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Music History - HipHop/ Rap
A large percentage of African-American youths faced unemployment and lived in conditions close to poverty during the 1970s and 1980s compared to white Americans. Hiphop and Rap music originated from this background of hardship, drugs and gang-related violence in New York's inner cities such as the South Bronx. DJs started off playing for private parties and instead of playing whole songs, played short fragments, percussion breaks and started to sample different types of polyrhythmic music.
One DJ pioneer was Kool DJ Herc (a.k.a. Clive Campbell), who started spinning in 1973. He is now regarded as one of the founders of Hip Hop. He also pioneered the use of break beats which are the non-instrumental percussion sections of a track and to spin them back to back. His technique was given the name merry-go-round and it wasn't long before other DJs began to emulate him. Herc was also one of the first DJs to start using two turntables, quickly mixing and fading one song into another. One of his most classic breaks is "Apache" by the incredible Bongo Band.
The next step from mixing and scratching was to add vocals which started with a call and response game with the DJ and the audience and progressed onto a "rap" or talking phrases by the DJ. The creation of a MC occurred and DJs would start to collaborate with MCs who would rap over the sampled music. The first MC was probably Cowboy (a.k.a. Keith Wiggins) from Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five. By now, this style of music was beginning to extend out from the Bronx into areas such as Harlem, Queens and Brooklyn and the music was happening live on the streets rather than being recorded.
Another DJ pioneer was Africa Bambaataa who was another of the first original "scratch mix" DJs in the mid to late 1970s, along with Kool DJ Herc. He recorded with artists from other disciplines such as James Brown, Johnny Rotten and UB40. He was also involved in the release of many records such as "Rappers Delight" (1979) on the Sugarhill Label by the Sugarhill Gang which was probably the first serious attempt to achieve a commercially successful hip-hop record. Other tracks include "The Breaks" (1980) by Kurtis Blow, "Planet Rock" (1982) which he recorded with the Soul Sonic Forces (and was influenced by Kraftwerk's "Trans Europe Express") and his second single, "Looking for the perfect beat" (1982).
In 1981, Bambaataa and the Jazzy 5 (Master Bee and A. J. Les) released "Jazzy Sensation" on Tommy Boy Label. In 1983, a collaboration with Rusty Egan (Visage's drummer) produced "The Wildstyle" and in 1984 "Renegades of Funk" was released by the Soul Sonic Force. He also created the Zulu Nation and Organisation which attempted to bring peace to the Hip Hop and Rap community.
In 1980, Blondie released "Rapture" under Chrysalis Records which was in a hip-hopish style. Debbie Harry and Chris Stein had become influenced by both the graffiti artist Fab Five Freddy and with the music that was emerging from the Bronx. They were greatly impressed by a performance from Grandmaster Flash.
Sugarhill Records was formed by Sylvia Robinson and her husband Joe after hearing her children listening to dodgy bootleg tapes at home. "Rapper's Delight" was the first Sugarhill recording, followed by "Flash to the Beat", "Adventures on the wheels of steel", "The message" (1982) and "White lines".
Grandmaster Flash was so nicknamed due to his speed on the turntable. He formed a group with five MCs called Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five which included DJ Flash, Cowboy, Melle Mel (a.k.a. Melvin Glover), his brother Nathaniel (Kid Creole), Duke Bootee (Ed Fletcher), and Kurtis Blow.
Kurtis Blow was born in Harlem in 1959 and was one of the first rappers to be managed by Russell "Rush" Simmons management company. Blow was initially part of the Furious Five, but left to join the Force posse with Larry Smith and DJ Davey DMX. "Christmas Rappin'" in 1979 became a success and Blow was soon signed to Mercury. In fact he was the first Rap artist to be signed. His second single was "The Breaks" which became a major American R&B hit. In 1985, he had a hit with "If I Ruled the World" and collaborated with Bob Dylan and George Clinton on the album "Kingdom Blow" (1986). Rush's brother, Joseph was so highly impressed with Blow he called himself "Son of Kurtis Blow" at one point before changing his name to Run and going on to form Run DMC. Blow's sound has since been sampled by artists such as Tricky and the Beastie Boys.
Several Hip Hop/Rap movies emerged during the mid 1980s as the style of music became more mainstream and became popular: Breakdance, Body Rock, Breakdance 2 - Electric Boogaloo and Beat Street. Breakdancing also became popular with help from the films Flashdance in 1983 and Breakin' in 1984. Movements were perfected by dancers such as Crazy Legs and the Rock Steady Crew. A street element was defined in the clothes and in the art of graffiti on subways, walls and other public places by such artists as the Vanguards, Magic, the Nod Squad and the A Last Survivors.
Run DMC was formed in 1982 and combined Rap with heavy metal. The group consisted of DJ Jason Mizel with rappers Darryl Mc Daniels and Joseph "Run" Simmons. Their first album became the first ever gold rap album. Other releases include "King of Rock" which used the heavy metal guitar playing of Eddie Martinez. They also collaborated with Aerosmith with "Walk this way" (1986) which was on the "Raising Hell" album and reached no.5 in the US charts. Other tracks include "It's like that" and "Hard Times". Run DMC joined with Africa Bambaataa, Kurtis Blow, Duke Bootee and Mel Melle to form Artists against Apartheid.
Some aspects of Rap music was associated with the attitudes of the inner cities and gang cultures. "Gangsta Rap" emerged which mirrored the potential violence between rival gangs in areas known as the Hood. Artists such as Schooly-D (former member of the Parkside Xillers in N. Philadelphia) released the track "PSK - What Does it Mean" (1986). NWA (Niggers with attitude) were another band who were formed in 1987 with Eric "Easy-E" Wright, Ice Cube (aka Oshea Jackson) and Dr. Dre. Their second album "Straight Outta Compton" (1988) contained the track "Fuck the Police". Ice Cube split from NWA to rap solo with his "Amerikkka's Most Wanted" (1990) with "Dead Homiez", followed by "Kill at Will" (1990) which contained the track "The Product". Dr. Dre (b.1965) went on to become a successful artist in his own right with his "The Chronic" album (1992), followed by "Dr. Dre 2001" and produced Eminem's "Marshall Mather's' album".
Other Rap artists which touched on the subject of Gangsta Rap include Public Enemy with Chuck D (aka Carlton Ridenhour) who released "It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back" and hit the US top 10 in 1990 with "Fear of a Black Planet" on Def Jam Records. By the mid 1990s, the Death Row Label with Snoop Doggy Dog, Dr Dre and Tupac Shakur, had made nearly $400 million in four years.
During this period, the colourful private lives of certain rappers became public knowledge. Snoop was acquitted of murder, Death Row's owner Suge Knight was sent to prison for murder, Tupac was found shot dead in a drive-by and Biggie Smalls was also murdered in 1997.
Research carried out on consumer groups during the mid 1990s highlighted the fact that over 75% of hip-hop record buyers were young and white. Hip-hop had become popular and mainstream. Jay-Z's "Hard Knock Life" album reached the US no.1 position for five weeks in 1998. Other artists/bands such as Ice T, Will Smith and the Fugees have all achieved great chart success. New York's Mary J. Blige (b.1971) was proclaimed the quenn of hip-hop with her 1992 album release "Real Love" followed by "Mary".