A Conversation for The Four Elements of Hip Hop

This is Hip Hop

Post 1


Some Points…

Rap and Hip Hop used to be two distinct forms of music. Hip Hop always referred to a more danceable form of Rap inspired R&B performed for the benefit of Club goers. It wasn’t until the advent of House and Acid dance music that Rap and Hip Hop became interchangeable terms.

In the early days MC's were their own DJ's.

Kool DJ, Spoony G, Super Rhymes... All of these acts arose during (and possible in response to) the last days of disco, in the late 1970s.

Cuttin' and Scratchin' DJ methods were delivered out of the inner city for the first time by (of all people) Jazz musician Herbie Hancock (Future Shock, RockIt! 1983).

Mix Master Mike of the Beastie Boys came very late in the game. The only claim the Beastie Boys have is being the first commercially successful white group to use “rap-inspired” lyrical structures.

Limp Bizkit, Linkin Park and Incubus, are maybe the thousandth rock band to use hip-hop elements. By the time they came along this path had been thoroughly tamed by the likes of the Beastie Boys, Faith No More and Anthrax.

Rap arose in the streets of the South Bronx and another area of the Bronx known as “The Valley”. (as in ‘…Sally from the Valley…’Slick Rick) It is quite possible that Rap came about as an attempt to emulate the spoken word poetry (beat) that was popular at that time in Harlem.

Most of these early Rap/DJ parties did occur out-doors and were usually powered by Jeri-rigged hooks ups to lamp-posts.

Rap has morphed over time and the topics and styles changes and therefore the meaning and definition of rap changes.

This is Hip Hop

Post 2


Hi there,

Thanks for your comments. I'm not sure whether you are arguing with me, or just adding your own thoughts, but it's interesting all the same! smiley - ok

I can't say I agree with everything you say though. You seem to take quite a rap-centric view of things.

For example, you say "Rap and Hip Hop used to be two distinct forms of music". Most people who know about the scene would say that hip hop isn't a form of music at all - it's a culture. Rap is the poetry of hip hop culture. Basically I see em-ceeing as the voice of hip hop.

Em-ceeing is being on the mic - whether you are rapping, beatboxing or just doing call-and-response. The Jurassic 5 MCs do all of this (I saw them in concert recently) and they always refer to themselves as MCs, never as "Rappers", although they do rap.

The idea of hip hop being a "more danceable form of Rap" is a misnomer, probably arising from the huge growth in R&B-style "Rap" which gets a lot of radio play and marketing.

You say "Rap and Hip Hop became interchangeable terms". Personally, I don't think they ever were interchangable terms. The fact that people who don't know much about them might use them interchangably doesn't mean that they are the same thing. I don't think any serious music journalist, for example, would get them mixed up.

>>>In the early days MC's were their own DJ's.

Actually it was the other way around. DJs were sometimes their own MCs. The first in New York was Kool Herc, and he was definitely first and foremost a DJ. These DJs would use the mic to shout out to people at the party, stoke up the crowd, or ask the person with the green truck to move it because it's blocking the road.

>>>Cuttin' and Scratchin' DJ methods were delivered out of the inner city for the first time by (of all people) Jazz musician Herbie Hancock (Future Shock, RockIt! 1983).

Rockit was the first time most people saw scratching on TV, but I don't think this was the first time it was "delivered" out of the inner cities. You seem to be suggesting that before Rockit, it wasn't worth bothering about because it was just something going on in the "inner city". Which misses the point.

Some people (like Mix Master Mike) cite the 1982 Malcolm McLaren hit "Buffalo Gals" as the first time they heard the scratch. It was also McLaren who put out the LP "D'Ya Like Scratchin'" in 1983.

Anyway, it wasn't Herbie Hancock himself (who was as much a funk musician as a jazz musician) who was responsible for the scratching, it was Grand Mixer DXT. Who is rightly a legend in scratch dee-jaying for that one performance because it inspired so many of the current generation to become scratch DJs.

>>>Mix Master Mike of the Beastie Boys came very late in the game. The only claim the Beastie Boys have is being the first commercially successful white group to use “rap-inspired” lyrical structures.

Not sure what your point is here. I was using the Beasties and Mix Master Mike as examples because they are famous enough for most people to have heard of them. You might not personally like the Beastie Boys, but they have had a very successful 16-year career as a rap group, are constantly innovative and have a lot of respect in the music industry.

Don't forget that back in the day, the idea of a rapper or MC *not* having a DJ was unthinkable. But with the development of music technology it became unnecessary to have turntables because the music could be manufactured. All the record companies needed was the rapper.

What the Beasties did was to help bring the scratch DJ *back* into the position that he had been exiled from - providing the rapper's beats live on stage. No major group had done this since Run-DMC, so don't underestimate the impact of what the Beasties did.

>>>Limp Bizkit, Linkin Park and Incubus, are maybe the thousandth rock band to use hip-hop elements.

Again, these are just famous examples. Also, it's a bit more than using "hip-hop elements" - I was very specifically talking about rock bands who have included a scratch DJ as part of their line-up on stage.

You're right to say that "rap" is always changing and evolving. I guess I see rapping as just one part of a whole hip hop culture that embraces all sorts of creative activity. Which is why I wanted to write about the four elements of hip hop.



This is Hip Hop

Post 3


I'd just like to throw in my 5pence worth.

There is not, and never was, any such thing as hip-hop.


the package of elements was put together by a journalist who saw a way to market them as a complete culture.

Graffiti art started early 70s. Hip-hop music itself, as far as i can recall from various sources, was late 70s.

Graffiti has been adopted by the 'Hip-hop culture' - it has become the artistic and illegal expression of that grouping of people.

But at no time in New York, the birthplace of all these 'elements', did they all come together of their own accord - the ideallic (?) scenario of breakdancers on a mat in front of a piece of graffiti freshly painted, breakdancing to the sound of a DJ and and MC - with hip-hop folks sitting around and writers sitting drawing in their sketchbooks.

The only real times that happened were the aformentioned 'Beat Street' and 'Wild Style' films, which are FICTION and the package sold in them is NOT REAL. The other time was Henry Chalfant, Graffiti photographer, getting the Rock Steady breakdance Crew to perform in his studio against a painted background to the sound of a DJ and MC.

This stuff shocked me - it's a funny to find out that this whole idea of a culture you thought you were part of may exist to a certain extent now - but its originators and pioneers probably hardly knew each other.

You may ask what the proof is of this - I recently saw a documentary screened at the Edinburgh Film festival called 'Just to get a Rep' by Peter Gerrard.
It's fantastic.
It gives a little background of Graffiti for those who don't know. But it then goes on to interview some of the biggest legends and originators of both Graffiti art and Hip-hop: The likes of Afrika Bambataa, Blade and Comet, Mode2, Zephyr. All of them say the same thing: Graffiti came first, then Djing, Breakdancing came from the beats the Djs were playing, and MCing was originally only warming the crowd up, announcing records, spurring the crowd on. All of them agree, in seperate interviews, that at no point except for Chalfant's studio, Beat street and Wild Style, did these 'elements' form a culture they were all aware of.

None of them even coined the phrase 'Hip-hop'.

That phrase was a rhyming loop 'a hip, hop, ya don't stop' and so on - to bridge gaps in ryhmes and records. It was a journalist who first threw the package together.

Enough ranting, that's the facts from a few folks who invented the 'culture', through interviews, a TV screen and finally through my ears and eyes to my fingers. I'll try and post more details here about how to get hold of 'Just to get a rep' when it comes out. In the mean time, the film that inspired a generation of kids to start graffiti writing and breakdancing (in everywhere that hadn't heard of it already) was 'Style wars' By Henry chalfant, available from Amazon but cheaper from http://www.loaded247.co.uk .

graffiti nobody.
That phrase came from

This is Hip Hop

Post 4


I understand the point that you are trying to make, but I think it is undeniable that there is communication between the elements outlined in this article - Bboying, MCing, DJing and Graffing. Although it may well be true to say that the different elements each arose discretely and in their own right, this communication between them has allowed the development of a collective culture. The elements have come together and created a greater whole.
The practioners I know personally may have diffrent expertises within this culture, but they all consider themselves to be part of a culture - awider community beyond their own particular practice. Most Bboys will appreciate a piece of graf; most graf artists will have an appreciation and understanding of the musical elements, whether or not their crew contains representatives of all the elements associated with hiphop culture. And I have to add, I certainly know crews that *do* contain representatives of each - the DJs spin, the MCs rap and the dancers dance while the painters paint. Any and all of this, in part or in whole, to me is hiphop.

This is Hip Hop

Post 5


I very much agree with what you've said here, and whatever the history, people these days who do any of the elements identify themselves as part of a 'hip hop' culture.

It is true that some revisionist history goes on in terms of the early days of hip hop, and certain legends have been created that may or may not be 100% true, but that is how cultures gain their traditions and stories.

I'm not shocked to discover that 'hip hop' was invented by a journalist! They do this all the time, as do advertisers/marketeers, as they need to find words to describe a culture that the rest of us are just living. It was a journalist who coined the term "breakdancing". The documentary sounds interesting though - I'll look out for it.

It's also true that if you are involved in one element, you are likely to be interested in/involved in another. Just as many people who like classical music also appreciate classical art, architecture etc. It is particularly exciting when cultures cross-fertilise or collide. I was at the DMC World DJ Championships the other weekend, and a young contestant from Sweden did this set where he scratched a beat over Mozart's Rondo. Very witty - got huge applause from the crowd.

This is Hip Hop

Post 6


What i meant in my response was that it is undeniable there is communication and cross-overs between the elements now, but such communications did not truly exist during the early days of the culture: there were obvious communications such as djs and mcs, and with them bboys, but the only way graffiti would have been tied into the 'communications' would have been coincidence: artists known to the djs or organisers being commissioned for flyers and the like not because graffiti was viewed as part of the package; but because they knew of graffiti artists at that time. This communication doesn't really solidify the relationship between graffiti and hip-hop, because in the same way writers around at the time would have been asked to do flyers etc for hip-hop and funk clubs, i also get commissioned by hip-hop clubs but also drum n bass clubs and rock nights... but my graffiti is not tied to their 'cultures' either...

it is well worth checking out that documentary though. I don't know any more details on its release as yet, but no doubt it's in demand!


This is Hip Hop

Post 7


I guess it depends whether you want to look at roots and "origins" (origins are notoriously problematic anyway), or the development from those origins. Although, as you say, it may be the case that in the beginning there was the Word and it was spray-painted and not rapped, these elements have come to develop organically together. I think we're really all in agreement here, just looking at different parts of the picture.
I will check out the documentary, it looks interesting!

Speaking of developments, I think that the influence of Kung-Fu and Capoeira upon Bboying can sometimes be overstated. It is true that a lot of Bboys liked their Hong King movies, and that some movements are certainly in imitation of martial art styles. But I think, equally, that Bboying had its own line of internal development, adding footwork and freezes to toprocking and uprocking, that was quite independent of other cultural influences. Just a thought.

This is Hip Hop

Post 8


very true.
i find it hard to see much of a capoerian (?) influence at all in breaking, but i would imagine it's more evident in brazilian breaking styles?

i find it more interesting watching older breakdancers / videos who are more into funky styles rather than gymnastics. there seems to be a few who can sure do these mad moves but really lack style.

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This is Hip Hop

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