Top Definition
Hip hop music, also referred to as rap or rap music, is a style of popular music which came into existence in the United States during the mid-1970s, and became a large part of modern pop culture during the 1980s. It consists of two main components: rapping (MCing) and DJing (audio mixing and scratching). Along with hip hop dance (notably breakdancing) and urban inspired art, or notably graffiti, these compose the four elements of hip hop, a cultural movement that was initiated by inner-city youth, mostly African Americans in New York City, in the early 1970s.

Typically, hip hop music consists of intensely rhythmic lyrical form making abundant use of techniques like assonance, alliteration, and rhyme. The rapper is accompanied by an instrumental track, usually referred to as a "beat", performed by a DJ, created by a producer, or one or more instrumentalists. This beat is often created using a sample of the percussion break of another song, usually a funk or soul recording. In addition to the beat other sounds are often sampled, synthesized, or performed. Sometimes a track can be instrumental, as a showcase of the skills of the DJ or producer.

Hip hop began in The Bronx, located in New York City, when DJs began isolating the percussion break from funk and disco songs. The early role of the MC was to introduce the DJ and the music and to keep the audience excited. MCs began by speaking between songs, giving exhortations to dance, greetings to audience members, jokes and anecdotes. Eventually this practice became more stylized and became known as rapping. By 1979 hip hop had become a commercially popular music genre and began to enter the American mainstream. In the 1990s, a form of hip hop called gangsta rap became a major part of American music, causing significant controversy over lyrics which were perceived as promoting violence, terrorism, promiscuity, drug use and misogyny. Nevertheless, by the beginning of the 2000s, hip hop was a staple of popular music charts and was being performed in many styles across the world.


Hip hop is a cultural movement, of which music is a part. The music is itself composed of two parts: rapping, the delivery of swift, highly rhythmic and lyrical vocals, and DJing, to compose either through sampling, turntablism, instrumentation or beatboxing. Another important factor of hip hop music is the fashion that originated along with the music. These days the underground hip hop community is a growing force online, led by social network video sites like RapSpace.TV Modern Rap often contains lyrics which make it popular with the youth, primarily because of the choice of vocabulary and the issues it addresses, often relating to modern day problems and suffering which the listeners can relate to.

Rhythmic structure

Beats (though not necessarily raps) in hip hop are almost always in 4/4 time. At its rhythmic core, hip hop swings: instead of a straight 4/4 count (pop music) hip hop is based on an anticipated feel somewhat similar to the "swing" emphasis found in jazz percussion. Like the triplet emphasis in swing, hip hop's rhythm is subtle, rarely written as it sounds (4/4 basic; the drummer adds the hip hop interpretation) and is often played in an almost "late" or laid back way.

This style was innovated predominantly in soul, disco and funk music, where beats and thematic music were repeated for the duration of tracks. In the 1960s and 1970s, James Brown talked, sang, and screamed much as MCs do today. This musical style provides the perfect platform for MCs to rhyme. Hip hop music generally caters to the MC for this reason, amplifying the importance of lyrical and delivering prowess.

Instrumental hip hop is perhaps the lone exception to this rule. In this hip hop sub genre, DJs and producers are free to experiment with creating instrumental tracks. While they may mix in sampled rap vocals, they are not bound by traditional hip hop format.

Instrumentation & production

The instrumentation of hip hop derives from disco, funk, and R&B, both in the sound systems and records sampled and session musicians and their instrumentation used. Disco and club DJs' use of mixing originated from the need to have continuous music and thus smooth transitions between tracks. Hip hop Kool DJ Herc, in contrast, originated the practice of isolating and extending only the break—a short percussion solo interlude—by mixing between two copies of the same record. This was, according to Afrika Bambaataa, the "certain part of the record that everybody waits for—they just let their inner self go and get wild." (Toop, 1991) James Brown, Bob James, and Parliament—among many others—have long been popular sources for breaks. Over this one could and did add instrumental parts from other records, frequently as horn punches (ibid). Thus the instrumentation of early sampled or sound system-based hip hop is the same as funk, disco, or soul: vocals, guitar, keyboards, bass, drums and percussion.

Although original hip hop music consisted solely of the DJ's breakbeats and other vinyl record pieces, the advent of the drum machine allowed hip hop musicians to develop partially original scores. Drum set sounds could be played either over the music from vinyl records or by themselves. The importance of quality drum sequences became the most important focus of hip hop musicians because these rhythms (beats) were the most danceable part. Consequently, drum machines were equipped to produce strong kick sounds. This helped emulate the drum solos on old funk, soul and R&B albums from the late 1960s and early to mid 1970s. Drum machines had a limited array of predetermined sounds, including hi-hats, snares, toms, and kick drums.

The introduction of the sampler changed the way hip hop was produced. A sampler can reproduce small sound clips from any input device, such as a turntable. Producers were able to sample familiar drum patterns. More importantly, they could sample a variety of instruments to play along with their drums. Hip hop had finally gathered its complete band.

Many producers and listeners pride certain records for being hip hop lore and thus a good source of samples and breaks. To this day, producers use arcane equipment to replicate the same rough sound used in older records. This lends credibility to the records and serves as a historical reminder to the listeners of hip hop's origins.


The main historical eras of hip hop are the old school hip hop era (1970 to 1985), which spanned from the beginning of hip hop until its emergence into the mainstream, and the golden age hip hop era (1985 to 1993), which consolidated the sounds of the East Coast and the West Coast and transitioned into the modern era with the rise of gangsta rap and G-funk, created by the West Coast. The years after 1993 contain the hardcore hip hop, bling, and underground genres, which largely define the modern era.

Hip hop arose during the 1970s at block parties in New York City, at which the DJs began isolating the percussion breaks to hit funk, soul, R&B and disco songs. The roots of this type of songs stem back to the mid-1950s when soul/funk rock artist James Brown credit Little Richard's band as having been the first to put the funk in the rock beat. These songs were based on – "breakbeat" DJing. As hip hop became popular, performers began speaking while the music played, and became known as MCs or emcees. In 1979, the first commercially issued hip hop recordings were released: "Rapper's Delight" by The Sugarhill Gang which became a Top 40 hit on the U.S. Billboard pop singles chart. 'Rapper' in reference to music was actually coined by this song. Some historians cite King Tim III (Personality Jock) by the Fatback Band to be the first commercially released hip hop recording but they were a funk and disco group.

During the 1980s, hip hop began to diversify and develop into a more complex form. At the same time, more sophisticated techniques were developed, including scratching, and electronic recording. In the late 1980s, a number of new hip hop styles and subgenres began appearing as the genre gained popularity. Hip hop musicians collaborated with rock bands and spread out into the genres of conscious hip hop, jazz-rap and gangsta rap.

In the 1990s, a prolonged confrontation between West Coast gangsta rappers and the resurging East Coast began. It centered around Tupac Shakur and The Notorious B.I.G. and led to both of their deaths, in 1996 and 1997 respectively. In 1996, Cleveland-based rap group Bone Thugs-N-Harmony tied The Beatles' 32-year-old record for fastest-rising single with "Tha Crossroads," and in 2000, Scottish-American White rapper Eminem's The Marshall Mathers LP sold over nine million copies and won a Grammy Award.

Social impact

Hip hop music is a part of hip hop, a cultural movement that includes the activities of breakdancing and graffiti art, as well as associated slang, fashion and other elements. The popularity of music has helped to popularize hip hop culture, both in the United States and to a lesser degree abroad.

The late 1990s saw the rise in popularity of the "bling bling" lifestyle in rap music, focusing on symbols of wealth and status like money, jewelry, cars, and clothing. Although references to wealth have existed since the birth of hip hop, the new, intensified "bling bling" culture has its immediate roots in the enormously commercially successful late-to-mid nineties work (specifically, music videos) of Puff Daddy and Bad Boy Records as well as Master P's No Limit Records. However, the term was coined in 1999 (see 1999 in music) by Cash Money Records artist B.G. on his single Bling Bling, and the Cash Money roster were perhaps the epitome of the "bling bling" lifestyle and attitude. Though many rappers, mostly gangsta rappers, unapologetically pursue and celebrate bling bling, others, mostly artists outside of the hip hop mainstream, have expressly criticized the idealized pursuit of bling bling as being materialistic.

The widespread success of hip hop ― specifically gangsta rap ― has also had a significant social impact on the demeanor of modern youth. The sometimes egotistic attitudes often portrayed in the lyrics and videos of certain hip hop artists have repeatedly shown negative effects on some of their idolizing fans. While the attitudes of specific artists certainly do not represent the rest of the hip hop community, and the effect of lyrical content on youths who are part of the hip hop culture is debatable, very often such youths adopt the much glamorized "gangsta" persona while not being members of any gang. Often these personas incite anti-social behavior such as peer harassment, neglect towards education, rejection of authority, and petty crimes such as vandalism. While the majority of listeners are able to distinguish entertainment from lessons in social conduct, an evident pseudo-gangsta sub-culture has risen amongst North American youth.

Because hip hop music almost always puts an emphasis on hyper-masculinity, its lyrics have been said to reflect a homophobic mindset. It is often suspected that there are a great number of gay or lesbian hip hop musicians who do not come out of the closet, for fear of the decline of their career. Rumors of such have involved hip hop artists such as Queen Latifah, Da Brat, and several others. In 2001, the first annual PeaceOUT World Homo Hop Festival, which features performers by openly lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered rappers was held in Oakland, California, and the festival has continued on an annual basis since then. In 2003 the openly gay hip hop and rap artist Caushun, was signed to the label Baby Phat; however, his record was apparently never released. In 2005, the documentary Pick Up the Mic was released, focusing on LGBT hip hop performers, such as Deep Dickollective.

Hip hop has a distinctive slang, that includes words like yo, flow and phat. Due to hip hop's extraordinary commercial success in the late nineties and early 21st century, many of these words have been assimilated into many different dialects across America and the world and even to non-hip hop fans (the word dis for example is remarkably prolific). There are also words like homie which predate hip hop but are often associated with it. Sometimes, terms like what the dilly, yo are popularized by a single song (in this case, "Put Your Hands Where My Eyes Could See" by Busta Rhymes) and are only used briefly. Of special importance is the rule-based slang of Snoop Dogg and E-40, who add -izz to the middle of words so that shit becomes shizznit (the addition of the n occurs occasionally as well). This practice, with origins in Frankie Smith's non-sensical language from his 1980 single "Double Dutch Bus," has spread to even non-hip hop fans, who may be unaware of its derivation.

Censorship issues

Hip hop has probably encountered more problems with censorship than any other form of popular music in recent years, due to the use of expletives. It also receives flak for being anti-establishment, and many of its songs depict wars and coup d' etats that in the end overthrows the government. For example, Public Enemy's "Gotta Give the Peeps What They Need" song was edited without their permission, removing the words "free Mumia". The pervasive use of profanity in many songs has created challenges in the broadcast of such material both on television stations such as MTV, in music video form, and on radio. As a result, many hip hop recordings are broadcast in censored form, with offending language blanked out of the soundtrack (though usually leaving the backing music intact), or even replaced with completely different lyrics. The result – which quite often renders the remaining lyrics unintelligible or contradictory to the original recording – has become almost as widely identified with the genre as any other aspect of the music, and has been parodied in films such as Austin Powers in Goldmember, in which a character – performing in a parody of a hip hop music video – performs an entire verse that is blanked out.

In 1995 Roger Ebert wrote: "Rap has a bad reputation in white circles, where many people believe it consists of obscene and violent anti-white and anti-female guttural. Some of it does. Most does not. Most white listeners don't care; they hear black voices in a litany of discontent, and tune out. Yet rap plays the same role today as Bob Dylan did in 1960, giving voice to the hopes and angers of a generation, and a lot of rap is powerful writing."


Hip hop has major American magazines devoted to it, including The Source, XXL and Vibe. For a long time, BET was the only television channel likely to play much hip hop, but in recent years the mainstream channels VH1 and MTV have played hip hop more than any other genre. Many individual cities have produced their own local hip hop newsletters, while hip hop magazines with national distribution are found in a few other countries. The 21st century also ushered in the rise of online media, and hip hop fan sites now offer comprehensive hip hop coverage on a daily basis.
Ignorant jackass: hip hop music is GAY

Non-Ignorant normal person: why don't you like it

Ignorant Jackass: because it's bullshit, it takes no skill. it's just talking over a looped beat, it's not music, it doesn't have instruments

Non-Ignorant normal person: a turntable counts as an instrument.

Ignorant Jackass: shut the fuck up. it's ALL about bling bling, cars, ho's, violence and the degradation of the black race. rappers are fags.

Non-Ignorant normal person: wow you generalizing, ignorant, homophobic dumbass, not all of it has that. you have no clue. *shoots him*
by gostupid December 03, 2006

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