Hip Hop Essay

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Hip hop originated in 1974 in the South Bronx, New York City with Kingston, Jamaica-born Clive Campell, the founding ”Father of hip hop.”(Chang and Herc 2005). Its main subcultural elements include DJing (cutting and scratching with two turntables, and performing with the microphone); B-Boying / B-Girling (breaking or break dancing); Emceeing (rapping, or talking in rhyme to the rhyme of the beat); and Tagging and Graffiti Art.

Aided by commercialization, hip hop is also a style of dress (designer baggy shirts and pants, silver and gold chains, backwards baseball caps, scullies, bright white sneakers, and/or Timberlands). Other elements include distinctive urban ”street” language and the spirit of ”keepin it real” (or keeping the style reflective of the everyday realities of black urban life, and minimizing the distorting forces of commercialism). However, the ”bling, bling” and flashy ”cribs” of successful rappers are a central staple of success and are made explicit to the point of parody in New Orleans rapper band Cash Money Millionaires and the 2000s music and dress style ”Ghetto Fabulous.”

By the 2000s hip hop culture had become a billion dollar industry that included famous women rappers such at Lil Kim, Foxy Brown, and Trina and white rapper Eminem, the most economically successful rapper of all time. Hip hop has also achieved cultural recognition via the application of much serious scholarly inquiry and being the object of several noted national museum exhibits. Debates often center on racial ownership of the subculture and its sexist, misogynistic, homophobic, and violent elements. While debates ensue, pop rap endures as the dominant sound over many radio airwaves and pervades youth culture in language, style of dress, cultural and artistic aesthetics, and musical preferences.


  1. Chang, J. and Herc, D. J. (Intro.) (2005). Can’t Stop Won t Stop: A History of the hip hop Generation. St. Martin’s Press, New York.
  2. Halnon, K. B. (2005) Alienation incorporated: ”F*** the mainstream music” in the mainstream. Current Sociology 53 (4): 441-64.

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