A Closer Look Into Hip-Hop

DJ Kool Herc

DJ Kool Herc

Melanie Battle, Staff Writer

Have you ever wondered why hip-hop music is so important to the black community? It all started at a little girl’s birthday party on August 11, 1973. The little girl’s brother was in charge of the party. His name was Clive Campbell, also known as DJ Kool Herc, the founding father of hip-hop. DJ Kool Herc created a new style of listening to music records by only playing the “break beat,” which are the moments in a record when the vocals and instruments drop out completely for a measure or two of pure rhythm. The only thing left is a short drum break. The DJ realized that the “break beats” were the parts of a record that crowds wanted to hear the most. Rapping over the beats came into play when the DJ asked a friend to act as their MC, or Master of Ceremonies. The MC would entertain the crowd by talking in time with the beat of the music while rhyming- thus the creation of rapping. As rapping became more popular, more DJ and MC duos and groups formed. At first, this music was only performed live, but then rappers began to release recorded songs about having fun. However, in 1982, Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five released “The Message,” which was an early example of socially conscious hip-hop. The raps were about social issues, such as, poverty, crime, and the stress of living in a dangerous city. This was the beginning of music that addressed the problems that plagued society all by doing it in a way that people could relate to. “I like that it’s a style of music that was created by black people to express themselves,” freshman Warren Whitaker says.

Listening to hip-hop can teleport anyone into the artist’s world. So many rappers use their music to tell their own stories throughout their lives. Although a lot of hip-hop focuses on sex, drugs and gangbanging, it is usually a reality for the artist. Jay-Z raps about having to sell drugs to make ends meet as he grew up, while 50 Cent has used his experience of being shot 9 times to write his songs. J. Cole has been able to do it too. In his song, “4 Your Eyez Only,” he says, “I try to find employment even if it’s wiping toilets. But these felonies be making life the hardest. Resisting the temptation to run up and swipe a wallet or run up on your yard, snatch your daughter’s bike and pawn it. That’s why I write this sonnet.” This song is actually about one of Cole’s friends, James McMillan Jr., who was murdered. McMillan’s worst fear was having his daughter come home to hear that her father had been killed. After having his daughter, he wanted to turn his life around and leave drug dealing behind so he could give his daughter a better life, but it never happened. In some ways, hip hop is the only way to escape the horrible realities of growing up in a rough neighborhood. Many, many people can relate to the feeling of being trapped, and listening to this music can help them get through their hard times as well. “I love hip-hop because it allows me to listen to other people’s experiences and thoughts,” sophomore Jasmine Forbes expresses. University Wire states, “music is a big part of culture across the world and helps people identify with others- a fact that is specifically true within the black community.”

Rappers are also literary geniuses. They are able to make you think way beyond a catchy tune. In an article he wrote for the Washington Post, Gilbert Newman Perkins refers to hip-hop as masterful poetry. “The form of a standard hip-hop song is three verses of sixteen bars written in various beat-per-minute patterns, which mirrors Shakespeare’s use of iambic pentameter,” Perkins reveals. Comparative associations from Kanye West and Lil Wayne resemble F. Scott Fitzgerald’s use of extended simile, while character-building methods of Jay-Z and Biggie resemble those of H.G. Wells. These MCs can twist words and phrases around so cleverly. Lil Wayne does it in his song, “6-foot 7-foot,” when he says, “Real Gs move in silence like lasagna.”

Hip-hop is so very important to the black culture because people are able to use it as a way to connect to others and a way to fight their own internal battles. “It is very important and unique, it keeps the culture alive,” sophomore D’Mia Watson explains. Rappers use their intelligence to inspire others to live up to their own full potential as well. Just like Snoop Dogg says, “Hip-hop is what makes the world go around.”