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The History Of Hip Hop & How It Started

Updated: May 11, 2022

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Hip hop is often called a "youth culture" because it was born in the Bronx, NY in the late 1970s when young people started to experiment with new forms of music and expression.

Over time, hip hop has become a global phenomenon, crossing all cultural boundaries. But what are its roots?

Let's take a look at the history of hip hop and how it began, as well as where it's going.

What Is Hip Hop?

Hip Hop is a musical genre that emerged in the United States in the 1970s. While early Hip Hop was largely African American and Latino, the genre has since become popular with people of all backgrounds.

It is characterised by heavy use of rhythm and bass, as well as sampled sounds, beats and rap.

It is also considered to be a social movement, due to its roots in African American communities.

Hip Hop music often tackles issues such as poverty. Many artists use their platforms to raise awareness about these issues and to promote social change.

Hip Hop culture also encompasses other elements, such as DJing, graffiti writing, and break dancing/Hip Hop dance. And unsurprisingly, the Hip Hop movement has had a significant impact on fashion, film, television, and language. These days, Hip Hop fashion inspires even the high-end fashion market: brands like Givenchy and Gucci have all been influenced by Hip Hop style.

It's safe to say, the Hip Hop influence is spreading like wildfire, despite its humble roots.

How did it all start? Let's dive into the history of Hip Hop next.

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The History Of Hip Hop

The roots of Hip Hop can be traced back to the Bronx, New York City, in the late 1960s.

At that time, the borough was experiencing a surge in crime and poverty, and many young people turned to music as a way to express themselves. Hip Hop lyrics are known for discussing issues such as poverty, violence, and racism.

DJ Kool Herc

DJ Kool Herc is considered to be one of the pioneers of Hip Hop. He is credited with helping to develop the genre in the early 1970s, and his influence is still felt today.

Herc began DJing at parties in the Bronx, and he quickly gained a following for his innovative style. He was the first DJ to use two turntables at the same time, and he began to experiment with longer breaks in the music.

This allowed him to extend the best parts of songs, which got the crowd moving and dancing. These are just some of the trends he created.

Herc's style caught on, and soon other DJs were using his techniques.

Growing Popularity: From The Streets To Mainstream Music

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Hip Hop has come a long way since its humble beginnings in the South Bronx.

Embraced by communities of colour as an authentic expression of their lived experiences, Hip Hop has slowly but surely worked its way into the mainstream. Today, hip hop is one of the most popular genres of music, enjoyed by people of all ages and backgrounds.

While some purists may decry the commercialization of hip hop, there's no denying that the genre has never been more popular. Many argue that hip hop's growing popularity is a sign of progress.

This increased visibility is helping to break down barriers and build understanding between cultures. In a world that is often divided, hip hop is providing a unifying force.

And that's something we can all get behind.

The Core Characteristics of Hip Hop Music

Hip Hop music has become a varied genre now, thanks to its popularity. Whilst there are no set-in-stone rules, these are the core characteristics you can lookout for the next time you listen to a Hip Hop or Hip Hop inspired track.

  • Strong, rhythmic beat: One of the most distinctive features of hip hop is its strong, driving beat. This is often created with electronic music production techniques, such as sampling and sequencing.

  • Rap: Rap, or rhyming verses, is another key element of hip hop. MCs (rappers) use their lyrical skills to tell stories, express themselves, and build up a rhythmic flow.

  • Sampling: Sampling is the process of taking a small section of one song and using it as part of another song. This can be done with vocals, instruments, or other sounds.

  • Scratching: Scratching is a DJing technique in which the DJ moves a record back and forth on a turntable to create a percussive sound. This is often used to add texture and interest to the music.

  • Breaks: In hip hop, breaks are extended sections of a song where only the drums are playing. These provide a moment for dancers to show off their skills, and they also give the listener a chance to catch their breath.

Modern Hip Hop: Today's Styles & Upcoming Trends

Hip hop was originally characterised loosely by its heavy use of samples, beats, and rap.

While the genre has evolved significantly since its early days, new trends have sprung up, keeping the genre fresh and revitalising.

Here are some examples:

  • Mumble Rap: This style of rap is characterised by its mumbled or slurred words, often making it difficult to understand the lyrics. It originated in the 2010s and has become increasingly popular in recent years.

  • Anti-rhyme: This trend, also known as "purposeful misspelling", sees rappers playing with the traditional rules of rhyming. Anti-rhyme can add a sense of humour or irreverence to a song, and it often challenges the listener to engage with the lyrics in a different way.

  • Lo-fi Bedroom Hip Hop: This subgenre is defined by its low-quality production values, often created entirely in a bedroom using computer software. Lo-fi bedroom Hip Hop often has a chilled-out, relaxed vibe, and it's perfect for studying or chilling out.

Hip Hop Quick-fire Facts

  • Hip Hop is a fusion genre: It was created by combining elements of other genres, including Funk, Soul, R&B, and Disco.

  • The wealthiest female rapper as of 2022 is Nicki Minaj: Currently with a net worth of $75million.

  • Kanye West is the wealthiest male rapper as of 2022, with a net worth of $3.2 Billion

  • Hip Hop is the most streamed genre on Spotify, accounting for 38% of streams in 2021.

  • The first Hip Hop song to be played on the radio was "Rapper's Delight" by The Sugarhill Gang.

  • Any Hip Hop track produced between 1973-1984 is considered "old-school" Hip Hop.

Notable Hip Hop Artists You Should Know

Kendrick Lamar

Hailing from Compton, Kendrick Lamar is one of the most successful and acclaimed rappers of his generation. His debut album, good kid, m.A.A.d city, was a critical and commercial success, and it solidified his place as a force to be reckoned with in the Hip Hop world.


Drake is a Canadian rapper, singer, and songwriter who has become one of the most popular figures in hip hop. His hits "Hotline Bling" and "In My Feelings" have taken the world by storm.

Cardi B

Cardi B is a Bronx-born rapper and songwriter who first gained fame through her appearances on the reality TV show, Love & Hip Hop. She released her debut album, Invasion of Privacy, in 2018, and it quickly shot to the top of the charts.

J. Cole

J. Cole is a North Carolina-born rapper and producer who has emerged as one of the most respected names in hip hop. He's known for his introspective and thought-provoking lyrics in his rap music, and he has released five studio albums, all of which have gone platinum.

Kanye West

Kanye West is a multi-talented musician, producer, and fashion designer who has been a driving force in the Hip Hop world for over two decades. He's released some of the most critically acclaimed albums in hip hop history, including The College Dropout, Late Registration, and My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy.


Jay-Z is a legendary rapper, entrepreneur, and mogul who has been a dominant force in the Hip Hop world since the 1990s. He's the co-founder of Roc-A-Fella Records and Roc Nation, and he's released 13 solo studio albums, all of which have gone platinum.

50 Cent

50 Cent is a New York-born rapper, actor, and entrepreneur who has achieved massive success in the world of Hip Hop. He's best known for his hits "In Da Club" and "Candy Shop", and he has a net worth of $30 million.

Nicki Minaj

Nicki Minaj is a Trinidad-born rapper, singer, and songwriter who has become one of the most successful and influential female artists in Hip Hop. She's released four studio albums, all of which have gone platinum.

Lil Wayne

Lil Wayne is a New Orleans-born rapper who rose to fame in the early 2000s with his album Tha Carter III. He's since gone on to release a string of successful albums, and he's currently the president of Young Money Entertainment.

Dr. Dre

Dr. Dre is a legendary rapper, producer, and entrepreneur who helped shape the sound of West Coast rap in the 1980s and 1990s. He's the founder of Aftermath Entertainment and Beats Electronics, and he has a net worth of $800 million.

Snoop Dogg

Snoop Dogg is a Long Beach-born rapper and actor. He's sold over 35 million albums worldwide, and he's starred in such films as Training Day and Starsky & Hutch.

The Notorious B.I.G.

The Notorious B.I.G. was a New York-born rapper who was one of the most successful and influential artists of the 1990s. He released two albums, Ready to Die and Life After Death, both of which were certified diamond.

Tupac Shakur

Tupac Shakur was a rapper who became one of the most popular and controversial artists of the 1990s. He was tragically killed in 1996, but his legacy as a West Coast Hip Hop artist continues to live on through his music.


Nas is a New York-born rapper and producer who is considered one of the greatest rappers of all time. He's released eight studio albums, and his debut album, Illmatic, is widely considered to be one of the best Hip Hop albums of all time.

Travis Scott

Travis Scott is a Houston-born rapper, singer, and songwriter who first rose to fame with his 2013 mixtape Owl Pharaoh. He's since released three studio albums, and he's currently one of the most popular rappers in the world.

Want To Learn More About Hip Hop music?

You've most likely been exposed to Hip Hop music before since after all, it is one of the most popular genres of music. If you're looking for events to further ignite your passion for Hip Hop, why not attend one of our Hip Hop Bunches?

We host Hip Hop Brunches just for Hip Hop fans and enthusiasts!

That's Hip Hop music and DJs + delicious brunch food and a whole load of dancing and partying!

Round up a few of your friends and check out the next events here.

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