Feel free to keep this track playing in the background
as you scroll through the origins of Hip Hop.

The roots of Hip Hop go back to African-American music and ultimately African music. The griots of West Africa are a group of traveling singers and poets who are part of an oral tradition dating back hundreds of years. Their vocal style and musical instruments contributed an influence of blues to American music.

1960s - 1970s


Further initial position:


Within the city centre of New York City many clubs and discotheques promoted disco music.
Many radio stations throughout the area used this as their predominant genre as well.







This was contradictory to the gang violence and general tensions resulting from devastation and urban decay in parts of New York such as the Bronx.

"It (the light and airy disco genre) was something that seemes very far from what a ghetto kid on the street could realistically hope to attain or be a part of. That whole idea of the flashy, gaudy, the costumes and all that stuff was something Hip Hop reacted against." Fab Five Freddy


It was not an appropriate representation of the lifestyle blaks were experiencing at that time.
Disco music was soft. Black living was hard.

From  The Rap Year Book


Source: BBC.com
Source: BBC.com

When in 1973 you received an invitation to one of the block parties hosted by DJ Kool Herc you were most likely present in one of the moments many would describe as the birth of Hip Hop.


"Herc was a revolutionary, he revolted, he did not wanna play the music from the radio (disco). He wanted to give us the music that we grew up on, he wanted to give us more soul - we gonna play funk music." (Kurtis Blow)


He made a difference based on his record selection and he discovered often merely played the breakdown section of songs. (That is when the singer drops out and it is just the instruments - mainly drums and bass left.)

The new Merry-Go-Round technique of mixing two turntables and simultaneously keeping track of the break parts on both of them required more concetration from the disc jockey. Especially Kool Herc was not able to keep up the tradition of toasting (which originated in Jamaica the home country of Herc) during his performances. 


Consequently, Kool Herc asked Coke La Rock to take over the improvised shout outs which resulted in him being the often called the first ever MC in Hip Hop history.

Coke La Rock (L) DJ Kool Herc (R)
Coke La Rock (L) DJ Kool Herc (R)

Gang violence peaked during the 1970s which Herc described as:

It started coming together as far as the gangs terrorizing a lot of known discotheques back in the days. [...]
There were the Savage Skulls, Glory Stompers, Blue Diamonds, Black Cats and Black Spades.



Flash - Herc - Bambaataa
Flash - Herc - Bambaataa

"Somewhere down the line, the evil ones stole the legacy of Hip Hop and flipped it to a corporate type of Hip Hop. They decided to tell everybody 'Well, this is what Hip Hop is', instead of coming back to the pioneers and getting the true definition of what Hip Hop is and what it was and what we been pushing for all these years." (Afrika Bambaataa)

Somewhere down the line, the evil ones stole the legacy of hip hop and flipped it to a corporate type of hip hop. They decided to tell everybody 'Well, this is what hip hop is,' instead of coming back to the pioneers and getting the true definition of what hip hop is and what it was and what we been pushing for all these years.
Read more at https://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/afrika_bambaataa_556291?src=t_hip_hop

Bambaataa expanded the four original elements to include
knowledge and understanding.


He developed the idea of a melting pot for different gang members who desired to straighten out their lives in order

  • to bring more peace, love, unity and fun. 
  • to be warriors for the community and not destructors.



1970s to 1980s


it is believed  that Keith Wiggins (als known by his stage name Keef Cowboy)
created the term "Hip Hop" while teasing a friend who had just joined  the US Army,
by scat singing the words "hip/hop/hip/hop" in a way that mimicked the
rhythmic cadence of marching soldiers.
Cowboy later  worked the "Hip Hop"
cadence into a part of his stage performance,


Keef Cowboy was a member of a new formed group which was soon
recognized for their skillful raps and their pioneering in freestyle battles -

Grandmaster Flash and The Furious Five

Grandmaster Flash (DJ)


On his own website Flash is described the following:

"Emerging from the South Bronx in the early 1970s, Grandmaster Flash is inarguably one of Hip Hop’s original innovators. In the earliest days of the genre, he manipulated music by placing his fingers on the vinyl, perfected beat looping, and discovered many of the most iconic beats still commonly sampled today. It’s no surprise that The New York Times calls him Hip Hop’s first virtuoso."

The Furious Five (Rappers)

  • Cowboy invented the shouts like
    "Throw your hands in the air"
  • Melle Mel created a consciousness
    for Hip Hop and the work of MCs
  • Kidd Creole
  • Rahiem
  • Scorpio

"The group's use of turntablism, break-beat deejaying, choreographed
stage routines and lyricism was a significant force in the
early development of hip-hop music."

from Discogs

"Quickly now, quickly now
The bass was in your face
The highs make you nature rock
Young ladies in the place
Feel the highs, feel the bass
If you want to rock till the break of dawn somebody say

The bread to the butter
See'mon everybody let's rock one and other
Hey ashes to ashes, dust to dust
Nobody rocks the mic like the five of us"


After the Blackouts in New York City

some people who could have never afforded musical equipment were able to get
away with turntables.


Even Grandmaster Caz was able to get some devices which is why he expanded his skills to include DJing into his repertoire.


Caz is known as the first real Hip Hop poet with his many notebooks filled with lyrics without any crossouts.

At this point the era of the original founders and pioneers of the Hip Hop culture came to an end.
Back then many tracks were not even recorded since that was not what it was all about.
Hip Hop was rather a type of life performance, an art form which could hardly be captured and was for the most part even considered illegal and as no good use for society.


From now on the interpretation of Hip Hop split up -

Before Hip Hop was just cultural.
It was like a parallel universe where all the racial tensions from the 60s which Martin Luther King aimed to diminish were solved. A seperate culture which did not depend on country or skin color but on the character inside of you.


And there were rules.

If you were "Down by law" you had a certain immunity within the community, the community trusted you.

The community wanted you to rise and to represent them because you lived according to the one rule in Hip Hop - RESPECT.



Now Hip Hop becomes corporate.

Suddenly it is socially accepted.


With the song "Rapper's Delight" by the Sugarhill Gang being sold over two million times and intended to by Silivia Robinson (Producer) to yield a lot of money Hip Hop turned into a buisness.

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