Friday, August 11, 2023

Hip Hop Celebrates 50 Years


I said a hip hop, Hippie to the hippie,
The hip, hip a hop, and you don’t stop, a rock it
To the bang bang boogie, say, up jump the boogie,

To the rhythm of the boogie, the beat.


With these words from the song “Rapper’s Delight” by the Sugarhill gang a new genre in music began that would capture generations to come.  “Hip Hop” would be born.  Hip Hop is believed to have been born in a housing project in the Bronx on 1520 Sedgwick Avenue on August 11, 1973.

Here, a resident named “DJ Kill Herc” used the building’s community center to host parties.  During one party he scratched records and began to “rap” or rhyme over the beat as African American and Puerto Rican partygoers break danced.  Other words used for “rap” are “emceeing” and “spitting.” Together, African Americans and Puerto Ricans united to form this new genre. 

This new music would capture the interest of the Black and Puerto Rican youth of the Bronx and would spread like wildfire throughout the city and eventually the globe.  From there, other rappers adopted the style and began to add to the new genre.  The genre began by using melodies and samples of disco music set in repetition while one rhymed to the beat.  Consecutive rhyming would later be called, “flow.”  Rapper “Rakim” is often given credit for developing this term and using it in his music.

As the genre developed, newer styles were incorporated such as, “The Chant,” “The Syncopated Bounce,”“Straight Forward,” “The Rubik’s Cube,”“2-5-Flow,”“sung rhythmic style,” “percussion-effusive style,” and “speech-effusive style.”  Each past and present rapper uses one or more of these styles in his or her music.  Hip Hop would eventually be divided into two “schools”, the Old and New.  The Old School Hip Hop uses basic rhyming with words that have fewer syllables while the New School uses more complex rhyming and more syllables with a faster tempo.

From the Sugarhill Gang, Rakim, Afrika Bambaataa, Run DMC, MC Hammer, Vanilla Ice, the Bestie Boys to Notorious BIG, 2pac, NAS, Eminem 50-cent, Fat Joe, Big Pun, and Jay Z; Hip Hop has grown into a huge global cultural force.  Rapper “Eminem’s” success has shown that the genre is not exclusive to African Americans and Latinos, but also non-Hispanic Whites.

The genre has often been criticized for its dramatic transformation from a simple way of using words with music for fun, to the glorification of violence, misogyny, hedonism, and sexual perversion.  Some attribute this to record labels attempting to profit from using this glorification to sell the music.  Nevertheless, the music has also been used to spread the Gospel.  Both Protestant and Catholic Christians are using the genre to promote the Gospel and Christian values.  We will touch on this more as the article reads along. 

The House of Hip Hop was built with five foundational elements:

  • MCing (Oral)
  • DJing (Aural)
  • Breakdance (Physical)
  • Graffiti (Visual)
  • Knowledge (Mental) 

Recently, rapper Busta Rhymes said that Puerto Ricans and Blacks created Hip Hop. This brought some in the Black community to attack him claiming that he was "erasing" Black people from the genre. This is far from the truth. We cannot deny that Puerto Ricans were heavily involved in the creation of Hip Hop. What Busta Rhymes said is correct in regard to Puerto Ricans and African Americans in The Bronx.  Those of us who grew up in the Bronx can attest to this fact including the pioneers of Hip Hop.  This does not take away from African Americans. 

Puerto Ricans are mixed with Africans and it is safe to say that most African Americans are also mixed and not purely "black" due to slavery and the horrors of it and other factors.  In fact, Puerto Ricans are part of the Black/African diaspora. So no Black person should feel erased or disrespected.  Puerto Ricans and Blacks have always been ONE force fighting against oppression and racism.  This will never change. Before Hip Hop, Puerto Ricans on the island since the time of colonization engaged in "battle rhymes" to acoustic drumbeats (African/Taino) and guitars called "Controversias" or "controversies" in English.  They "dissed" each other using these African-Taino beats and guitars as background repetitive music.  It was all in good fun though.


In my old neighborhood in Belmont, there was the Rocksteady Crew. They were a group of Hip Hop break dancers, artists, and rappers who were Puerto Rican and contributed to Hip Hop in its early days. They were even involved in "Westside Story" type altercations with the local Italians who often frowned upon the presence of Puerto Rican in the neighborhood. 

At times, there were fights on the streets with dozens of youths, both Italian and Puerto Ricans beating each other up into a pulp in the area of Crotona Avenue, 182nd and 183 Street. Most lived at 692, where my family lived at the time. 

We cannot ignore the many pioneers who help create Hip Hop who were Puerto Rican. I am sure some younger Hip Hop fans probably never heard of them.  DJ Charlie Chase, Tracy 168 whose graffiti has been documented on subway cars, Errol Eduardo Bedward known as "Pumpkin" who produce jams and beats in the 1970s, The Rocksteady Crew, The Mean Machine, The Real Roxanne, Shabba-Doo is known for his break dancing, Ruby Dee, Dj Disco Wiz, and many others. Hip Hop was not just created by African Americans. In reality, no one owns it. It belongs to all people. This is why it has branched out throughout the whole world. The genre is heard and has been adapted around the world to different languages, beats, and cultures. 

Women have also found success in the genre of Hip Hop, here are just some of the great rappers who are female: Roxanne Shante, Missy Elliot, Salt N Pepa,  Ivy Queen, Sha-Rock, Lauryn Hill, Queen Latifah, Foxy Brown, Da Brat, Megan Thee Stallion, Lil’ Kim, MC Lyte, Remy Ma, Doja Cat, Eve, M.I.A., Iggy Azalea, Azealia Banks. Hip Hop is probably the only genre in which women have had a stronghold and have found equality. The women were just as good as the male rappers and amassed fandom from both genders. However, before all these great female rappers were the Mercedes Ladies, Baby D (D’Bora), Sherri-Sher, RD Smiley, Zina-Zee, DJ LaSpank, Eve-a-Def, Sweet P, and Sty-Sty. They were the first all-female group founded around 1976 and were the female counterparts of Grandwizard Theodore and the L Brothers. As a group, they performed with Kevie-Kev, Master Rob, Busy Bee Starski, Bambaataa, Red Alert, Kool Herc, the Furious Five, The Cold Crush Brothers, Grandmixer DST, and several others. Though they never achieved success in the record business due to many labels not feeling comfortable investing in women, the Mercedes Ladies were instrumental in paving the way for the many female rap artists we know today and who made it big.

DJ LaSpank whose real name is Gail Hall found new success as a Gospel Hip Hop DJ. She now goes by DJ Flame and hosts a program entitled The Anointed Mic Check on WHCR on the grounds of City College, CUNY. After committing to Christ, she now promotes what she calls Holy Hip Hop, as well as, Gospel music. DJ Flame has been promoting the Gospel via Hip Hop for decades. I remember running into her show late at night when I heard her intro which uses the original Star Trek show's music. I was a young nerd from the Bronx and thought it was a show about Star Trek. However, when I heard the music, I got hooked and have been listening ever since. You can listen every Wednesday morning from 4 AM to 8 AM. She has been featured in many other Bronx-related Hip Hop events and even hosts a Holy Hip Hop session at a Bronx Cafe once a month on Hunts Point Avenue. 

Like the Gospel, Hip Hop has gone viral and has spread to every corner of the globe. Christianity has made use of Hip Hop to further the spread of the Gospel. Many Protestants and Catholics are using the genre to further the message of Christ and the Gospel. Lycrae and T-Bone are among the most popular Protestant Holy Hip Hop artists, and Fr. Stan Fortuna, CFR, Akalyte (formerly MC Just), Fr. Pontifex, and MC Dewey are some of the Catholic Holy Hip Hop artists. Newer Catholic artists such as FoundNation, Nico Santana, Sammy Blaze, Move Merchants, John Levi, RabelzTheMC, Be The Symbol, Communion, and many others are using social media to promote their work. I myself used Hip Hop music in the early 2000s at St. Dominic Church as "Sacerdotus" along with Jesse, Daniel, James, and Jose during my youth ministry days. 

DJ Flame

The genre is attractive to the youth which makes it a perfect instrument to spread the Gospel of Christ in this generation and those that will follow. While not expected to reach the fame and glory of secular Hip Hop, Holy Hip Hop is certainly doing what it is intended to do: preach Christ. Many young people adopt the message of the Gospel better via this genre than by listening to a homily or traditional sermon. Holy Hip Hop has certainly been instrumental and has been used at youth events including the World Youth Day. During his pontificate, St. Pope John Paul II even had break dancers perform for him. 










Despite some negative aspects in the genre which were never the intention of the pioneers, Hip Hop has been instrumental in bringing wealth to minorities. Many Black and Hispanic rappers have risen to immense fame bringing with them immense wealth. Jay-Z, P-Diddy, and 50 Cent are among those who have amassed billions in their careers. These have branched out into other enterprises showing the power of the Hip Hop movement. The genre is so popular that it has replaced Classical music as the mainstream track in many films today. It has also been used to help educate students with teachers using bars to teach students math, history, and even science.   

Tonight, the New Yankee Stadium will host a Hip Hop Concert featuring many of the pioneers of Hip Hop including those in the middle and new schools. It is sold out!  This is a testament to the success and popularity of Hip Hop.   

Today the genre celebrates 50 years and is believed to be losing its popularity due to artists who are not as attractive as those in the past as well as the commercialization of the music.  Originally, the music was used for fun and then became a platform to voice the problems of those growing up in the “hood” or urban areas.  Today it is used to make profits by artists using gimmicks to entertain audiences.

Despite the changes in the genre due to commercialization, it continues to be a beacon for many of all races, genders, and cultures. While the golden age was in the 80s, 90s up to the mid-2000s, Hip Hop continues to be a force in popular culture and will continue to be so.  Hopefully, it will return to its days when it was formed in the Bronx when it was a simple form of expression that was built on having fun.  Hip Hip to Hip Hop!


Source:

http://www.pbs.org/opb/historydetectives/investigation/birthplace-of-hip-hop/

https://hgs-ny.org/five-pillar-of-hip-hop

https://www.bam.org/media/5500824/Elements_of_Hip-hop.pdf

https://vocalo.org/playlists-the-5-elements-of-hip-hop/

https://www.hotnewhiphop.com/690190-five-elements-of-hip-hop

https://www.worldhiphopawards.com/the-5-elements-of-hip-hop

https://www.facebook.com/rocksteadycrewbx/

http://streetsonbeats.blogspot.com/2006/02/rip-buck-four.html

http://www.oldschoolhiphop.com/artists/emcees/mercedesladies.htm

https://www.facebook.com/p/The-Anointed-Mic-Check-tm-with-DJ-Flame-100050959855916/?paipv=0&eav=AfZUHdAp1y0smsf0SsC9usx42K1eoJFREWv9wvHcdG0WUNDKpQUwBR-u-_P0lLpwp5o&_rdr

https://whcr.org/discography/the-anointed-mic-check/

https://www.jstor.org/stable/852787

Book: "From Bomba to Hip-Hop: Puerto Rican Culture and Latino Identity"by Professor Juan Flores who taught Black and Puerto Rican Studies at Hunter College and sociology at the CUNY Graduate Center.  

Book: New York Ricans from the Hip Hop Zone First Edition by R. Rivera (Author)

The actual contributions Puerto Ricans gave to hip hop! @JoeyCrackTS was right! (youtube.com)

HIP HOP IS FROM THE BRONX: A Documentary of NYC's Street Culture #thebronx #hiphophistory (youtube.com)

(1) HIP HOP IS FROM THE BRONX: A Documentary of NYC's Street Culture #thebronx #hiphophistory - YouTube

https://www.chelseanewsny.com/news/the-story-of-puerto-rican-hiphop-LWNP1420030415304159985

https://macaulay.cuny.edu/seminars/henken08/articles/h/i/p/Hip-Hop%E2%80%99s_African-American_New_York_Origins_%26_its_West_Indian_and_Puerto_Rican_influences_f647.html

http://websites.umich.edu/~ac213/student_projects06/student_projects/lhh/images/puertoricans.html

https://www.hot97.com/hot-news/a-history-of-puerto-ricans-in-hip-hop

https://puertoricoarte.com/busta-rhymes-credits-blacks-puerto-ricans-with-being-hip-hop-originators/

https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=325854284971608

https://www.lipstickalley.com/threads/video-busta-rhymes-rants-black-puerto-rican-people-created-hip-hop.1495142/

https://spinditty.com/genres/Best-Female-Rappers

https://www.udiscovermusic.com/stories/the-female-rappers-who-shaped-hip-hop/

https://www.theguardian.com/tv-and-radio/2023/aug/09/ladies-first-netflix-women-hip-hop-history-documentary

https://www.soundoflife.com/blogs/mixtape/trailblazing-women-hip-hop

https://www.phatmass.com/music/

http://www.bethesymbol.com/

https://www.foundnationfamily.com/

https://www.francescoproductions.com/

https://www.communionhiphop.com/biography

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sbyvHJC5VY0&t=17s



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