KRS One of Boogie Down Productions once said, “Rap is something you do; hip-hop is something you live.” Since hip-hop music’s birth in the late 1970s, the genre has grown in influence across the United States and abroad. But whether hip-hop maintains a positive or negative influence is still widely debated.
To learn more, check out the infographic below created by the Rider University Online Bachelor of Arts in Liberal Studies program.
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The Voice of Dissent
To understand the role and financial success of hip-hop music today, it’s important to consider how the genre was born.
Early History of Hip-Hop
Hip-hop originated in the South Bronx of New York City in the late 1970s. The culture is defined by five elements: DJing, or “turntabling”; rapping, also known as “MCing” or “rhyming”; graffiti painting; break dancing, or “B-boying,” which includes hip-hop style, dance, body language, and attitude; and knowledge of self/consciousness.
The graffiti movement began in 1972. That’s the year a teen tagged his nickname and street, Taki 183, on walls throughout the NYC subway system.
The first influential DJ was DJ Kool Herc, who used two turntables to mix fragments of classic records with dance songs. He’s also considered the father of modern rapping for speaking over records. Other DJs like Grandmaster Flash, Afrika Bambaataa, and Grand Wizzard Theodore pushed things further by isolating the breakbeat to stimulate improvisational dancing, which led to break-dancing contests.
Rap gained national recognition with the release of “Rapper’s Delight” by the Sugarhill Gang in 1979. Old-school rap artists like Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, Kurtis Blow, and Cold Crush Brothers would soon follow.
New-school rappers emerged in the mid-1980’s to push the genre further. Run-D.M.C. fused rap with hard rock and brought rap to a mainstream audience. LL Cool J introduced romantic styling to the genre. Beastie Boys expanded rap’s audience and popularized digital sampling. Finally, Public Enemy infused rap with black political ideology.
Growing Popularity of Hip-Hop
In 2018, hip-hop made up 21.7% of total music album consumption in the U.S., which was a higher percentage than pop’s 20.1% market share and rock’s 14% market share. Recent multimillion-dollar record deals signed by hip-hop artists include Brockhampton, XXXTentacion, and Lil Pump, who signed deals for $15 million, $10 million, and $8 million, respectively.
Hip-hop songs also accounted for 24.7% of song consumption in 2018. It should be noted that 92% of hip-hop music consumption was from on-demand streams, while only 2.7% was from album sales. It should also be noted that the top 5 best-selling hip-hop albums of all time were all released on or prior to 2003.
Hip-Hop Artists Making a Positive Difference
Hip-hop artists Lupe Fiasco, Lecrae, and Kendrick Lamar write positive lyrics and actively support local communities.
Lupe Fiasco has helped start numerous community initiative programs. These include We Are M.U.R.A.L. (Magnifying Urban Realities and Affecting Lives), which feeds ad clothes inner-city children while “fostering artistic and academic excellence in their respective neighborhoods.”
The Houston-born artist Lecrae has worked with Prison Fellowship to connect with inmates and hear their stories. Lecrae has also partnered with Peace Preparatory Academy to provide its students with a sense of community, which he says was key to his success.
According to Complex, Lamar was honored by the California State Senate and given the 35th “Generational Icon Award” for his “efforts to fund and donate to the Compton school district and other various charities in his community.” Lamar has also donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to support the Compton Unified School District’s music, sports, and after-school programs to help keep Compton students in the classroom and off the streets.
The Positive Influence of Hip-Hop on Society
Detractors of hip-hop music fail to see the genre’s clear benefits and ability to unify and empower vulnerable and neglected communities.
5 Ways Hip-Hop Plays a Positive Role
Hip-hop provides a voice for an underrepresented group, as hip-hop artists use their music to comment on social and political issues important to them and their culture. Hip-hop lyrics have also been incorporated into curriculum to teach a variety of subjects, including creative writing assignments and poetry. A third way hip-hop can play a positive role is that it offers therapeutic benefits, such as rapport building between clients and therapists and fostering a sense of dependability and safety due to its repetitive and predicable nature. Additionally, hip-hop unifies its audience, which can allow it to connect communities around the world fighting the effects of discrimination, segregation and injustice. Finally, research has shown that hip-hop offers benefits to mental health in areas such as expressing emotion, coping and personal growth, which could lead to individual and community empowerment.
Turn It Up, Bring the Noise
In a country founded on honoring individual freedoms, hip-hop music is the unmistakable voice of those who have experienced discrimination, segregation and injustice. As long as economic, social and political struggles continue to affect vulnerable communities, hip-hop music will remain a formidable force in the fight for peace, justice, and equality for all.