You are on page 1of 46

Hip Hop

Nowadays if you ask most people to give a definition of 'rap', they're likely
to state that it's the reciting of rhymes to the best of music. It's a form of
expression that finds its roots imbedded deep within ancient African culture
and oral tradition. Throughout history here in America there has always
been some form of verbal acrobatics or jousting involving rhymes within the
Afro-American community. Signifying, testifying, Shining of the
Titanic, the Dozens, school yard rhymes,prison 'jail
house' rhymes and double Dutch jump rope' rhymes are some of the
names and ways that various forms of rap have manifested.
Modern day rap music finds its immediate roots in the toasting and dub
talk over elements of reggae music. In the early 70's, a Jamaican dj known
as Kool Herc moved from Kingston to NY'sWest Bronx. Here, he
attempted to incorporate his Jamaican style of dj which involved reciting
improvised rhymes over the dub versions of his reggae records.
Unfortunately, New Yorkers weren't into reggae at the time. Thus Kool Herc
adapted his style by chanting over the instrumental or percussion sections
of the day's popular songs. Because these breaks were relatively short, he
learned to extend them indefinitely by using an audio mixer and two
identical records in which he continuously replaced the desired segment.
In those early days, young party goers initially recited popular phrases
and used the slang of the day. For example, it was fashionable for dj to
acknowledge people who were in attendance at a party. These early raps
featured someone such as Herc shouting over the instrumental break; 'Yo
this is Kool Herc in the joint-ski saying my mellow-ski Marky D is in the
house'. This would usually evoke a response from the crowd, who began to
call out their own names and slogans.
As this phenomenon evolved, the party shouts became more elaborate
as dj in an effort to be different, began to incorporate little rhymes-'Davey D
is in the house/An he'll turn it out without a doubt.' It wasn't long before
people began drawing upon outdated dozens and school yard rhymes.
Many would add a little twist and customize these rhymes to make them
suitable for the party environment. At that time rap was not yet known as
'rap' but called 'emceeing'. With regards to Kool Herc, as he progressed, he
eventually turned his attention to the complexities of djaying and let two
friends Coke La Rock and Clark Kent (not Dana Dane's dj) handle the
microphone duties. This was rap music first emcee team. They became
known as Kool Herc and the Herculoids.
Rap caught on because it offered young urban New Yorkers a chance
to freely express themselves. This was basically the same reason why any
of the aforementioned verbal/rhyme games manifested themselves in the
past. More importantly, it was an art form accessible to anyone. One didn't
need a lot of money or expensive resources to rhyme. One didn't have to
invest in lessons, or anything like that. Rapping was a verbal skill that could
be practiced and honed to perfection at almost anytime.
Rap also became popular because it offered unlimited challenges. There
were no real set rules, except to be original and to rhyme on time to the
beat of music. Anything was possible. One could make up a rap about the
man in the moon or how good his dj was. The ultimate goal was to be
perceived as being 'def (good) by one's peers. The fact that the praises and
positive affirmations a rapper received were on par with any other urban
hero (sports star, tough guy, comedian, etc.) was another drawing card.
Finally, rap, because of its inclusive aspects, allowed one to accurately
and efficiently inject their personality. If you were laid back, you could rap at
a slow pace. If you were hyperactive or a type-A, you could rap at a fast
pace. No two people rapped the same, even when reciting the same
rhyme. There were many people who would try and emulate someone's
style, but even that was indicative of a particular personality.
Rap continues to be popular among today's urban youth for the same
reasons it was a draw in the early days: it is still an accessible form of self
expression capable of eliciting positive affirmation from one's peers.
Because rap has evolved to become such a big business, it has given
many the false illusion of being a quick escape from the harshness of inner
city life. There are many kids out there under the belief that all they need to
do is write a few 'fresh' (good) rhymes and they're off to the good life.
Now, up to this point, all this needs to be understood with regards to
Hip Hop. Throughout history, music originating from America's Black
communities has always had an accompanying subculture reflective of the
political, social and economic conditions of the time.
Rap is no different.
Hip hop is the culture from which rap emerged.
Initially it consisted of four main elements; graffiti art,
break dancing, dj (cuttin' and scratching) and
emceeing (rapping). Hip hop is a lifestyle with its own
language, style of dress, music and mind set that is
continuously evolving. Nowadays because break
dancing and graffiti aren't as prominent the words
'rap' and 'hip hop' have been used interchangeably.
However it should be noted that all aspects of hip
hop culture still exists. They've just evolved onto new
levels. Hip hop continues to be a direct response to an older generation's
rejection of the values and needs of young people. Initially all of hip hop's
major facets were forms of self expression. The driving force behind all
these activities was people's desire to be seen and heard. Hip hop came
about because of some major format changes that took place within Black
radio during the early 70's. Prior to hip hop, black radio stations played an
important role in the community be being a musical and cultural preserver
or griot (story teller). It reflected the customs and values of the day in
particular communities. It set the tone and created the climate for which
people governed their lives as this was a primary source of information and
enjoyment. This was particularly true for young people. Interestingly
enough, the importance of Black radio and the role djs played within the
African American community has been the topic of numerous speeches
from some very prominent individuals.
For example in August of '67, Martin Luther King Jr addressed the
Association of Television and Radio Broadcasters. Here he delivered an
eloquent speech in which he let it be known that Black radio djs played an
intricate part in helping keep the Civil Rights Movement alive. He noted that
while television and newspapers were popular and often times more
effective mediums, they rarely languaged themselves so that Black folks
could relate to them. He basically said Black folks were checking for the
radio as their primary source of information.
In August of 1980 Minister Farrakhon echoed those thoughts when he
addressed a body of Black radio djs and programmers at the Jack The
Rapper Convention. He warned them to be careful about what they let on
the airwaves because of its impact. He got deep and spoke about the radio
stations being instruments of mind control and how big companies were
going out of their way to hire 'undignified' 'foul' and 'dirty' djs who were no
longer being conveyers of good information to the community. To
paraphrase him, Farrakhon noted that there was a fear of a dignified djs
coming on the airwaves and spreading that dignity to the people he
reached. Hence the role radio was playing was beginning to shiftBlack
radio djs were moving away from being the griots.. Black radio was no
longer languaging itself so that both a young and older generation could
define and hear themselves reflected in this medium.
Author Nelson George talks extensively about this in his book 'The
Death Of Rhythm And Blues'. He documented how NY's Black
radio station began to position themselves so they
would appeal to a more affluent, older and to a large
degree, whiter audience. He pointed out how young
people found themselves being excluded especially
when bubble gum and Europeanized versions of disco
music began to hit the air waves. To many, this style
of music lacked soul and to a large degree sounded
too formulated and mechanical. In a recent interview
hip hop pioneer Afrika Bambaataa spoke at length
how NY began to lose its connection with funk music
during this that time. He noted that established rock
acts doing generic sounding disco tunes found a home on black radio. Acts
like Rod Stewart and the Rolling Stones were cited as examples.
Meanwhile Black artists like James Brown and George Clinton were for
the most part unheard on the airwaves. Even the gospel-like soulful disco
as defined by the 'Philly sound' found itself losing ground. While the
stereotype depicted a lot of long haired suburban white kids yelling the
infamous slogan 'disco sucks', there were large number of young inner city
brothers and sisters who were in perfect agreement. With all this happening
a void was created and hip hop filled it Point blank, hip hop was a direct
response to the watered down, Europeanized, disco music that permeated
the airwaves.. FYI around the same time hip hop was birthed, House music
was evolving among the brothers in Chicago, GoGo music was emerging
among the brothers in Washington DCand Black folks in California were
getting deep into the funk. If you ask me, it was all a repsonse to disco.
In the early days of hip hop, there were break dance crews who went
around challenging each other. Many of these participants were former
gang members who found a new activity. Bambataa's Universal Zulu
Nation was one such group. As the scene grew, block parties became
popular. It was interesting to note that the music being played during these
gigs was stuff not being played on radio. Here James Brown, Sly & Family
Stone, Gil Scott Heron and even the Last Poets found a home. Hence a
younger generation began building off a musical tradition abandoned by its
elders. Break beats picked up in popularity as emcees sought to rap longer
at these parties. It wasn't long before rappers became the ONLY vocal
feature at these parties. A microphone and two turntables was all one used
in the beginning. With the exception of some break dancers the
overwhelming majority of attendees stood around the roped off area and
listened carefully to the emcee. A rapper sought to express himself while
executing keen lyrical agility. This was defined by one's rhyme style, one's
ability to rhyme on beat and the use of clever word play and metaphors.
In the early days rappers flowed on the mic continously for hours at a
time..non stop. Most of the rhymes were pre-written but it was a cardinal
sin to recite off a piece of paper at a jam. The early
rappers started off just giving shout outs and chants
and later incorporated small limricks. Later the rhymes
became more elaborate, with choruses like 'Yes Yes
Y'all, Or 'One Two Y'all To The Beat Y'all being used
whenever an emcee needed to gather his wind or
think of new rhymes. Most emcess rhymed on a four count as opposed to
some of the complex patterns one hears today. However, early rappers
took great pains to accomplish the art of showmanship. There was no
grabbing of the crotch and pancing around the stage. Pioneering rapper
Mele-Mel in a recent interview pointed out how he and other acts spent
long hours reheasing both their rhymes and routines. The name of the
game was to get props for rockin' the house. That meant being
entertaining. Remember back in the late 70s early 80s, artists weren't doing
one or two songs and leaving, they were on the mic all night long with folks
just standing around watching. Folks had to come with it or be forever
Before the first rap records were put out (Fat Back Band's King Tem III'
and Sugar Hill Gang's 'Rapper Delight'), hip hop culture had gone through
several stages. By the late 70's it seemed like many facets of hip hop
would play itself out. Rap for so many people had lost its novelty. For those
who were considered the best of the bunch; Afrika Bambaataa, Chief
Rocker Busy Bee, Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Four (yes initially
there were only 4), Grand Wizard Theodore ad the Fantastic Romantic
Five, Funky Four Plus One More, Crash Crew, Master Don Committee to
name a few had reached a pinnacle and were looking for the next plateau.
Many of these groups had moved from the 'two turntables and a
microphone stage' of their career to what many would today consider hype
routines. For example all the aforementioned groups had routines where
they harmonized. At first folks would do rhymes to the tune of some popular
song. The tune to 'Gilligan'sIsland' was often used. Or as was the case with
he Cold Crush Brothers, the 'Cats In the Cradle' was used in one of their
more popular routines. As this 'flavor of the month' caught hold, the groups
began to develop more elaborate routines. Most notable was GM Flash's'
Flash Is to The Beat Box'. All this proceeded 'harmonizing/hip hop acts like
Bel Biv DeVoe by at least 10 years.
The introduction of rap records in the early 80s put a new meaning on
hip hop. It also provided participants a new incentive for folks to get busy.
Rap records inspired hip hoppers to take it to another level because they
now had the opportunity to let the whole world hear their tales. It also
offered a possible escape from the ghetto. But that's another

Examples of modern graffiti stylesGraffiti (singular: graffito; the plural is
used as a mass noun) is the name for images or lettering scratched,
scrawled, painted or marked in any manner on property. Graffiti is often
regarded as unsightly damage or unwanted vandalism.
American roots of hip hop graffiti
An aerosol paint can, common tool for modern graffitiIn America around
the late 1960s, graffiti was used as a form of expression by political
activists, and also by gangs such as the Savage Skulls, La Familia, and
Savage Nomads to mark territory. Towards the end of the 1960s, the
signatures tags of Philadelphia graffiti writers Top Cat, Cool Earl and
Cornbread started to appear. Around 1970-71, the centre of graffiti
innovation moved to New York City where writers following in the wake of
TAKI 183 and Tracy 168 would add their street number to their nickname,
'bomb' a train with their work, and let the subway take it and their fame, if it
was impressive, or simply pervasive, enough 'all city'. Bubble lettering held
sway initially among writers from the Bronx, though the elaborate Brooklyn
style Tracy 168 dubbed 'wildstyle' would come to define the art. The early
trendsetters were joined in the 70s by artists like Dondi, Futura 2000, Daze,
Blade, Lee, Zephyr, Rammellzee, Crash, Kel, NOC 167 and Lady Pink.
The relationship between graffiti and hip
hop culture arises both from early graffiti
artists practicing other aspects of hip hop,
and its being practiced in areas where other
elements of hip hop were evolving as art
forms. Graffiti is recognized as a visual
expression of rap music, as breakdancing is
the physical expression. By the mid-eighties,
the form would move from the street to the
art world. Jean-Michel Basquiat would
abandon his SAMO tag for art galleries, and
even street art's connections to hip hop
would loosen. Occasional hip hop paeans to
graffiti could still be heard throughout the
nineties, however, in tracks like the Artifacts'
'Wrong Side of Da Tracks' (Between a Rock
and a Hard Place, Big Beat, 1994) and
Company Flow's 'Lune TNS' (Funcrusher
Plus, Rawkus, 1997).
Also taking place during this era was
the movement from outside on the city
streets to the subways. Graffiti also saw its first seeds of competition
around this time. The goal of most artists at this point was 'getting up':
having as many tags and bombs in as many places as possible. Artists
began to break into subway yards in order to hit as many trains as they
could with a lower risk, often creating larger elaborate pieces of art along
the subway car sides. This is when the act of bombing was said to be
officially established.
By 1971 tags began to take on their signature calligraphic appearance
because, due to the huge number of artists, each graffiti artist needed a
way to distinguish themselves. Aside from the growing complexity and
creativity, tags also began to grow in size and scale for example, many
artists had begun to increase letter size and line thickness, as well as
outlining their tags. This gave birth to the so-called 'masterpiece' or 'piece'
in 1972. Super Kool 223 is credited as being the first to do these pieces.
The use of designs such as polka dots, crosshatches, and checkers
became increasingly popular. Spray paint use increased dramatically
around this time as artists began to expand their work. 'Top-to-bottoms',
works which span the entire height of a subway car, made their first
appearance around this time as well. The overall creativity and artistic
maturation of this time period did not go unnoticed by the mainstream Hugo
Mala aestatrtinez founded the United Graffiti Artists (UGA) in 1972. UGA
consisted of many top graffiti artists of the time, and aimed to present
graffiti in an art gallery setting. By 1974, graffiti artists had begun to
incorporate the use of scenery and cartoon characters into their work.
Mid 1970s
After the original pioneering efforts, which culminated in 1974, the art
form peaked around 1975 1977. By this time, most standards had been
set in graffiti writing and culture. The heaviest 'bombing' in U.S. history took
place in this period, partially because of the economic restraints onNew
York City, which limited its ability to combat this art form with graffiti
removal programs or transit maintenance. Also during this time, 'top-to-
bottoms' evolved to take up entire subway cars. Most note-worthy of this
era proved to be the forming of the 'throw-up', which are more complex
than simple 'tagging,' but not as intricate as a 'piece'. Not long after their
introduction, throw-ups lead to races to see who could do the largest
amount of throw-ups in the least amount of time.
Graffiti writing was becoming very competitive and artists strove to go
'all-city,' or to have their names seen in all five boroughs of NYC.
Eventually, the standards which had been set in the early 70s began to
become stagnant. These changes in attitude lead many artists into the
1980s with a desire to expand and change.
Late 1970s and early 1980s
The late 1970s and early 1980s brought a new wave of creativity to the
scene. As the influence of graffiti grew, beyond the Bronx, a graffiti
movement begun by encouragement by Friendly Freddie. Fab Five Freddy
(Fred Brathwaite) is another popular graffiti figure of this time, often
credited with helping to spread the influence of graffiti and rap music
beyond its early foundations in the Bronx. It was also, however, the last
wave of true bombing before the Transit Authority made graffiti eradication
a priority. The MTA (Metro Transit Authority) began to repair yard fences,
and remove graffiti consistently, battling the surge of graffiti artists. With the
MTA combating the artists by removing their work it often led many artists
to quit in frustration, as their work was constantly being removed. It was
also around this time that the established art world started becoming
receptive to the graffiti culture for the first time since Hugo Martinezs Razor
Gallery in the early 1970s.
In 1979, graffiti artist Lee Quinones, and Fab Five Freddy were given a
gallery opening in Romeby art dealer Claudio Bruni. Slowly, European art
dealers became more interested in the new art form. For many outside
of New York, it was the first time ever being exposed to the art form. During
the 1980s the cultural aspect of graffiti was said to be deteriorating almost
to the point of extinction. The rapid decline in writing was due to several
factors. The streets became more dangerous due to the burgeoning crack
epidemic, legislation was underway to make penalties for graffiti artists
more severe, and restrictions on paint sale and display made racking
(stealing) materials difficult. Above all, the MTA greatly increased their anti-
graffiti budget. Many favored painting sites became heavily guarded, yards
were patrolled, newer and better fences were erected, and buffing of pieces
was strong, heavy, and consistent. As a result of subways being harder to
paint, more writers went into the streets, which is now, along with
commuter trains and box cars, the most prevalent form of writing.
Die Hard era (1985-1989)
The years between 1985 and 1989 became known as the 'die hard' era.
A last shot for the graffiti artists of this time was in the form of subway cars
destined for the scrap yard. With the increased security, the culture had
taken a step back. The previous elaborate 'burners' on the outside of cars
were now marred with simplistic marker tags which often soaked through
the paint.
Theories on the use of graffiti by avant-garde artists have a history
dating back at least to the Scandinavian Institute of Comparative
Vandalism in 1961.
Stencils by John Fekner: Charlotte Street Stencils, South Bronx, New York,
Motor Lublin football club graffiti by an unknown supporter. Lublin,
PolandMany contemporary analysts and even art critics have begun to see
artistic value in some graffiti and to recognize it as a form of public art.
According to many art researchers, particularly in the Netherlands and
in Los Angeles, that type of public art is, in fact an effective tool of social
emancipation or in the achievement of a political goal.
Many artists involved with Graffiti also are concerned with the similar
activity of Stencilling. Essentially, this entails stenciling a print of one or
more colors using spray-paint. Graffiti artist John Fekner, called 'caption
writer to the urban environment, adman for the opposition' by writer Lucy
Lippard , was involved in direct art interventions within New York City's
decaying urban environment in the mid-seventies through the eighties.
Fekner is known for his word installations targeting social and political
issues, stenciled on buildings throughout New York.
In the UK, Banksy is the most recognizable icon for this cultural artistic
movement and keeps his identity secret to avoid arrest. Much of Banksy's
artwork can be seen around the streets of Londonand surrounding suburbs,
though he has painted pictures around the world, includibarrier with satirical
images of life on the other side. One depicted a hole in the wall with an
idyllic beach, while another shows a mountain landscape on the other side.
A number of exhibitions have also taken place since 2000, and recent
works of art have fetched vast sums of money.
Radical and political
One innovative form of graffiti that emerged in the UK in the 1970s was
devised by the Money Liberation Front (MLF), essentially a loose affiliation
of underground press writers such as the poet and playwright Heathcote
Williams and magazine editor and playwright Jay Jeff Jones. They initiated
the use of paper currency as a medium for counterculture propaganda,
overprinting banknotes, usually with a John Bull printing set. Although short
lived the MLF was representative of Londons Ladbroke Grove centered
alternative and literary community of the period. The area was also a scene
of considerable anti-establishment and humorous street graffiti much of it
also produced by Williams.
Both sides of the conflict in Northern Ireland produce political graffiti. As
well as slogans, Northern Irish political graffiti include large wall paintings,
referred to as murals. Along with the flying of flags and the painting of kerb
stones, the murals serve a territorial purpose. Artists paint them mostly on
house gables or on the Peace Lines, high walls that separate different
communities. The murals often develop over an extended period and tend
to stylisation, with a strong symbolic or iconographic content. Loyalist
murals often refer to historical events dating from the war between James II
and William III in the late 17th century, whereas Republican murals usually
refer to the more recent troubles.
Decorative and high art
Graffiti by Miss Van and Ciou in BarcelonaA 2006 exhibition at
the Brooklyn Museum displayed graffiti as an art form that began in New
York's outer boroughs and reached great heights in the early '80s with the
work of Crash, Lee, Daze, Keith Haring and Jean-Michel Basquiat.
It displayed 22 works by New York graffiti artists, including Crash, Daze
and Lady Pink. In an article about the exhibition in Time Out Magazine,
curator Charlotta Kotik said that she hoped the exhibition would cause
viewers to rethink their assumptions about graffiti. Terrance Lindall, noted
surrealist artist whose works for Heavy Metal Magazine and Creepy and
Eerie have inspired many of these artists, went further:
Graffiti is revolutionary like the surrealist art I represented in my show
Brave Destiny,' he says, 'and any revolution might be considered a crime.
People who are oppressed or suppressed need an outlet, so they write on
wallsits free However, people also have a right to protect their property.
It is a human dilemma.
In Australia, art historians have judged some local graffiti of sufficient
creative merit to rank them firmly within visual art. Oxford University Press's
art history text Australian Painting 1788-2000 concludes with a long
discussion of graffiti's key place within contemporary visual culture,
including the work of several Australian practitioners.

Breakdance, breaking, b-boying or b-girling is a street dance style that
evolved as part of the hip hop movement among African American and
Puerto Rican youths in the South Bronx of New York City during the early
1970s. It is normally danced to pop, funk or hip hop music, often remixed to
prolong the breaks, and is a well-known hip hop dance style.
A breakdancer, breaker, b-boy or b-girlrefers to a person who practices
Since its inception, breakdancing has provided a youth culture
constructive alternative to violent urban street gangs. Today, breakdancing
culture is a remarkable discipline somewhere in-between those of dancers
and athletes. Since acceptance and involvement centers on dance skills,
breakdancing culture is usually free of the common race, gender and age
boundaries of a subculture and has been accepted worldwide.
Breaking became popular in the Western world when street corner DJ's
would take the rhythmic breakdown sections (or 'breaks') of dance records
and string them together without any elements of the melody. This provided
a raw rhythmic base for improvising and further mixing, and it allowed
dancers to display their skills during the break.
Michael Jackson's Robot dance, first performed on television in 1974
received a large following with many later breakdance pioneers further
popularizing breakdance in the late 1970s. Breakdancing, in its organized
fashion seen today, may have begun as a method for rival gangs of the
ghetto to mediate and settle territorial disputes.
In a turn-based showcase
of dance routines, the winning side was determined by the dancer(s) who
could outperform the other by displaying a set of more complicated and
innovative moves.
Dance teams such
as the Rock Steady
Crew of New York City
changed this
competitive ritual of
gang warfare into a pop-
culture phenomenon
receiving a large
amount of media
attention. In the 1980s,
parties, disco clubs,
talent shows, and other
public events became
typical locations for breakdancers. Though its intense popularity eventually
faded in the mid-1980s, in the 1990s and 2000s, breakdancing became an
accepted dance style, portrayed in commercials, movies, and the media.
Instruction in breakdancing techniques is often available at dance studios
where hip-hop dancing is taught. Some large annual breakdancing
competitions of the 2000s include the Battle of the Year or the Red Bull BC
Shortly after groups such as the Rock Steady Crew came to Japan,
breakdancing within Japanbegan to florish. Each Sunday performers would
breakdance in Tokyo's Yoyogi Park. One of the first and most influential
Japanese breakdancers was Crazy-A, who is now the leader of the Tokyo
Rock Steady Crew. He also organizes the yearly B-Boy Park which draws
upwards of 10,000 fans a year. The following interview with Crazy-A is his
plan on where the Tokyo Rock Steady Crew is going to lead to. 'We want to
entertain people in streetspeople outside hip hop culture. Thesedays, we
have a lot opportunity to perform in clubs. But people in clubs are the one
who are already into hip hop. It is different and hard to entertain people in
streets. I want to let people know more about hip hop culture. That's what I
want to do more now. But it should be a different way from what I did
before. I am 35 years old and I want to take advantage of my experience
and knowledge'.
Dance techniques
There are four basic elements that form the foundation of
Breakdancing. These are Toprock,Downrock (Also known as
Footwork), Freezes and Power Moves.
Toprock refers to any string of steps performed from a standing position,
relying upon a mixture of coordination, flexibility, style, and rhythm. It is
usually the first and foremost opening display of style, and it serves as a
warm-up for transitions into more acrobatic maneuvers. In contrast,
downrock includes all footwork performed on the floor as in the 6-step.
Downrock is normally performed with the hands and feet on the floor. In
downrock, the breakdancer displays his or her proficiency with foot speed
and control by performing footwork combinations. These combinations
usually transition into more
athletic moves known as power
'Power moves' are actions that
require momentum and
physical power to execute. In
power moves, the breakdancer
relies more on upper body
strength to dance, using his or
her hands to do moves. Power
moves include the Windmill,
Swipe, and Flare. Because power moves are physically demanding,
breakdancers use them as a display of upper body strength and stamina.
Many moves are borrowed from gymnastics, such as the flare, and martial
arts, with impressive acrobatics such as the Butterfly kick.
Freezes halt all motion in a stylish pose. The more difficult freezes
require the breakdancer to suspend himself or herself off the ground using
upper body strength, in poses such as the handstand or pike. Whereas
freezing refers to a single pose, locking entails sharp transitions between a
series of freezes.
'Suicides' are another dance move used to signal the end to a routine.
Breakers will make it appear that they have lost control and fall onto their
backs, stomachs, etc. The more painful the suicide appears, the more
impressive it is, but breakdancers execute them in a way to minimize pain.
In contrast to freezes, suicides draw attention to the motion of falling or
losing control, while freezes draw attention to the final position.
As the clichd quote 'break to the beat' points out, rhythmic music is an
essential ingredient for breakdancing. The original songs that popularized
the dance form borrow significantly from progressive genres of jazz, soul,
funk, disco, and R&B. The most common feature of breakdance music
exists in breaks, or compilations formed from samples taken from different
songs which are then looped and chained together by the DJ. The tempo
generally ranges between 110 and 135 beats per minute with shuffled
sixteenth and quarter beats in the percussive pattern. History credits Kool
Dj Herc for the invention of this concept, later termed breakbeat.
The musical selection is not restricted to hip-hop as long as the tempo
and beat pattern conditions are met. It can be readily adapted to different
music genres (often with the aid of remixing). World competitions have
seen the unexpected progressions and applications of heavily European
electronica, and even opera. Some b-boys,
such as Pierre, even extend it to rock music.
Stage shows
In many different countries, most
notably South Korea, different stage
companies and individual breakdancing
crews are creating musicals and stage shows
that are either based on, or focus on
breakdancing. Among the most notable is A
Ballerina Who Loved A B-Boy, a musical
telling the story of a ballerina who falls in love with the power of
It is played by professional breakdance crews, including Extreme Crew,
Maximum Crew, and Able Crew. Another breakdancing musical is
Marionette, performed, created and choreographed by Korean
breakdancing crew Expression. Many entertainers have incorporated
breakdance moves into their stage performance, ranging from professional
wrestler Booker T to Korean singer Se7en.
Media exposure
In the 1980s, with the help of pop culture and MTV, breakdancing made
its way from America to the rest of the world as a new cultural
phenomenon. Musicians such as Michael Jackson popularized some of the
breakdancing styles in music videos, and movies such as Flashdance, Wild
Style, Beat Street, Breakin', and Breakin' 2: Electric Boogaloo also
contributed to the growing appeal of breakdancing. Today, many b-boys
and former breakers are disappointed by the media hype that has changed
the focus of breakdancing to money and overuse of power moves.
Breaking was given proper respect in the critically-acclaimed, feature
documentary film: The Freshest Kids: A History of the B-Boy. The film
captured the essence of the culture and accurately traced the origin,
evolution, and position of the dance within the Hip Hop movement.
Battles are an integral part of the b-boying culture. They can take the
form of a cypher battle and an organized battle. Both types of battles are
head to head confrontations between individuals or groups of dancers who
try to out-dance each other.
The cypher (or the circle) is the name given to a circle of b-boys and/or
b-girls who take turns dancing in the center. There are no judges (other
than the participants of the cypher itself), concrete rules or restrictions in
the cypher, only unsaid traditions. Although people aren't always battling
each other in the cypher, there are many times when battles do take place.
B-boying began in the cypher and only later did organized competition
develop. This type of battle is how b-boying was originally and it is often
more confrontational and more personal. The battle goes on until it ends for
one of many possible reasons, such as one dancer admitting defeat.
Cypher culture is more present in communities with a stronger emphasis
and understanding of original, true hip hop culture. Battling in the cypher is
also a common way for dancers to settle issues between each other
whether it be individuals or crews.
Organized battles, however, set a format for the battle, such as a time
limit, or specify a limit for the number of dancers that can represent each
side. Organized battles also have judges, who are usually chosen based on
years of experience, level of deeper cultural knowledge, contribution to the
scene and general ability to judge in an unbiased manner. There are
however, times when non b-boys or non b-girls are chosen to judge by
some organizers, and these type of events (jams) are often looked down
upon by the b-boying community. Organized battles are far more publicized
and known to the mainstream community, and include famous
international-level competitions such asBattle of the Year, UK B-Boy
Championships Redbull BC One, Freestyle Session and R16 Korea. It
should be noted however that a view exists that a trend in recent years has
been to place an over-emphasis on organized battles, which takes away
from a more originality-based aspect of the culture that is often more
emphasized in cypher culture.
A crew is a group of two or
more b-boys or b-girls who
choose to dance together for
whatever purpose, either
simultaneously or separately.
Crew vs Crew battles are
common in breakdancing.
Many B-boys and B-Girls are
part of a crew, which makes
many feel more dedicated to
breakdancing. A few of the most well known crews are Last For One, the
New York City Breakers, Flying Steps and Shebang!.
Though recreational, the dance is not without its heated debates. Some
practitioners state the original terms b-boying or breaking are better names
for the dance as breakdance was supposedly created by the media as a
marketing device. As such, the term breakdance is said to lack the depth
and history of the older terms and are today looked down by some who
consider its use as an evidence of ignorance and disrespect to the history
of the dance style itself.
Multiple stereotypes have emerged in the breakdancing community over
the give-and-take relationship between technical footwork and physical
prowess. Those who focus on dance steps and fundamental sharpness but
lack upper-body brawn, form, discipline, etc. are labeled as 'style-heads'
and specialists of more gymnastics-oriented technique and form at the cost
of charisma and coordinated footwork are known as 'power-heads.' Such
terms are used colloquially often to classify one's skill, however, the subject
has been known to disrupt competitive events where judges tend to favor a
certain array of techniques. It has often been stated that breakdancing
replaced fighting between street gangs, though some believe it a
misconception that b-boying ever played a part in mediating gang rivalry.
These gang roots made breakdancing itself seem controversial in its early
Uprocking as a dance style of its own never gained the same wide-
spread popularity as breakdance, except for some very specific moves
adopted by breakers who use it as a variation for their toprock. When used
in a breakdance battle, opponents often respond by performing similar
uprock moves, supposedly creating a short uprock battle. Some dancers
argue that because uprocking was originally a separate dance style it
should never be mixed with breakdancing, and that the uprock moves
performed by breakers today are not the original moves but poor imitations
that only shows a small part of the original uprock style.

Rapping (also known as emceeing, MCing, spitting, or just rhyming) is
the rhythmic spoken delivery of rhymes and wordplay, one of the elements
of hip hop music and culture. Although the word rap has sometimes been
claimed to be a backronym of the phrase 'Rhythmic African Poetry',
'Rhythm and Poetry', 'Rhythmically Applied Poetry', 'Rapping About Poetry,'
'Racing Always Pacing,' or 'Rhythmically Associated Poetry', use of the
word to describe quick speech or repartee long predates the musical form,
meaning originally 'to hit'. The word had been used in British English since
the 16th century, and specifically meaning 'to say' since the 18th. It was
part of the African American dialect of English in the 1960s meaning 'to
converse', and very soon after that in its present usage as a term denoting
the musical style.
Rapping developed both inside and outside of hip hop culture, and
began with the street parties thrown in the Bronx neighborhood of New
York in the 70s by Jamaican expatriate Kool Herc and others. The parties
introduced dancehall and the practice of having a 'Master of Ceremonies,'
or MC, get up on stage with the DJ and shout encouragements to the
crowd in a practice known as 'toasting'. Over time, those shouts of
encouragement became more longer and more complex and cross-
pollinated with the spoken-word poetry scene to evolve into rap. From the
beginning hip hop culture has been syncretic, incorporating sounds and
elements from radically divergent sources. While Funk breaks formed the
backbone of early hip hop, Kraftwerk and other early techno artists were
widely sampled as well.
In the 1980s, the success of groups like Run-D.M.C. led to a huge
wave of commercialized rap music. By the end of the 1990s, hip hop
became widely accepted in mainstream music. Rap lyrics convey the street
life from which hip hop originally emerged with references to popular
culture and hip hop slang. Many types of rap also deal with issues such as
race, socioeconomics, and gender.
The First Recorded 'Rap' Song
The first recorded song that had the characteristics of rap music as we
know it today (rhyming lyrics to a funk beat) was recorded before the Hip
Hop movement began or rap became a regular term. Nevertheless the
song is unmistakably a rap song. The song is called 'Here Come the Judge'
recorded by comedian Pigmeat Markham in 1968. It charted at number 19
in both Billboard and in the UK in that year.
The dubbed dancehall toasts of Jamaica, as well as the disco-rapping
and jazz-based spoken word beat poetry of the United States was a
predecessor for the rapping in hip hop music. Gil Scott-Heron, a jazz
poet/musician who wrote and released such seminal songs as The
Revolution Will Not Be Televised, H2OGate Blues Part 2: We Beg Your
Pardon America and Johannesberg, has been cited as an influence on
many rappers. He released his first album in 1970. Similar in style, the Last
Poets who formed in 1969 recited political poetry over drum beats and
other instrumentation were another predecessor for rap music. They
released their debut album in 1970 reaching the top ten on the Billboard
charts. One of the first rappers in the beginning of the Hip Hop period, in
the end of '70s, was also hip hop's first DJ; Kool Herc. Herc, a Jamaican
immigrant, started delivering simple raps at his parties. As Herc would
explain in a 1989 interview,
the whole chemistry came from Jamaica. I was listening to American
music in Jamaica, and my favorite artist was James Brown. When I came
over here I just had to put it in the American style.
Although rapping in hip hop began with the DJs, most rappers today
don't DJ or produce on a regular basis; Coke La Rock is cited by Kool Herc
as the first example of such a rapper. By the end of the 1979, hip hop had
spread throughout New York, and was getting some radio play. Rappers
were increasingly writing songs that fit pop music structures and featured
continuous rhymes. Melle Mel (of The Furious Five) stands out as one of
the earliest rap innovators. Two raps songs recorded in 1979 by separate
artists were perhaps the first raps recorded at the beginning of the period
where the Hip Hop movement began. The first was recoded by the funk
group Fatback Band (later simply 'Fatback'). The song is called King Tim III
A week later Hip Hop/Funk group the Sugarhill Gang released Rapper's
Delight which charted #36 on the U.S. pop chart.
From the 1970s to the early 1980s, Melle Mel set the way for future
rappers through his sociopolitical content and creative wordplay. Hip hop
lyricism saw its biggest change with the popularity of Run-D.M.C.'s Raising
Hell in the mid-1980s, known especially for the rap/rock collaboration with
rock band Aerosmith in the song 'Walk This Way'. This album helped set
the tone of toughness and lyrical prowess in hip hop; Run-D.M.C. were
almost yelling their aggressive lyrics.
The 1980s saw a huge
wave of commercialized rap
music, that with it brought
success and international
popularity. Rap music
transcended its original
demographic and passed
on to the suburbs. The first
rap hit of the 80s was
Blondie's 'Rapture',
following on from 'Rapper's
Delight' in 1979 from The
Sugarhill Gang. Rap music
in this time kept its original
fan base in the 'ghetto'
while attracting interest
from mainstream
consumers. This decade
also saw the emergence of what we now know as old school hip hop,
artists such as Run-D.M.C., LL Cool J, Public Enemy, and the white group
Beastie Boys. This decade is also referred to as the golden age of hip hop
by modern music historians. Rap in the early 1980s centered mostly
around self promotion e.g., the amount of gold one wears or one's prowess
with females. However, in 1987 Public Enemy introduced a more
sociopolitical edge, with their debut album Yo! Bum Rush the Show. Other
artists such as the Jungle Brothers looked to Africa for inspiration. In 1987
the rap group N.W.A released their first album entitled N.W.A and the
Posse, and included rap stars Dr. Dre, Ice Cube, Eazy-E, and MC Ren.
This release marked the first shift from the golden age to the ensuing ages
of gangsta rap and G-funk.
Rap in the 1990s saw a substantial change in direction of the style of
rapping. While the 1980s were characterized by verses mostly constrained
to straightforward structures and rhyme schemes, rappers in the 1990s
explored deviations from those basic forms, freeing up the lyrical flow and
switching up the patterns to create a much more fluid and complex style.
The style on the East Coast became more aggressive, pioneered by artists
like the Wu-Tang Clan and Notorious B.I.G., while West Coast hip hop
became more laid-back and smooth, as made popular by Dr. Dre and
In terms of subject matter, the 1990s saw a shift from personal
promotion and glorification to narratives of street experience and darker
social observation, although this shift was more pronounced on the East
Coast than the West.
The 1990s were also marked by a tense rivalry between MCs of the
East and West Coast, including a feud between Sean 'Puffy' Combs' (Bad
Boy Records) in the East, including the Notorious B.I.G., and Dr. Dre and
Suge Knight's Death Row Records (including 2pac and Snoop Dogg).
Freestyling became a skill that demonstrates an MC's versatility and
creativity, but also as a verbal duel or spar. The mid 1990s were marked by
the violent deaths of Tupac Shakur, Notorious B.I.G., Freaky Tah, and Big
L, among others. By the end of the 1990s, hip hop became widely accepted
in mainstream music.
The stereotypical image of male rappers in the 1990s often depicted
someone wearing the Rastafari colors (red, yellow, and green), oversize
jeans worn below the waist that commonly exposed the underwear, and
oversize shirts and jackets. These fashions were then imitated by
youngsters and created a separation beyond the rappers' circle by dividing
economic classes in the public eye, meaning that lower-class youth
dressing in this manner stuck out among the middle to upper-class youth.
This image, idealized by urban youth, was further supported by the lyrics of
rap underground. The lyrics often reflect the culture and lifestyles of urban
and gang violence, drugs, corruption, and sexuality. The expansion of rap
across cultures and borders allowed for expansion and transformation of
the music and the image of what rap was.
Hip hop in its modern iteration has been increasingly influenced by
other musical forms. Notably, remixes of existing hits with current notable
rappers has become an increasing trend. The influence of rap has
increased internationally with independent styles, such as grime, trip hop,
and hyphy. Southern, Northern, and Midwestern, and even Native
American rap have also gained increasing popularity, and penetrated the
coastal markets on a large scale for the first time.
Alongside the increasing commercialization of rap and hip hop culture,
some artists such as Nas have claimed that 'hip hop is dead'.
Hip hop pioneer Afrika Bambaataa mixed electro with old school rapping
and beats in what is sometimes called 'electro hop.' Bambaataa, the DJ, is
also the rapper in this song; after all, the first rapping in hip hop was done
from behind the turntables.
Notorious B.I.G. tells vivid stories about his everyday life as a criminal
in Brooklyn. Note the constant changing up of the lyrical flow and cadence
characteristic of new school hip hop.
Diction and dialect
Many hip hop listeners believe that a rapper's lyrics are enhanced by a
complex vocabulary. Kool Moe Dee claims that he appealed to older
audiences by using a complex vocabulary in his raps.[16] Rap is famous,
however, for having its own vocabulary from international hip hop slang to
regional slang. Some artists, like the Wu-Tang Clan, develop an entire
lexicon among their clique. African American Vernacular English has
always had a significant effect on hip hop slang and vice versa. Certain
regions have introduced their unique regional slang to hip hop culture, such
as the Bay Area (Mac Dre, E-40), Houston (Chamillionaire, Paul Wall),
Atlanta (Ludacris, Lil Jon, T.I.), and Kentucky (Nappy Roots). The Nation of
Gods and Earths, a religious/spiritual group spun off from the Nation of
Islam, has influenced mainstream hip hop slang with the introduction of
phrases such as 'word is bond' that have since lost much of their original
spiritual meaning.
West Coast rapper
Snoop Dogg performing for
the US NavyPreference
toward one or the other has
much to do with the
individual; GZA, for example,
prides himself on being very
visual and metaphorical but
also succinct, whereas
underground rapper MF
DOOM is known for heaping
similes upon similes. In still
another variation, 2Pac was
known for saying exactly
what he meant, literally and
The roots of these sociopolitical raps are in the beat poetry of The
Last Poets and Gil Scott-Heron. 'The Message' pioneered the inclusion of
political content in hip hop rhymes, expanding beyond basic personal
issues and party raps. In the golden age of hip hop, Public Enemy
emerged, with a focus on political and social issues. Modern East Coast
hip hop artists such as Mos Def, Talib Kweli, Jay-Z, Nas, and dead prez are
known for their sociopolitical subject matter. Their West Coast counterparts
include Emcee Lynx, The Coup, Paris, and Michael Franti.
Other rappers take a less critical approach to urbanity, sometimes even
embracing such aspects as crime. Schoolly D was the first notable MC to
rap about crime.[17] Several years later, he would go on to influence Ice T,
who had more overtly 'gangsta' lyrics. Gangsta rap, made popular largely
because of N.W.A. Early on KRS-One was accused of celebrating crime
and a hedonistic lifestyle, but after the death of his DJ, Scott La Rock,
KRS-One went on to speak out against violence in hip hop and has spent
the majority of his career condemning violence and writing on issues of
race and class.
Various politicians, journalists, and religious leaders have accused rappers
of fostering a culture of violence and hedonism among hip hop listeners
through their lyrics. However, there are also rappers whose messages may
not be in conflict with these views, for example Christian hip hop.
In contrast to the more hedonistic approach of gangsta rappers, some
rappers have a spiritual or religious focus. Christian rap is currently the
most commercially successful form of religious rap. Aside from Christianity,
the Five Percent Nation, a gnostic religious/spiritual group, has been
represented more than any religious group in popular hip hop. Artists such
as Rakim, the members of the Wu-Tang Clan, Brand Nubian, X-Clan,
Busta Rhymes, and Nas, have had success in spreading the theology of
the Five Percenters. See the article on hip hop and religion for a more in-
depth discussion.
Rap delivery, or 'flow', is defined
by prosody, cadence, and speed.
Cadence deals with the dynamics
and patterns of the rhythm. In
addition to rubato (changes in
tempo for the purpose of
expression), cadence can also
serve to reinforce song structure
through ritardando (the gradual
slowing down of tempo). Old school
rappers generally maintained a
simple cadence, without much
deviation, while golden age rappers
such as Rakim experimented
extensively with cadence. Present
day popular rappers like Method
Man, Snoop Dogg, Bone Thugs-n-
Harmony, Busta Rhymes,
Big Pun, and Andr 3000 are
considered to have a versatile cadence because of their ability to rap over
disparate beats equally well.
A common way MCs judge how to flow in a verse is by writing a rhyme
such that the most stressed words coincide with the beat in a way that
makes the rhyming sound more musical (as opposed to spoken word) and
that better combines the MC's voice with the musical backdrop. Rakim
whom many credit with changing the way most rappers flow on a song
experimented not only with following the beat, but also with complementing
the song's melody with his own voice, making his flow sound like that of an
instrument (a saxophone in particular).

Battle rapping
Battle rapping, which can be freestyled, is the competition between two
or more rappers in front of an audience. The tradition of insulting one's
friends or acquaintances in rhyme goes back to the dozens, and was
portrayed famously by Muhammad Ali in his boxing matches. The winner of
a battle is decided by the crowd and/or preselected judges. According to
Kool Moe Dee, a successful battle rap focuses on an opponent's
weaknesses, rather than one's own strengths. Television shows such as
BET's 106 and Park and MTV's DFX host weekly freestyle battles live on
the air. Battle rapping gained widespread public recognition outside of the
African-American community with rapper Eminem's movie, 8 Mile.
The strongest battle rappers will generally perform their rap fully
freestyled. This is the most effective form in a battle as the rapper can
comment on the other person, whether it be what they look like, or how
they talk, or what they wear. It also allows the rapper to reverse a line used
to 'diss' him or her if they are the second rapper to battle.
Social impact
Very few white hip hop artists claim Anglo-Saxon or Caucasian
ancestry; virtually all of them are members of other ethnic groups that have
faced varying degrees of discrimination only to be later assimilated. For
artists like House of Pain, the Beastie Boys, and Beltaine's Fire; hip hop
culture provides a way to reject that assimilation and differentiate
themselves from the dominant Anglo-American culture by asserting a
separate ethnic identity.
While they have been successful, artists such as the Beastie Boys and
Vanilla Ice are labeled as sub-categories of rap, alternative and gimmick
respectively. White hip hop artists have advanced the genre of rap by
bringing in a larger and more diverse audience and recognition for rap as a
musical genre, however they have had much less of an effect on the overall
musical trajectory of the rap scene than their counterparts.
Wealth and class have always been significant issues in hip hop, a culture
which was developed mainly among the lower and lower-middle class
blacks of inner-city New York. Any view of money that can be seen in real
life can also be seen in the lyrics of rap just as there are rappers who often
brag about their extravagant wealth or more specifically their 'rags to riches'
stories, there are political militants who decry materialism. Although most of
hip hop's famous and influential rappers have come from inner-city ghettos,
hip hop has always represented a variety of economic backgrounds.
The most recent mainstream exception to the skin color trend in
mainstream rap is Eminem, who is of mainly Scottish descent, and who
grew up in the primarily black city of Detroit. In his song 'White America',
Eminem attributes his selling success to his being more easily digestible by
a white audience, because he 'looks like them.'
Other prominent American rappers of primarily European decent include
Sage Francis, Paul Wall (who is 1/4 Mexican), Emcee Lynx, Mike Shinoda
(who is half Japanese), El-Producto, Aesop Rock, and many others. Race,
class, and ethnicity remain prominent themes in hip hop music in general,
regardless of race. Emcee Lynx in particular is notable for addressing these
issues from an explicitly anti-racist and anti-imperialist perspective in his
music, while referencing his Scottish and Irish heritage as a point of pride.
According to political rapper Zion of Zion I, socially conscious hip hop
in particular has a majority white audience: 'so many black people don't
want to hear it. They want that thug shit.' In addition to Zion, several other
underground rappers such as Boots Riley of The Coup, report nearly all
white audiences.

A hip-hop disc jockey is a DJ that selects, plays and creates music as a
hip-hop artist and/or performer, often backing up one or more MCs.
Notable hip hop disc jockeys
Jamaican-born DJ Kool Herc (born 1955), inventor of the breakbeat
technique; he is considered to be 'the father of hip hop culture'. Grand
Wizard Theodore created the distinctive 'scratching' sound made by
moving a record back and forth whilst the needle is still in the groove.
Grandmaster Flash (born 1958), also one of the early pioneers of hip-hop
DJing, created the Quick Mix Technique, which allowed a DJ to extend a
break using two copies of the same record; essentially invented modern
Turntablism. Afrika Bambaataa (born 1957), was instrumental in the
development of hip-hop from its birth in the South Bronx to its international
success. He also created the first hip-hop track to feature synthesizers;
'The godfather of hip-hop'
DJ Lethal, the DJ for Irish hip-hop group House of Pain who
subsequently became the DJ for Limp Bizkit. DJ Qbert (born 1969),
founding member of the turntablism group the Invisibl Skratch Piklz and
three-time winner of the International DMC Award. Mix Master Mike (born
1970), skilled DJ of hip-hop group Beastie Boys, three-time winner of the
International DMC Turntablism Award. The X-Ecutioners, a turntablist band
with several collaborations with groups and artists, including LinkinPark and
Xzibit. DJ Premier (born 1966), one of the duo Gang Starr. He also
featured with many famous Hip-Hop artists like Nas, LL Cool J, Rakim and
many others. Turntablism is the art of manipulating sounds and creating
music using phonograph turntables and a DJ mixer. The word was coined
circa 1994 to describe the difference between a DJ who just plays records,
and one who performs by touching and moving the records, stylus and
mixer to manipulate sound. The new term co-occurred with a resurgence of
the art of hip hop style DJing in the nineties.
Hip-hop turntablist DJs use turntable techniques like beat mixing/matching,
scratching, and beat juggling. Turntablism is generally focused more on
turntable technique and less on mixing. Some turntablists seek to have
themselves recognized as legitimate musicians capable of interacting and
improvising with other performers.
Hip hop
This is the history of turntablism, a term most often used for contemporary
DJs. The passages on their old school hip hop predecessors only focus on
the relevant artistic

Turntablism as a modern art form and musical practice has its roots within
hip hop and hip hop culture of the early 1970s. It stems from one of the
culture's 'four pillars' - DJing (see 'four elements,' Hip Hop Culture).
Scratching was already widespread within hip hop by DJs and producers
by the time turntablists started to appear.
Kool DJ Herc, Afrika Bambaataa and Grandmaster Flash are widely
credited for having cemented the now established role of DJ as hip hop's
foremost instrumentalist (and historically the genre's only instrumentalist).
Kool Herc's invention of break-beat DJing is generally regarded as the
foundational development in hip hop history, as it gave rise to all other
elements of the genre. His influence on the concept of 'DJ as turntablist' is
equally profound. To understand the significance of this achievement, it is
important to first define the 'break.' Briefly, the 'break' of a song is a musical
fragment only seconds in length, which typically takes the form of an
'interlude' in which all or most of the music stops except forthe percussion.
The break is roughly equivalent to the song's 'climax,' as it is meant to be
the most exciting part of a song before returning once more to its finale
(usually a return to the main chorus). In addition to raising the audience's
adrenaline level, the percussion-heavy nature of the break makes it the
most danceable as well, if only for seconds at a time. Kool Herc introduces
the break-beat technique as a way of extending the break indefinitely. This
is done by buying two of the same record and switching from one to the
other on the DJ mixer: e.g., as record A plays, the DJ quickly backtracks to
the same break on record B, which will again take the place of A at a
specific moment in which the audience will not notice that the DJ has
switched records.
Kool Herc's revolutionary technique set the course for the development
of turntablism as an art form in significant ways. Most important, however,
he develops a new form of DJing that does not consist of playing and
mixing records one after the other (incidentally, the type of DJ that
specializes in mixing is well-respected for his own set of unique skills, but
this is still DJing in the traditional sense). Rather, Kool Herc originates the
idea of creating a sequence for his own purposes, introducing the idea of
the DJ as the 'feature' of parties, whose performance on any given night
would be examined critically by the crowd.
These early pioneers cemented the fundamental practice that would
later become one of the pillars of the emerging turntablist artform.
Scratching would during the 1980s become a staple of hip hop music,
being used by producers and DJs on records and in live shows. By the end
of the 1980s it was very common to hear scratching on a record, generally
as part of the chorus of a track or within its production. On stage the DJ
would provide the music for the MCs to rhyme to, scratching records during
the performance and showcasing his skills alongside the verbal skills of the
MC. The most well known example of this 'equation' of MCs and DJ is
probably Run DMC who were composed of two MCs and one DJ. The DJ,
the late Jam Master Jay, was an integral part of the group since his
turntablism was critical to Run DMC's productions and performances.
While Flash and Bambaataa were using the turntable to explore
repetition, alter rhythm and create the instrumental stabs and punch
phrasing that would come to characterize the sound of hip hop,
Grandmaster D.ST was busy cutting 'real' musicians on their own turf. His
scratching on Herbie Hancock's 1983 single, 'Rockit', makes it perhaps the
most influential DJ track of them all - even more than (Grandmaster
Flash's) 'Wheels of Steel', it established the DJ as the star of the record,
even if he wasn't the frontman. Compared to 'Rockit', West Street Mob's
'Break Dancin' - Electric Boogie' (1983) was punk negation. Only DJ Code
Money's brutal mangling of Schooly D's early records can match the
cheese-grater note-shredding of 'Break Dancin''.[citation needed] As great
as Break Dancin' was, though, it highlighted the limited tonal range of
scratching, which was in danger of becoming a short-lived fad like human
beat-boxing until the emergence of Code Money's DJ Brethern from
Philadelphia in the mid-'80s.
Despite New York's continued pre-
eminence in the hip hop world, scratch
DJing was modernized less than 100
miles down the road in Philadelphia.
Denizens of the City of Brotherly
Lovewere creating the climate for the
return of the DJ by inventing transformer
scratching. Developed by DJs Spinbad,
DJ Cash money and DJ Jazzy Jeff,
transforming was basically clicking the
fader on and off while moving a block of
sound (a riff or a short verbal phrase)
across the stylus. Expanding the tonal as
well as rhythmic possibilities of
scratching, the transformer scratch
epitomized the chopped-up aesthetic of
hip hop culture. Hip hop was starting to
become big money and the cult of
personality started to take over. Hip hop
became very much at the service of the rapper and Cash Money and DJ
Jazzy Jeff, saddled with B-list rappers like Marvelous and the Fresh Prince,
were accorded maybe one track on an album. For example, tracks like DJ
Jazzy Jeff's 'A Touch of Jazz' (1987) and 'Jazzy's in the House' (1988) and
Cash Money's 'The Music Maker' (1988). Other crucial DJ tracks from this
period include Tuff Crew's DJ Too Tuff's 'Behold the Detonator' and 'Soul
Food' (both 1989).'
The appearance of turntablists and the birth of turntablism was
prompted by one major factor - the disappearance of the DJ in hip hop
groups, on records and in live shows at the turn of the 1990s. This
disappearance has been widely documented in books and documentaries
(such as Black Noise and Scratch The Movie), and was linked to the
increased use of DAT tapes and other studio techniques that would
ultimately push the DJ further away from the original hip hop equation of
the MC as the vocalist and the DJ as the music provider alongside the
producer. This push and disappearance of the DJ meant that the practices
of the DJ, such as scratching, went back underground and were cultivated
and built upon by a generation of people who grew up with hip hop, DJs
and scratching. By the mid-90s the disappearance of the DJ in hip hop had
created a sub-culture which would come to be known as turntablism and
which focused entirely on the DJ utilising his turntables and a mixer to
manipulate sounds and create music. By pushing the practice of DJing
away, hip hop created the grounds for this sub-culture to be birthed and
The origin of the terms turntablist and turntablism are widely contested
and argued about, though over the years some facts have been
established by various documentaries (Battlesounds, Doug Pray's Scratch),
books (DJ Culture), conferences (Skratchcon 2000) and interviews in
online and printed magazines. These facts are that the origins of the words
most likely lay with practitioners on the US West Coast, centered around
the San Francisco Bay Area. Some claim that DJ Disk, a member of the
Invisibl Skratch Piklz, was the first to coin the term, others claim that DJ
Babu, a member of the Beat Junkies, was responsible for coining and
spreading the term turntablist after inscribing it on his mixtapes and passing
them around. Other claims credit DJ Supreme, 1991 World Supremacy
Champion and DJ for Hijack and Lauryn Hill, though the claims that the
terms were birthed in the Bay Area are the most widely acknowledged. The
truth most likely lies somewhere in between all these facts.
In an interview with the Spin Science online resource in 2005, DJ Babu
added the following comments about the birth and spread of the term:
'It was around 95, I was heavily into the whole battling thing, working on
the tables constantly, mastering new techniques and scratches, and all the
while working in a gas station and spending my spare time concentrating
on all these things. One day I made this mixtape called 'Comprehension',
and on there was a track called 'Turntablism' which featured Melo-D and D-
Styles. And this is part of where this whole thing about turntablist came
from. This was a time where all these new techniques were coming out, like
flares and stuff, and there were probably 20 people or so, in
around Californiabetween Frisco and LA, who knew about these. So we
worked on them, talked about it and kicked about the ideas that these
techniques and new ways of scratching gave us. And what I would do is
write 'Babu the Turntablist' on tapes I was making at the time, and
somehow it got out a bit, the media got hold of it and it blew into this whole
thing we now know. But it was really nothing to start with. We'd all talk
about these new scratches and how they really started to allow us to use
the turntable in a more musical way, how it allowed us to do more musical
compositions, tracks, etc. and then we'd think about how people who play
the piano are pianists, and so we thought 'we're turntablists in a way,
because we play the turntable like these people do the piano or any other
instrument'. Beyond that, it was just me writing 'Babu the Turntablist',
because it was something I did to make my tapes stand out. I'd just get my
marker pen out and write it on there.'
The decade of the 1990s is also important in shaping the turntablist
artform and culture as it saw the emergence of pioneering artists (D-Styles,
DJ Q-Bert, DJ Quest, A-Trak, Ricci Rucker, Mike Boo, Prime Cuts) and
crews (Invisibl Skratch Piklz, Bullet Proof Scratch Hamsters, Beat Junkies,
The Allies, X-Ecutioners), record labels (Asphodel), DJ Battles (DMC, ITF)
and the evolution of scratching and other turntablism practices.
More sophisticaed methods of scratching were developed during that
decade, with crews and individual DJs concentrating on the manipulation of
the record in time with the manipulation of the cross fader on the mixer to
create new rhythms and sonic artefacts with a variety of sounds. The
evolution of scratching from a fairly simple sound and simple rhythmic
cadences to more complicated sounds and more intricate rhythmical
patterns allowed the practitioners to further evolve what could be done with
scratching musically. These new ways of scratching were all given names,
from flare to crab or orbit, and spread as DJs taught each other, practiced
together or just showed off their new techniques to other DJs.
Alongside the evolution of scratching, which deserves an article in itself,
other practices such as drumming (or scratch drumming) and beat juggling
were also evolved significantly during the 1990s.
Beat Juggling was invented, or discovered if
you will, by Steve Dee, a member of the X-Men
(later renamed X-Ecutioners) crew. Beat Juggling
essentially involves the manipulation of two
identical or different drum patterns on two different
turntables via the mixer to create a new pattern. A
simple example would be for example to use two
copies of the same drum pattern to evolve the
pattern by doubling the snares, syncopating the
drum kick, adding rhythm and variation to the
existing pattern. From this concept, which Steve
Dee showcased in the early 90s at DJ battles, Beat Juggling evolved
throughout the decade to the point where by the end of it, it had become an
intricate technique to create entirely new 'beats' and rhythms out of
existing, pre-recorded ones. These were now not just limited to using drum
patterns, but could also consist of other sounds - the ultimate aim being to
create a new rhythm out of the pre-recorded existing ones. While Beat
Juggling is not as popular as scratching due to the more demanding
rhythmical knowledge it requires, it has proved popular within DJ Battles
and in certain compositional situations.
By the year 2000 turntablism and turntablists had become widely
publicised and accepted in the mainstream and within hip hop as valid
artists. Through this recognition came further evolution.
This evolution took many shapes and forms: some continued to
concentrate on the foundations of the artform and its original links to hip
hop culture, some became producers utilising the skills they'd learnt as
turntablists and incorporating those into their productions, some
concentrated more on the DJing aspect of the artform by combining
turntablist skills with the trademark skills of club DJs, while others explored
alternative routes in utilising the turntable as an instrument or production
tool solely for the purpose of making music - either by using solely the
turntable or by incorporating it into the production process alongside tools
such as drum machines, samplers, computer software, and so on.
New DJs, turntablists and crews owe a distinct debt to old-school DJs like
Kool DJ Herc, Grand Wizard Theodore, Grandmaster Flash, DJ Jazzy Jeff,
Afrika Bambaataa and other DJs of the golden age of hip hop, who
originally developed many of the concepts and techniques that evolved into
modern turntablism.
Within the realm of hip hop, notable modern turntablists are the
cinematic DJ Shadow, who influenced Diplo and RJD2, among others, and
the experimental DJ Spooky, whose Optometry albums showed that the
turntablist can perfectly fit within a jazz setting. Mix Master Mike was a
founding member of the influential turntablist group Invisibl Skratch Piklz
and currently DJs for the Beastie Boys. Cut Chemist and DJ Nu-Mark are
also known as virtuosi of the turntables.

Hip Hop culture influenced me since I was a small kid, it helped me
learning not to let myself the slave of others ideas, I learned to think for
Hip Hop is not what you see on T.V., is a way of life, a lifestyle, is not
about drugs, guns and money, its about being free whatever you do, its
about making the right decisions and to sustain your ideas even if its hard
so like that you can get better.
After all Hip Hop teaches you to think for you
self make your own ideas not to follow blindly others ideas and principles
of life and to make your own ones and fight with them for your purpose no
matter what. Is like a religion where you write your