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, IV-1

, Maj 2015. .

1. Introduction...........................................................................................................................3
2. Inspiration.................................................................................................................. 5
2.1. Humble begginings.................................................................................................6
2.2. Rise and struggle.....................................................................................................6
3. Breakthrough.............................................................................................................8
3.1. Sales........................................................................................................................ 9
3.2. Beef......................................................................................................................... 9
4. Aftermath................................................................................................................. 11
5. Summary.................................................................................................................. 12
Addition....................................................................................................................... 13
Literature...................................................................................................................... 14

Sometimes, great things can come from desperation. Some of the greatest minds in
history have lived and created in extreme poverty or famine. Strength can sometimes come
from the most unlikely sources. For years and decades, artists have created great works of art
using the most bare and essential tools known to man. Some of the greatest artists lived, died
and created in obscurity and poverty only to have themselves celebrated centuries after their
death. The great Vincent Van Gogh only sold one painting in his whole life and that to his own
brother. Music is one the most abstract arts. It deals exclusively with the audible aspect of art.
Everything is perceived as you hear it. Some fare better at this than others and get recognition
during their lifetime while some never do, have or will.
Music transcends all races and nationalities meaning that anyone with an idea can
express oneself in a musical fashion. Even without music, there is no difference among us.
Alas, there were as always people who think that color, nationality or provenience make you
inferior in any way. One of the greatest struggles in human history is certainly the century long
oppression of the African people. They were brought to the US and to Europe to work as
While people tend to take credit for creating or naming some things, one thing cannot be
disputed. African people brought own native melodies and rhythms which clashed with the
music of white colonists and European classical music to create the basis of the music we all
know and love today. Many genres have stemmed from the influx of black people to other parts
of the world. Just to name a few: Jazz, Funk, Soul, R n B and Hip Hop music. The most
important element of todays African tinged music (sans Jazz sometimes) is the beat. This was
primarily because of the format it was required to be in. Music was made for dancing and
jiggling not for heavy introspection and deep messages. The 4/4 drum rhythm took over the
ears and clubs throughout the world. Later, lyrics were added to these rhythmic structures to
create a more complete song. As decades passed by, less attention was given to the music
surrounding the lyrics and more to the actual lyrics. In the beginning, most of these lyrics
consisted of poems written by great writers. Later, singers became great poets by writing their
own poems and singing them on the microphone.

Faced with the grim life in the ghetto, these artists had to create and write hits to make
money or go back to the slums from whence they came. Some of them succeeded. Some of
them failed. Some of them succeeded but spent all their money on drugs and lavish and died
from drug overdoses in extreme poverty. In time, the music became simpler and the lyrics
became much more elaborate.
Enter Hip Hop. It has the sensibilities of funk (the 4/4 drum beat made for dancing,
which was made less prevalent with the upbringing of alternative Hip Hop), the lyrics of a poet
and the commercial appeal of the other music formats that were raging then (disco, funk, soul,
techno (later)). Of course, it didnt start off as a popular and respected genre full of great
musicians. It evolved into that. Some of the greatest works of modern music were hip hop
album, and lets not forget that hip hop is something that came about in the last 40 years, much
more so in the last 25. In its essence, hip hop culture is constituted out of 4 basic elements:
rapping, turntableism, graffiti and breakdancing. All of these art forms have had a tremendous
influence on modern culture but none more so than rapping.

2. Inspiration
A plethora of things can happen in 40 years. A newborn becomes a full-fledged man, a
man becomes an elder. Hip Hop came a long way since the cocaine infested Bronx borough in
the 70s. Times were hard. Police brutality was normal on the streets. One could see homeless
overdosed people lying dead on the pavement, while people were just passing by, waiting for
the police to take them away in body bags.
This was a good climate for creating something new. Postmodernism and Neoexpressionism were taking effect. It was time for a change. The year is 1973 and block parties
are raging throughout New York. DJs were playing funk and making pause tapes and mixtapes
(the first being by DJ Disco Wiz, of Puerto Rican origin, showing that there are no racial
boundaries). Shortly after, crews of DJs and rappers started to battle at specialized parties, with
the crowd usually deciding who had won. The big conflicts and competitiveness in todays Hip
Hop come from this era. Soon after, various musicians (todays rappers) started to add
syncopated rhythmic lyrics to the music that the DJs were playing. DJs used to cut the part of
funk song with only drums (or very few instruments but drums were a necessity) and call those
Break beats.
While some may take the credit for originating something (as DJ Kool Herc, Afrika
Bambaataa and DJ Grand Wizard Theodore amongst others) in my honest opinion, the creation
of Hip Hop is something that cannot be so precisely credited and dictated, instead the creation
should be credited to the rowdy and rebellious youth of the 1970s and 1980s, even though all
of the artist listed above must receive credit and respect for their obvious contributions. A few
years later, the first songs were released, most to little critical acclaim and financial success. In
these years the majority of todays rappers were growing up and learning the ropes of Hip Hop.
The first (allegedly) released Hip Hop song is The Sugarhill Gangs 1979 debut single fittingly
entitled Rappers Delight on their own Sugarhill Records. While it is documented that this
isnt the first released song to feature any sort of rapping, it is the first song to popularize Hip

Hop. Suddenly, more and more labels were releasing their own version of the newfound
Hippity Hoppity music. Hip Hop started to take flight. Soon, every large city in the US was
buzzing. And while the aspects of Hip Hop were already intertwined with the culture of the big
cities (in 1971, Philadelphia was called The Graffiti Capital of The World), the other
elements had to wait their turn and combined themselves to create a new type of street culture.
Later, acts like Funky Four Plus One and LL Cool J along with Gangsta Rap pioneer
Schooly D were present on radios across the US (and later Europe). All these rappers were led
and inspired by one thing, their upbringing. It motivated them to push themselves harder so
they wouldnt have to go back to the ghetto and partake in criminal activities that were
common at this time such as drug dealing (a famous epidemic of crack cocaine happened in
the 80s, some early rappers lost their lives too), robbing (early rappers Cool C and Steady B
were arrested and in 1996 for the murder of a female police officer during a robbery that fell
through, they are currently on death row, awaiting the death penalty which was scheduled for
January 2015 but was apparently moved again). The world was changing. Art was changing.
Music was changing. Hip Hop was changing.

2.1. Humble Beginnings

As a form of music, Hip Hop receives a lot of backlash for the lyrics it uses and
emphasizes in its songs. And, some of the criticism is well deserved. At times, rappers go
overboard with the misogyny and repetition as well as the constant fabrication of a number of
events portrayed. But, what should you rap about? We need to consider the educational status
and economic state of the rappers before they broke through into the public eye or started
Most popular rappers lived in insufficient homes with only one parent (usually the
mother, because a good deal of hatred in Hip Hop is directed at the fathers, a good example is
Jay-Z and Beanie Sigels song Where Have You Been from the 2000 album The Dynasty:
Roc La Familia), they grew up in the harsh and violent conditions of the streets (many didnt
survive or did, only to get caught by their past later in their life), surrounded by drug addicts
and HIV infested prostitutes who were on the streets everyday doing anything to get some
crack. When you grow up like that, its hard to think differently. The block is always in the
back of your mind, no matter what youre doing. Its easy for critics to criticize and find flaws
when they brought up in financially secure environments and they could pursue an education.
When you take a different view or angle in life, things can seem very different.
Sometimes, that one moment can change your life, that one chance. Some take that one chance
and prosper, and they make millions (is anything more important these days?), while some miss
it and stay at the bottom. So its easy to see why some albums (from any genre) sound rushed
and incomplete, the artists were forced to meet a certain deadline.

2.2. Rise and Struggle

Money makes the world go around. It always has and it always will. It also runs the
music industry, so the artist that creates has been forced to put his creativity aside and adhere to

the whims of greedy music executives. Most of these executives are a complete contrast to the
musicians they sign or endorse to their label. Theyre from rich, white (occasionally) jewish
families that had money for a long time. They open large record companies with thousands of
employees and hook musicians in with promises of making money. This has happened since the
inception of commercial music. From blues musicians, to the jazz and rock musicians of the
60s and 70s. It just continued with todays music. Since music has become a billion dollar
industry, the extortion done by the people that run the music industry hasnt stopped or
lessened, it has only refined itself. For example, if an artist decides to have 15 songs on an
album, his label could force him to increase or decrease the number of songs on his project. Or,
they can force the recording artist to create certain types of songs that dont necessarily want to
create. There are also some cases in which a rapper doesnt even get to release his album, and
he has to take his problem to court and sue the label which can end up taking too long and
potentially hurting the rappers future endeavors.
Label politics have been the theme for many songs (A Tribe Called Quests seminal
1991 album Midnight Marauders contains the song Check the Rhime which features the
now infamous line: Industry rule number 4080, record company people are shady). And, in
time, artists developed new ways to combat the industrys greed. In the 1970s the first cassette
tapes were made, which allowed people to print their own copies of their album, being that
recording onto tapes and then mixing and mastering was much cheaper than pressing up an LP
record (Tapes also brought the first instance of known piracy, because it was easy for people to
record anything they wanted on them).
Soon, some artists made themselves stand out more than others. These artists had a
tremendous influence on todays rappers. Among them were, KRS-One The Teacha, Rakim
and Eric B., Kool G Rap, EPMD and, probably the most influential one, Big Daddy Kane (who
was responsible for launching several careers including Jay-Zs).

3. Breakthrough
Rap started to get noticed. It was also suppressed by radio stations, and TV stations on
the grounds of being too violent. In the 90s, rap started to get real mainstream coverage and
attention. It is also unanimously accepted that the best period for rap music were the late 80s
and the early 90s, so theyre today called the golden years or the golden era. New York rap
was especially booming. Every part of the city had its representatives.
Brooklyn had Biggie Smalls and Jay-Z, with O.C. and Masta Ace. Harlem had Big L,
Camron and Puff Daddy with the Hitmen. The Bronx (the early originators of the craft) had
Fat Joe, KRS-One and Camp Lo. Queens (the biggest housing projects in the world) had Nas,
Mobb Deep, Pharaohe Monch, A Tribe Called Quest and Organized Konfusion, amongst
others. Staten Island gave us the best known hip hop group of all time, the infamous Wu-Tang
Clan. There was a huge competition amongst all these artists. Clubs were packed. Record
companies were bringing in more money than ever. Rappers were seeing more money than
Todays generation wasnt even born or was in its infancy. Some of the rappers that
started small in this era became huge later, grossing millions (Jay-Z, Puff Daddy, Dr. Dre,
Eminem). Interestingly enough, the east wasnt the only place were rap was being made. The
West almost took over with Dr. Dres 1992 solo debut The Chronic and Snoop Doggs 1993
album Doggystyle. Atlanta was on the verge of making an impact with one the greatest groups
in the history of music, the famed Outkast. The north never had a scene, it never will. Around
the same time, underground rap started to take effect. Those who rejected the mainstream
tendencies of the music being played on the radio and TV kept their ear to the streets and tried
to find the most obscure undiscovered rapper or rap group.
Of course, a lot of these acts are also today underground, with very little exposure and
success, and they wait dormant for someone to discover them. Instrumental and alternative hip
hop also found its way to the listeners ear. The Roots, often cited as the Greatest band in hip
hop (rightfully so) took flight in the late 90s. Some people wanted to hear instrumentals, they
got sick of rapping. Or, as the late Ol Dirty Bastard would say:
Why, dudes wanna get up and rap and rap and rap
Man, forget that.

3.1. Sales
Nobody predicted that the rap game would achieve so much. It came from nothing. It
made something out of nothing. It influenced how people dress, how they accessorized, and
how would they behave. But before that, the sales had to be made. Ultimately (and sadly) the
biggest reason that anyone would release a rap album is to get money. Rappers have stated this
since the inception of hip hop. If an album is certified platinum, that means that it sold a
million copies. If it was certified gold, it sold half a million copies. And, last but not least, the
diamond certification. If an album is certified diamond, it sold 10 million copies (a feat
completed by a chosen few, including but not limited to Eminem, Vanilla Ice, MC Hammer,
Biggie Smalls and Tupac Shakur). It was very difficult to predict the sales of a specific album
in a specific year. A lot of albums made unexpected success, while others flopped and
experienced low sales.
A Tribe Called Quests 1990 debut Peoples Instinctive Travels And The Paths Of
Rhythm, gained 5 microphones (the highest and most respectable then known rating for a rap
album) in the acclaimed Source magazine but still didnt manage to reach platinum status.
While Jay-Zs third album: Vol. 2Hard Knock Life sold no less than 5 and a half million
copies to this day. Of course, some sales were suspicious. There were a lot of conspiracy
theories tied to the sale process. It was speculated that some labels would go out to the music
shops and buy out every copy of their own artists CD. It was also speculated that some labels
would pay the newspapers to report that the number of albums sold were much higher than
what they actually were, all to stir public interest.
At the end, it all boiled down to the sales. Beef and public image only added to popularity.
There's no such thing as bad publicity

3.2. Beef
Since its inception, hip hop was a competition. Breakdance crews danced in the 70's
against others. DJ's mixed against each others, letting the crowd decide who has the better
mixtape. And eventually, crews of rappers rapped together, waiting for the crowd's roar and
applause. And since then, rappers have been at each others necks. Being highly publicized,
these beefs1 made rappers more popular than ever. Nothing was off limits. The probably best
1 Beef, the title of this chapter is also the slang name for a hip hop feud. When someone has a problem with someone, it's
called beefing with someone.


known one is the beef between Nas and Jay-Z in the early 2000s. It started when Memphis
Bleek, an associate of Jay-Zs said a line that rubbed off the wrong way on Nas. He responded
by directly referencing the line he said in a song. Bleek retaliated by saying : Your lifestyle's
written in a song, which was a direct reference to Nas's second album in 1996, It Was
Written. Again, Nas responded in the massive 2001 posse cut 2 entitled Da Bridge 2001 by
saying: Oh you didn't, want to know whose life was written? The life I am living, the ice the
After that, things seemed to have calmed down. This was all until 2001 came and JayZ's sixth album The Blueprint was released. It contained one of the most scathing blows in
the history of rap music. It was named The Takeover. Even though Nas wasn't the only one
addressed in the song (Mobb Deep were also dissed3), he did withstand the most insults.
Accusations were made from both sides, and some of them were actually true. Jay-Z
said that the mother of Nas's child Carmen Bryant had an affair with him, which later turned
out to be true in a cash-grab book she made, where she wrote about all the details of the affair.
The book also revealed a few of the things that Nas stated in his response, the 2001 song
Ether from his album Stillmatic. Nas said that Jay-Z was heavily influenced by him and
that Jay-Z really wanted to emulate him in every way, something that Carmen Bryant later
corroborated in her book, she said that he had a large amount of rare Nas vinyl records in his
house. This can further be verified by the fact that Jay-Z asked Nas to appear on his 1996 debut
Reasonable Doubt, on the song Coming Of Age, something that Nas didn't do.
Also, Jay-Z sampled and referenced Nas a few time before the beef, always in an
affirmative manner. Its fair to say that nobody won. Jay-Z's own mother had to call in at a
radio interview and apologize for her son's actions. After 2002, the feud seemed to have calmed
down indefinitely. In 2006 Jay-Z appeared on Nas's 2006 album (Hip Hop Is Dead), on the
song Black Republicans, showing that they buried the hatch, and went back to being friends.
This just shows how far beef can go. It just goes to show what petty music can make people do.

2 A hip hop song that features 5 or more rappers.

3 A diss song is a offensive, attacking song aimed at someone. When you disrespect someone it's called dissing someone.



Where do we go from here? Does today's rap draw and give back to the old generation?
These are very tricky questions to answer. If you asked 10 rap fans, you could possibly get 10
different answers. Yes, there are certain rappers who wear their influences on their sleeves.
Southern rapper Z-Ro stated that his only influence came from another, earlier southern rapper
called K-Rino. J. Cole (an artist whose last album from 2014 sold a million copies, he is
certainly relevant enough to talk about) said that he is directly influenced by Jay-Z, Nas,
Eminem and Canibus, amongst others. Still, early rappers should receive more credit for what
they did. Every rap artist draws from them, one way or another. Even the artists responsible for
today's biggest club songs are directly influenced by early 90's southern groups such as UGK,
Outkast and Master P.
There have also been 3 types of modern rappers, rated by how they credit older rappers.
The ones that embrace their influence, the ones that acknowledge them but give them no
further credit and the ones that completely reject them. This also reflects on their fan base and
on their sales. Remember, sales are important. Somehow, todays sales have declined. This
should be blamed on the economic crisis. New artists struggle to sell at least 10.000 copies of
their album. This has a lot to do with the way the artists present themselves to their fans. Some
offer free music, some offer big bundle packs with every purchase, some make huge free
concerts in remote destinations. A lot of today's success depends on the Internet. The Internet
did 2 things to todays music. One good and one bad. They're intertwined. There's no denying
The good thing is that it made it easy to promote new artists and get their music to
anyone in the world. Anyone can hear anything. You just need 2 speakers, a computer and an
Internet connection. The bad thing is that it helped piracy immensely. Anyone can nowadays
rip5 an album and transfer its contents on line. Almost nobody buys albums these days,
everyone tries to download them illegally.
And to a certain extent, this is also a good thing. While it does hurt the rappers sales, it
also at least shows that there is a fan base behind him (even though they don't support him
financially). However, the fate of today's rap isn't based on sales. If they did it for the money,
they would probably die after a few months. We have to remember, no matter how big rap has
become, it still isn't big enough. Maybe it shouldn't be. It would be foolish to try to predict the
4 Also the name of Dr. Dre's label which housed many famed rappers, and it became notorious for its perfectionistic
policy. A very limited number of rappers actually got to release an album.
5 Gathering something from a (usually copyrighted) CD.


future of rap, I wouldn't do it, personally. We just have to sit and observe, listen carefully and
hope for the best. Something will turn up. Hopefully.


It's undoubtable that hip hop has had a tremendous influence on modern culture. One
can even argue that it is the single most influential current in todays art. Hip hop was recently
deamed the most streamed genre in modern music. It was predicted that it would go away after
a small period of time, like any ordinary fad. It didn't. It had its share of infighting, misogony,
triumph, bad albums, classic albums, great rappers and bad rappers. You can't make history by
having all classic songs. Some purposly made bad songs and albums to release themselves from
their label obligation which they got by signing a contract or to draw attention to their other
Everything has its trials and tribulations and hip hop isnt an exception. Even the death
of the genres most sacred figures such as J Dilla, 2Pac, The Nottorious B.I.G.(who was
reffered to as Biggie Smalls throughout the text) and Proof. When one is gone, another one
takes his place. So far, hip hop has been an artform with its divas, legends, prima donnas,
icons, billionaires, slumlords and gangsters. Even though i think that at a lot of times the wrong
rapper gets the attention he doesnt deserve, i am happy. I am happy because someone that
loves what i also love and takes time to dedicate himself to something that i love shouldnt be
without love.
We all need to learn to love, and thats what hip hop has been about since its inception.
We all also need to learn about learning. Knowledge, peace, love, unity, hip hop in its essence.



Jay-Zs first magazine publication in the 90s.


A hip hop DJ spinning records.



1. Edwards, Paul. How to Rap: The Art & Science of the Hip-Hop MC. Chicago Review Press,
Chicago, 2009.
2. Jay-Z. Decoded. Random House, New York, 2010.






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