Hip-hop, or rap, is a music style that originated in the African American communities in the early to mid-1970s in the United States, particularly in Bronx, New York. Hip hop performances generally consist of two main roles, DJing (producing live beats and sounds, or more commonly, sampling from existing records and breaks) and MCing or rapping (vocals). Hip hop is one of two genres of music invented in the United States (the other being jazz). It is also, to a lesser extent, popular among Latino communities in Florida, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, California, Nevada, and big cities of the Midwest and northeast. The lyrics in rap are generally delivered in a fast-paced almost conversational manner to the tune of the background music.
More so than any other music genre, hip hop vocals are similar to regular speech, however it incorporates various vocal techniques and rhymes. Traditional singing often only appears during the chorus. Musically, hip-hop evolved from hard funk and soul, electro and frequently samples such records.
The four elements
During the 1980s, the nascent culture of hip-hop was seen as encompassing more than just music. Originally, there were said to be four elements of hip-hop:
- DJing, i.e. playing the records that provided the musical background for rapping
- graffiti, in the distinctive style that has now spread all over the world.
However, hip-hop graffiti and dancing are now niche interests whose popularity is dwarfed by the global ubiquity of hip-hop music. Even DJing is now largely marginalized, as modern hip-hop music is mainly performed by solo rappers over pre-produced beats, rather than the crews of rappers and DJs who were popular in the early days of the genre.
Lyrical themes often vary to a large extent, covering liberal socio-political issues as well as lighter topics.
Similarly to rock and roll and heavy metal, hip hop has been criticized by some conservatives and liberals alike. Some hip hop music created since the late 1980s have been criticized due to the explicit nature, vulgarity and foul language of the lyrical content. From a contextual analysis, these lyrics can be seen as an expression of the poor living conditions and the negative culture that rises from such conditions. These raps have Christian groups widely decrying the sub-genre of gangsta rap, because this emotional expression often demeans and disrespects women and strongly promotes pornography, drug abuse, crime, violence and gang warfare as well as an overly materialistic sense of life as a result. Songs such as "Big Pimpin'" by Jay-Z promote prostitution while songs like "**** Wit Dre Day" describe the performers Snoop Dogg and Dr. Dre performing sexual acts. Songs like "Where the Hood At?" have become anthems for young gangs and some conservatives believe the songs incite listeners into behaving violently. Also notably, the titles of many gangsta rap albums and songs are frequently misspelled by the performers (such as the albums Word of Mouf by Ludacris and Dare Iz a Darkside by Redman, and the songs "Buy U a Drank" by T-Pain and "Nuthin' but a 'G' Thang" by Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg), giving the appearance of the rappers being illiterate and under-educated.
However, not all hip-hop promotes the street culture. Some positive hip-hop artists, especially those who are under the genre of Christian rap, still stick to traditional moral values in their music.