” and “punch phrasing,” he was able to manipulate records in unconventional ways.
Moreover, Grandmaster Flash started his own group, Grandmaster Flash and The Furious Five, in 1976. By switching off on the lyrics between the four rappers and combining them with Flash’s unmatched DJ abilities, they created a distinctive sound. By using his fingers, toes, elbows, and other objects to manipulate vinyl, Flash would also demonstrate his acrobatic DJing abilities.
Flash became known for his comments on pressing social issues. Songs like “The Message” addressed problems in America’s inner cities like inequality, poverty, and crime.
Grandmaster Flash still has a major influence on popular culture and music. Numerous honors have been bestowed upon him. Including his 2007 admission into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. He was admitted due to his groundbreaking work as a DJ and producer during the emergence of hip-hop culture.
The Sugarhill Gang
One of the most recognizable hip-hop acts is The Sugarhill Gang. They were best remembered for their ground-breaking single “Rapper’s Delight,” released during the golden age of hip hop. Owner of a record label Sylvia Robinson started the group in Englewood, New Jersey. She swooped in once she realized the commercial potential of hip hop. The Sugarhill Gang consisted of three members: Mike Wright (Wonder Mike), Henry Jackson (Big Bank Hank), and Guy O’ Brien (Master Gee).
When “Rapper’s Delight” was released in 1979, it was an immediate hit and helped hip hop spread outside the Bronx, where it started. The song’s funky bassline, which has since been copied in countless other tracks, was layered over catchy rhymes from Chic’s “Good Times”.
The Sugarhill Gang played a significant part in popularizing hip hop and opening the door for upcoming generations of entertainers. Though they did face criticism for not composing their own songs. They were also produced by Robinson.
Run-DMC, made up of Joseph “Run” Simmons, Darryl “DMC,” and Jason “Jam Master Jay,” was a hip-hop group known for its socially aware lyrics and powerhouse beats.
One of their biggest hits was “Walk This Way.” A joint effort with the rock group Aerosmith that assisted in bridging the gap between various musical genres. Many individuals were first exposed to hip hop and Aerosmith because of the song, which quickly established itself as a classic.
Run-DMC made major contributions to music and fashion, in addition to both. They made wearing leather jackets decorated with gold chains and laceless Adidas sneakers trendy. Their distinctive style grew to represent the entirety of hip hop.
Jam Master Jay unfortunately passed away in 2002.
In the history of hip hop, Public Enemy is one of the most influential groups. Chuck D and Flavor Flav formed Public Enemy in 1985. Their lyrics addressed racism, poverty, and police brutality.
“Fight the Power” was featured in Spike Lee’s movie “Do The Right Thing.” The song became an anthem against oppression and systematic racism.
Besides sampling Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr. speeches, Public Enemy used innovative production techniques. As a result, important historical figures and messages were brought to light. Through their music, generations of artists have continued to use hip hop as a platform for social change.
A Tribe Called Quest
One of the most important groups in the history of hip hop is A Tribe Called Quest, or ATCQ. Q-Tip, Ali Shaheed Muhammad, Jarobi White, and Phife Dawg are the members of the group. Their debut album, “People’s Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm,” was published in 1990. They were founded in Queens, New York, in 1985.
A Tribe Called Quest’s jazz-influenced style and socially conscious lyrics set them apart from other hip-hop artists. Their music combined vintage jazz samples with smooth beats to produce a distinctive sound that was decades ahead of its time.
Many hip hop fans and critics agree that the group’s second album “The Low End Theory” is a masterpiece. It included timeless songs like “Scenario,” which featured a verse from Busta Rhymes.
ATCQ split up in 1998 but came back together for a few shows before Phife Dawg passed away in 2016 from diabetes complications. Despite having a brief career, they made a lasting impression on the genre with their avant-garde approach. This opened the door for later musicians to experiment with new sounds in hip-hop.
A Tribe Called Quest used cutting-edge production methods and socially aware lyrics to push the boundaries of music. All while keeping its authenticity. They continue to be one of the most revered groups, both within hip hop and as innovators who influenced current popular music culture globally.
From these humble beginnings, hip hop grew into a global phenomenon with countless artists making their mark on the genre over the years.