Hip hop is a cultural movement that began among urban African American and Latino youth in New York City and has since spread around the world. The four main elements of hip hop are MCing, DJing, graffiti, and b-boying/b-girling a.k.a. breakdancing (improper). Some consider beatboxing the fifth element of hip hop; others might add political activism, hip hop fashion, hip hop slang or other elements as important facets of hip hop. The term has since come to be a synonym for hip hop music and rap to mainstream audiences. They are not, however, interchangeablerapping (MCing) is the vocal expression of lyrics in sync to a rhythm beneath it; along with DJing, rapping is a part of hip hop music.
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Hip hop music
Main article: Hip hop music
Main article: DJing
DJing (turntablism) in hip hop refers to the art of using turntables as a musical instrument. Records/albums are used as tools to create many different styles of music. Some of the techniques used include cutting, scratching, body tricks, needle drops, and blends or mixes.
Traditionally, a DJ will use two turntables simultaneously. These are hooked to a receiver, an amplifier, speakers, a mixer (or fader) and various other pieces of electronic music equipment. The DJ will then perform various tricks between the two albums currently in rotation using the above listed methods. The result is a unique sound created by the seemingly combined sound of two separate songs into one song. A DJ should not be confused with a producer of a music track (though there is considerable overlap between the two roles).
Some famous DJs are Grandmaster Flash, Mr. Magic, DJ Jazzy Jeff, DJ Scratch from EPMD, DJ Premier from Gang Starr, DJ Miz, DJ Muggs from Cypress Hill, Jam Master Jay from Run-DMC, Eric B., Tony Touch, DJ Clue, DJ Shadow, DJ Q-Bert, DJ D-Styles and DJ Spooky.
Before coming into their own as music makers, an MC's role was to get the crowd into the DJ's mix. Hip hop used to be, above all, about getting your audience to dance. In Europe this attitude has been more enduring than in the U.S., where MCs quickly became hip hop's central focus. Disillusioned with this new culture, some DJs further explored the art of spinning records, creating the turntablist scene.
Battling is the term in hip hop used when two MCs conduct verbal combat against each other. The purpose of battling is for both MCs to try to diminish each other's lyrical skills and gain the favor of the crowd or audience. The level of crowd impression with a particular lyricist is determined by various forms of lyrical delivery, skill, insults and their ability to "move the crowd". The crowd meanwhile reacts with gestures such as "oohs" and "aahs", response to the lyricist's "requests", or an ovation at the end of a battling session. The crowd then determines who is the better lyricist, thus giving the lyricist recognition and increased confidence to engage in and win more battles.
Most "true" battles occur in various underground hip hop clubs, or even in a simple place such as a street corner; these events are usually fixed contests. More well-known "battle" MCs such as Canibus may go public with a battle on the radio or produce a "diss" record and call out their potential opponent. This can be done by disrespecting their opponent's lyrical skill, subject matter, or just plain not liking the person. Most public battles are publicity events used to gain exposure and acquire more fans. Unfortunately some lyricists cross a personal line when battling and what was once fun leads to physical confrontation.
These days this personal line is being crossed frequently and with a great amount of cruelty. Many argue that this part of hip hop has "gone too far" and that, as the rapper Nas said, "No women and children [should be] involved". Others feel that this is all a part of hip hop. When one MC battles another, he wants to say anything that will make the crowd react, even if it involves the other MC's mother or children. It may not be something personal that one MC has against the other; both are simply just trying to win the battle.
Main article: Beatboxing
Beatboxing, considered by many to be the 'fifth element,' is the vocal percussion of hip hop culture. It is primarily concerned with the art of creating beats, rhythms, and melodies using the human mouth.
Beatboxing is hip hop's vocal percussion whose early pioneers include Doug E. Fresh, Biz Markie, and Buffy from the Fat Boys. The term 'beatboxing' is derived from the mimicry of the first generation of drum machines, then known as beatboxes.
The art form enjoyed a strong presence in the 80s. Beatboxing declined in popularity along with breakdancing in the late 80s, and almost slipped even deeper than the underground. Beatboxing has been enjoying a resurgence since the late 90s, marked by the release of Rahzel's "Make the Music 2000." The internet has greatly aided the rebirth of modern beatboxing—on a global level never seen before—with thousands of beatboxers from over a dozen countries interacting on UK's Humanbeatbox.com.
The art form has radically evolved, extending its reach to include physical theater routines, and has integrated itself into hip hop (and other forms of theater).
The record producer is an often overlooked component of hip hop, sometimes confused with the DJ position. This is a misconception because not all DJs make beats, and not all producers can DJ. Although hip hop's original music consisted solely of the DJ's recycled breakbeats and other vinyl record pieces, the advent of the drum machine allowed hip hop musicians to develop partially original scores. Drum set sounds could be played either over the music from vinyl records or by themselves. The importance of quality drum sequences became the most important focus of hip hop musicians because these rhythms (beats) were the most danceable part. Consequently, drum machines were equipped to produce strong kick sounds with powerful (sine) bass behind them. This helped emulate the very well-engineered drum solos on old funk, soul and rock albums from the late 1960s and early to mid 1970s. Drum machines had a limited array of predetermined sounds, including hi-hats, snares, toms, and kick drums.
The introduction of the digital sampler changed the way hip hop was produced. A sampler can digitally record and save small sound clips from any output device, such as a turntable. Producers were able to sample their own drum sounds from the records they grew up listening to. Perhaps more importantly, they could sample horns, upright basses, guitars and pianos to play along with their drums. Hip hop had finally gathered its complete band.
What many fail to recognize is the distinct importance of the gritty, choppy sound of hip hop. The music seldom sounds like other organic forms. Even hip hop crews that have their own band often use samples and the gritty, choppy texture of machines to create their beats in the studio as featured on their album. (When performing live, they usually recreate this sound with a full band).
Beats are almost always in 4/4 time signature and almost always have a constant pattern of music throughout.
At its rhythmic core, hip hop swings. Instead of a straight 4/4 count (pop music; rock 'n' roll; etc.), hip hop is based on a triplet feel somewhat similar to the "swing" emphasis found in jazz beats. Hip hop takes this concept a step further, however. Whereas jazz swing implies three eighth notes (a triplet) per beat, hip hop implies six sixteenth notes (a "double triplet") per beat. Like the triplet emphasis in swing, hip hop's double triplet "bubble" is subtle, rarely written as it sounds (4/4 basic; the drummer adds the hip hop interpretation) and is often played in an almost "late" or laid back way.
Here's a basic hip hop drum set example --one bar that would be repeated indefinitely. Note that no single instrument plays all of the implied double triplets. This is usually the case. In this example, the bass drum plays part of the double triplet subdivision. The bass drum pattern is most often the part that provides the hip hop feel.
Count 1 2 3 4 Implied *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** Hi Hat x-- x-- x-- x-- x-- x-- x-- x-- Snare --- --- x-- --- --- --- x-- --- Bass Drum x-- --x --- --x x-- x-- --- --x
This style was innovated predominantly in soul and funk music, where beats and thematic music were repeated for the duration of tracks. In the 1960s and 1970s, James Brown (known as The Godfather of Soul) talked, sung, and screamed much as MCs do today. This musical style provides the perfect platform for MCs to rhyme. Hip hop music generally caters to the MC for this reason, amplifying the importance of lyrical and delivering prowess.
Instrumental hip hop is perhaps the lone exception to this rule. In this hip hop subgenre, DJs and producers are free to experiment with creating instrumental tracks. While they may mix in sampled rap vocals, they are not bound by the need to cater to an MC.
Main article: Graffiti
- Davey D's Hip-Hop Corner – a lot of pertinent info from a true hip hop lover
- hiphopmusic.com – number one hip hop blog on the internet
- How Hip-Hop music is slowly transcending its circular culture – essay from PopMatters
- Old School Hip Hop Party Flyers
- Hop hop violinists – Learn about hip hop string players
- AccessHipHop.com – dedicated to underground hip hop
- MemphisRap.com – Memphis' premier rap music site & hip hop community
- All Rap Lyrics – Check out lyrics to hip hop songs, including the top 10 weekly and top 20 monthly song charts.
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