With the 2013 BET Hip Hop Awards in Atlanta this weekend, it’s a great time to reflect on the history of the hip hop movement. A product of cross-cultural integration, rap music is deeply rooted within ancient African culture and oral tradition.
Rap as a musical genre was created in the early 1970s in neighborhoods of the South Bronx by a Jamaican DJ named Kool Herc. At house parties, DJ Herc would recite rhymes over instrumentals. His house party style started spreading to Brooklyn, Manhattan and the other NYC boroughs until there were many followers.
One of the earliest rap songs ever recorded was “Rapper’s Delight” by the Sugarhill Gang. That was the first rap record to reach a top spot on the Billboard charts.
The popularity of “Rapper’s Delight” demonstrated hip-hop’s ability to draw commercial appeal. During the early days, rap became synonymous with such names as Grandmaster Flash and the Furious 5 and Afrika Bambaataa, who created the hip hop anthem, “Planet Rock.”
In the late ’70s and early ’80s rap had little emphasis on lyrical technique, but simply good times; with artists like Spoonie Gee, Run-DMC, Fat Boys, Whodini, UTFO and Kurtis Blow. (Although there were notable exceptions like Melle Mel, who paved the way for future rappers through his socio-political content and wordplay).
During the late ’80s and early ’90s (sometimes referred to as the Golden Age of Hip Hop) we witnessed the emergence of hip hop lyricism with artists like Public Enemy‘s Chuck D, Big Daddy Kane, KRS-One, LL Cool J, Doug E Fresh and Eric B. and Rakim.
The late ’80s also marked a new reality – West Coast rap, with early presenters like Ice-T, World Class Wreckin’ Cru and later N.W.A., Eazy-E, Ice Cube, Tupac Shakur, Snoop Dogg, Dr. Dre and the list goes on.
Additionally, during the late ’80s, we saw an emergence of female rappers including Salt N Pepa, MC Lyte and Queen Latifah and continued on with notables such as Lauryn Hill, Lil Kim, Foxy Brown, Missy Elliott, Da Brat, Eve, Nicki Minaj and more.
On television, BET, launched on January 25, 1980. Initially broadcasting for two hours a week as a block of programming on Nickelodeon, it was in 1983 that BET became a full-fledged channel, with the network’s lineup consisting of music videos and reruns of popular black sitcoms.
Hip hop couldn’t be recorded in history without the contribution of southern rap, which originated from southern cities like Atlanta, Houston and New Orleans with artists like Scarface, Master P, The Geto Boys, UGK and others.
Atlanta became the hub of southern hip hop and remains at the forefront having turned out artists like OutKast, Goodie Mob, T.I., Lil Jon, Ludacris and more recently Future, Gucci Mane, Travis Porter and 2 Chainz.
Part of the monumental progression of hip hop culture was when materialism began to permeate throughout and artists became aligned with brands anywhere from perfume to liquor, to clothing to headphones to Hollywood, yielding multi-millionaires throughout the hip hop community.
As we celebrate the life, the pulse, the heartbeat of music today, Hip Hop…
As thousands come from all around the country – the world – to the BET Hip Hop Awards to embrace what is the mainstream music of today, let us raise a glass, propose a toast from coast to coast, from The Dirty South to the shores of Shaolin, whether you are down with the “Boo Thang” to the Wu-Tang, long live “Hip Hop Hooray!”
I’m Mo Ivory, from the Bronx, living in the A-T-L. Here’s to 40 more years of the soundtrack of our lives. It’s all Love and Hip Hop on the ATL’s home for Hip Hop and R&B – V-103!