Spanning from street corners to the global stage, hip-hop celebrates its 50th anniversary on August 11, having grown into one of the world’s most prominent musical genres and cultural forces. Here's all you need to know about the genre.
What is hip-hop?
Beyond the music, hip-hop is a cultural movement that combines elements of different arts forms. The four basic elements of hip-hop culture include:
DJing: Skillful handling of beats and music in an artistic manner.
MCing/rapping: Rhythmic delivery of lyrics over the beat of music, often with complex puns and rhyming patterns.
B-boying/breaking: A unique dance form.
Visual/graffiti art: Intricate and vibrant artwork on walls or canvas using spray paint, markers, and more.
How does hip-hop determine its birthday?
Beginning in New York in the 1970s, block parties held by DJs using dual turntables and mixers to create dance breaks kept the music alive.
On August 11, 1973, DJ Kool Herc formalized the genre at a back-to-school party at his sister’s apartment in the Bronx, New York, blending spoken word with tracks that laid the foundation for modern rap.
From there, DJs rose as stars in the party scene in New York City. In the early 1980s MCs took center stage on the mic, expanding the culture beyond New York’s borders.
How does hip-hop influence world culture?
Hip-hop has transformed American culture since the 1980s, and it influence has now spread all over the world, including Africa, Latin America, and Asia, incorporating local cultural elements.
Between the 1980s and early 1990s, hip-hop music and culture landed in Africa. Since then, it has swept across the continent.
The emotions and narratives conveyed by young African American rappers – including frustration, poverty, joy, and spirituality—resonated deeply with millions of African youths.
Latin hip hop also emerged on the West Coast of the U.S., blending hip-hop music with Latin cultural influences. This trend spread to the rest of the U.S. as well as Mexico, and South America.
It remains a strong cultural influence with 19 Spanish-language tracks on the 2017 American Billboard Hot 100.
In China, rap and hip-hop music started gaining ground in the 1980s. It’s become more popular over the years, with an increasing number of women using rap and hip-hop music to tell their unique stories.
In recent years, Chinese hip-hop reality shows have been launched brining Chinese rap culture and street dance into the mainstream.
Hip-hop is expected to reach a market of over $700 million by 2024 with an average annual growth of over 25 percent.
Why do some say hip-hop culture is controversial?
Despite its global popularity, hip-hop remains controversial, with some arguing that it represents social subversion, aggression, vulgarity, and violence.
But some others see hip-hop as a culture of that unifies people who face discrimination. What do you think?