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History of rap and hip hop

See I am Wonder Mike and I like to say hello
to the black, to the white, the red, and the brown, the purple and yellow -- Rapper's Delight (1979) by Sugarhill Gang

Aside from funk, early hip hop was both rooted in disco, and a backlash against it. According to Kurtis Blow, the early days of hip-hop were characterized by divisions between fans and detractors of disco music. Either way, it is indisputable that disco had an effect on hip-hop music and culture.

Keep on Steppin' (1974) - The Fatback Band [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]

Kurtis Blow (1980) - Kurtis Blow [Amazon.com] [FR] [DE] [UK]

Major elements: breakdancing - DJing - graffiti art - MCing - scratching - turntablism

Related: African American - African music - afrobeat - black music - black pride - proto disco - electro - electro funk - Enjoy! records - freestyle - funk - gay hip hop - hip hop - hip hop timeline - house - Jamaica - jazz - Miami bass - Martin Luther King, Jr. - New York City music - P-Funk - popular music - P&P Records - r&b - rare groove - reggae - seventies - soul music - Ultimate Breaks and Beats (vol.1-25)

Musical elements: beat - break - mix - rhyme - rhythm - sample - sound system - version - vinyl

Artists: Afrika Bambaataa - Arthur Baker - Kurtis Blow - Peter Brown - Chic - Fatback band - George Clinton - Grandmaster Flash - Spoonie Gee - Kenny 'Dope' Gonzalez - Gil Scott Heron - Kraftwerk (its influence on) - The Last Poets - Lil Kim - Public Enemy - John Robie - Sylvia Robinson - Todd Terry - Paul Winley

Rap music

Rap music [origin: mid-1970s, New York City] is one of the elements of hip hop; it is a form of rhyming lyrics spoken rhythmically over musical instruments, with a musical backdrop of sampling, scratching and mixing by DJs. Originally rapping was called MCing and was seen as supporting the DJ.

Rapping began as a variation on the toasting found in reggae and dub music, mixed with influences from radio DJs and playing the dozens. Also of influence were the works of The Last Poets and Gil Scott Heron and Bob Dylan's Subterranean Homesick Blues (1965). The original rappers, or MCs (from "Master of Ceremonies") would improvise rhymes over the beats created by the DJs. Early raps were frequently merely a sequence of boasts, or attempts to upstage the other MCs.

The first rap record was 1979's King Tim III by the Fatback Band (featuring the rapper King Tim III). The Sugarhill Gang followed the same year with Rappers Delight, that became a major hit and is based on Chic's oft-sampled disco track "Good Times". The first rap hit by a non-black artist was Blondie's "Rapture" in 1981. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rapping [Oct 2004]

Hip Hop (Cultural Movement) [...]

Hip hop is a cultural movement that began amongst urban (primarily, but not entirely, African American) youth in New York and has since spread around the world. The four main elements of hip-hop are MCing, DJing, graffiti art, and breakdancing. The term has since come to be a synonym for rap music to mainstream audiences. The two are not, however, interchangeable - rapping (MCing) is the vocal expression of lyrics in sync to a rhythm beneath it. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hip_hop [2004]

Hip Hop (Music)

Hip hop music is related to the griots of West Africa, traveling singers and poets whose musical style is reminiscent of hip hop. Some griot traditions came with slaves to the New World. The most important direct influence on the creation of hip hop music is the Jamaican style called dub, which arose in the 1960s. Dub musicians such as King Tubby isolated percussion breaks because dancers at clubs (sound systems) preferred the energetic rhythms of the often-short breaks. Soon, performers began speaking in sync with these rhythms. In 1967, Jamaican immigrants such as DJ Kool Herc brought dub to New York City, where it evolved into hip hop. In Jamaica, dub music has diversified into genres like ragga and dancehall. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hip_hop_music

Parallels with rock

Rap originated in the mid-1970s in the South Bronx area of New York City. The rise of rap in many ways parallels the birth of rock'n roll in the 1950s. Both originated within the African American community and both were initially recorded by small, independent record labels and marketed almost exclusively to a black audience. In both cases, the new style gradually attracted white musicans, a few of whom began performing it. For rock'n roll it was a white American from Mississippi, Elvis Presley, who broke into the billboard magazine popular music charts. For rap it was a white group from New York, the Beastie Boys. The release of their albums was one of the first two rap records to reach the billboard top-ten list of popular hits. The other significant early rap recording to reach the top-ten, "Walk This Way" (1986), was a collaboration of the black rap group Run-DMC and the white hard-rock band Aerosmith. Soon after 1986, the use of the samples and declaimed vocal styles became widespread in popular music of both black and white performers, significantly altering previous notions of what constitutes a legitimate song, composition or musical instrument. -- Unknown Author

Gangsta rap

Gangsta rap, also known as hardcore hip-hop, was the name given to the subgenre of hip hop which involves a lyrical focus on the lifestyle of street thugs and gangsters. Though hip hop's ghetto roots had always made violence and drug dealings common lyrical topics, they were rarely handled with anything more than a hard-edged variant of the perspective on inner-city problems seen in the socially conscious soul music of the 1970s; gangsta rap, however, completely focuses upon and in the vast majority of cases embraces the lifestyle of the drug dealers, thugs and criminals of the street. The term "Gangsta rap" is usually used to refer to the music describable as such coming from the West Coast or the South; East Coast hip hop artists and fans also use the "hardcore hip-hop" descriptor. The subgenre is notable for being by far the most commercially successful strand of hip hop and achieved considerable chart dominance during the later two-thirds of the 1990s, when many artists moved towards a more pop-friendly mainstream sound.

Controversy over subject matter
The subject matter inherent in gangsta rap has caused a great deal of controversy, with many observers criticizing the genre for the perceived messages it espouses, including homophobia, misogyny, racism and materialism. Gangsta rappers generally defend themselves by pointing out that they are describing the reality of inner-city ghetto life, and claim that when rapping they are simply playing a character. Given that the audience for gangsta rap has become predominately white, some commentators have even criticized it as analogous to minstrel shows and blackface performance, in which African-Americans or whites, made to look like black caricatures, acted in a stereotypically uncultured and ignorant manner for the entertainment of white audiences. Some performers, such as The Geto Boys, are even accused of being cartoonish and over-the-top (though many artists, particularly the Geto Boys, would be the first to freely admit this). --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gangsta_rap [Jun 2005]

see also: music - hip hop - 1990s - rap

Hip house

Hip house, also known as house rap, is a mixture of house music and hip-hop which arose during the 1980s in New York. The first hip house track was "I'll House You" by the Jungle Brothers - although this is not indicated on the album, the track is generally seen as a collaboration between NY house producer Todd Terry and the Jungle Brothers (an Afrocentric rap group from New York). Shortly after "I'll House You", artists in Chicago, the home of house music, started producing their own hip house tracks. Though hip house never achieved massive popularity, there were a few hits (such as by Technotronic, a Belgian group) in the later part of the decade and the early 1990s. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hip_house [Mar 2005]

Early days of Hip Hop

Rap music originated as a cross-cultural product. Most of its important early practitioners—including Kool Herc, D.J. Hollywood, and Afrika Bambaata—were either first- or second-generation Americans of Caribbean ancestry. Herc and Hollywood are both credited with introducing the Jamaican style of cutting and mixing into the musical culture of the South Bronx. By most accounts Herc was the first DJ to buy two copies of the same record for just a 15-second break (rhythmic instrumental segment) in the middle. By mixing back and forth between the two copies he was able to double, triple, or indefinitely extend the break. In so doing, Herc effectively deconstructed and reconstructed so-called found sound, using the turntable as a musical instrument.

While he was cutting with two turntables, Herc would also perform with the microphone in Jamaican toasting style-joking, boasting, and using myriad in-group references. Herc's musical parties eventually gained notoriety and were often documented on cassette tapes that were recorded with the relatively new boombox, or blaster technology. Taped duplicates of these parties rapidly made their way through the Bronx, Brooklyn, and uptown Manhattan, spawning a number of similar DJ acts. Among the new breed of DJs was Afrika Bambaataa, the first important Black Muslim in rap. Bambaataa often engaged in sound-system battles with Herc, similar to the so-called cutting contests in jazz a generation earlier. The sound system competitions were held at city parks, where hot- wired street lamps supplied electricity, or at local clubs. Bambaataa sometimes mixed sounds from rock-music recordings and television shows into the standard funk and disco fare that Herc and most of his followers relied upon. By using rock records, Bambaataa extended rap beyond the immediate reference points of contemporary black youth culture. By the 1990s any sound source was considered fair game and rap artists borrowed sounds from such disparate sources as Israeli folk music, be bop jazz records and television news broadcasts. Grandmaster Flash

In 1976 Grandmaster Flash introduced the technique of quick mixing, in which sound bites as short as one or two seconds are combined for a college effect. Quick mixing paralleled the rapid-editing style of television advertissing used at the time. Shortly after Flash introduced quick mixing, his partner Grandmaster MelleMel composed the first extented stories in rhymed rap. Up to this point, most of the words heard over the work of disk jockeys such as Herc, Bambaataa, and Flash had been improvised phrases and expressions. In 1978 DJ Grand Wizard Theodore introduced the technique of scratching to produce rhythmic patterns. -- unkown author, 19??

DJ Kool Herc [...]

Kool Herc

Kool DJ Herc, the godfather of hip-hop, was a Jamaican-born DJ who moved to the Bronx in 1967. With his unique playlist of R&B, soul, funk, and obscure disco, Herc quickly became the catalyst of the hip-hop way of life. The kids from the Bronx and Harlem loved his ghetto style, which gave birth to the concept of the B-Boy. The B-Boy -- or beat boy, break boy, Bronx boy -- loved the breaks of Kool Herc, and as a result soon created break dancing. These were the people of the hip-hop culture. While Pete DJ Jones was #1 for the black disco crowd in NYC, Herc and the B-Boys were the essence of the hip-hop movement, because of they lived the lifestyle. The way they danced, dressed, walked, and talked was unique, as opposed to most of the disco artists and fans of the time, who were not as in touch with the urban streets of America.

Sound Systems [...]

As Steve Barrow (author of The Rough Guide to Reggae/Blood and Fire Records) writes in the sleevenotes, Jamaican deejay music is the source for all Rap music: From Count Machuki talking over records on Sir Coxsone's legendary Downbeat Sound System this style would eventually travel to America when the Jamaican-born Kool Herc began playing at Block parties (a version of the Kingston Soundsystem parties) in the Bronx. Cutting up rare-groove classics for the first B-Boys to rap over, Hip-Hop was born and the DJ music that had started on the early Soundsystems of Kingston would go on to conquer the world!

Breakdance [...]

When DJ Kool Herc performed to Breaks at crowded venues, such as the Hervalo in the Bronx, he would shout loudly 'B-Boys go down!' and this was the cue for dancers to cut and jump their gymnastics. Even today nobody is quite clear what Kool Herc meant by his phrase. Some suggest B-Boys stands for 'Boogie Boy' while others insist it means 'Break Boy'. The later has become the favored choice. But who were the original B-Boys and where had they learned their skillz? Again the answer is fairly straight-forward. They had simply adapted what they had been doing on the ghetto streets.

Afrika Bambaataa [...]

Urban spaceman Afrika Bambaataa and producer Arthur Baker, plus musician John Robie, were the trio behind a musical revolution called "Planet Rock", Bambaataa's 1982 single with Soul Sonic Force. Following the impact of "Planet Rock", UK groups made Electro-boogie pilgrimages to Baker's studio in Manhattan: Freeze's "IOU" rocketed jazz funk into the infosphere but more significantly, New Order's "Blue Monday" launched indie dancing and sold massively on 12". Also breaking and robot dancing, the acrobatic and simulated machine dances that drew many adolescents into the alien zone of black science fiction. Bleep music was one consequence of this. Hardly adequate to describe and encompass the protozoic chaos of New York Nu Groove, Detroit Techno, Chicago House. Next came techno. -- David Toop for Wire magazine

Spoonie Gee [...]

Kool Herc

[...] "Spoonie Gee cut "Spoonin' Rap", on 'Sounds Of New York, Usa' records, one of Peter Browns many labels. It also appeared on an album on 'Queen Constance' records called "The Big Break Rapper Party" and was remixed and re-released in 1984 on 'Heavenly Star' records. "Spoonin' Rap" was like a diamond in a pile of rubble in Peter Brown's recordings, usually classics of low-budget incompetence, e.g. label says 33 on a 45 recording, raps out of time, drummers losing the beat, and sound like your dad's garage...Spoonie Gee shone through as a real talent.
written by Jeff Slattery (slats@uclink3.berkeley.edu)

Todd Terry [...]

Todd Terry

It was into this exciting and transitional environment that a young, would-be producer walked up to Vega and handed him a cassette. "This guy came up to the booth and said, 'My name is Todd Terry. I just wanted to give you these new jams.'" The night was drawing to a close, so Vega had a quick listen to the track that was about to turn Terry into New York's hottest house producer. "I was like, 'Wow! This is powerful!'" With its quick-fire sampling techniques and harder beats, 'Party People' introduced an edgy, hip hop aesthetic to the Chicago house sound, and Vega wasted little time in securing a reel-to-reel copy. "There was an instant reaction on the dance floor," he remembers. "I was playing 'Party People' six to nine months before it came out, so I got everybody into that sound."

Homophobia [...]

[...] What hasn't changed is the gap between rap and house, an antipathy which exists between these two forms of soul music. [...] According to Frankie Knuckles, this goes to the core of attitudes towards gays, especially amongst the black community. "The fact that house got started in the gay clubs makes it tough for some of them to deal with it." This is about more than musical taste; for Frankie, it goes to the core of the future of minority groups in the US. And, ironically, it's rap, with all of its violence and too-frequent lapses into intolerance and homophobia, that has pushed things along.

Enjoy! Records [...]

Enjoy was Bobby Robinson's label. This Harlem label had been home to saxophone legend King Curtis, and in 1979 it put out its first hip hop record, "Rappin' and Rockin' in the House" by The Funky Four (Plus One More). [...]

Peter Brown

Peter Brown found our studio by accident in a newspaper ad. When Brown showed up for that first recording, he was literally dressed in rags. The next time he showed up, he was wearing full fur covered pimp regalia complete with a beaver skin hat and was driving a brand new Lincoln Continental. He kept overdubbing different rap groups onto the same music tracks. It was pathetic. --- Frank Heller [...]

Related Pages

George Clinton, Peter Brown

Electro [...]

Giorgio Moroder, Evolution

More surprisingly, Kraftwerk had an immediate impact on black dance music: as Afrika Bambaataa says in David Toop's Rap Attack, "I don't think they even knew how big they were among the black masses back in '77 when they came out with 'Trans-Europe Express.' When that came out, I thought that was one of the best and weirdest records I ever heard in my life." In 1981, Bambaataa and the Soulsonic Force, together with producer Arthur Baker, paid tribute with "Planet Rock," which used the melody from "Trans-Europe Express" over the rhythm from "Numbers." In the process they created electro and moved rap out of the Sugarhill age. -- Jon Savage via A History Of Techno,The Village Voice Summer 1993

Reggae [...]

First DJs were Jamaicans

Modern day rap music finds its immediate roots in the toasting and dub talk over elements of reggae music. In the early 70's, a Jamaican dj known as Kool Herc moved from Kingston to NY's West Bronx. Here, he attempted to incorporate his Jamaican style of dj which involved reciting improvised rhymes over the dub versions of his reggae records. Unfortunately, New Yorkers weren't into reggae at the time. Thus Kool Herc adapted his style by chanting over the instrumental or percussion sections of the day's popular songs. Because these breaks were relatively short, he learned to extend them indefinitely by using an audio mixer and two identical records in which he continuously replaced the desired segment.

In those early days, young party goers initially recited popular phrases and used the slang of the day. For example, it was fashionable for dj to acknowledge people who were in attendance at a party. These early raps featured someone such as Herc shouting over the instrumental break; 'Yo this is Kool Herc in the joint-ski saying my mellow-ski Marky D is in the house'. This would usually evoke a response from the crowd, who began to call out their own names and slogans.

As this phenomenon evolved, the party shouts became more elaborate as dj in an effort to be different, began to incorporate little rhymes-'Davey D is in the house/An he'll turn it out without a doubt.' It wasn't long before people began drawing upon outdated dozens and school yard rhymes. Many would add a little twist and customize these rhymes to make them suitable for the party environment. At that time rap was not yet known as 'rap' but called 'emceeing'. With regards to Kool Herc, as he progressed, he eventually turned his attention to the complexities of djaying and let two friends Coke La Rock and Clark Kent (not Dana Dane's dj) handle the microphone duties. This was rap music first emcee team. They became known as Kool Herc and the Herculoids.

Scratching [...]

Rap is where you first heard it [sampling] --Grandmaster Flash's 1981 "Wheels of Steel," which scratched together Queen, Blondie, the Sugarhill Gang, the Furious Five, Sequence, and Spoonie Gee --but what is sampling if not digitized scratching? If rap is more an American phenomenon, techno is where it all comes together in Europe as producers and musicians engage in a dialogue of dazzling speed.

Grandmaster Flash [...]

Rap is where you first heard it [sampling] --Grandmaster Flash's 1981 "Wheels of Steel," which scratched together Queen, Blondie, the Sugarhill Gang, the Furious Five, Sequence, and Spoonie Gee --but what is sampling if not digitized scratching? If rap is more an American phenomenon, techno is where it all comes together in Europe as producers and musicians engage in a dialogue of dazzling speed.

10 Hip Hop Myths Dismissed

  1. "There is a difference between hip hop and rap music."
  2. "Hip Hop is Black music."
  3. "Rakim is the greatest MC of all time."
  4. "Biggie Smalls was assasinated by the FBI."
  5. "Rap music started in the Bronx."
  6. "There are no gay hip hop artists."
  7. "Hip Hop is threatened by corporations."
  8. "The best hip hop music was made in the 1980s."
  9. "No one in hip hop has a sense of humor."
  10. "Hip Hop is dead."
Being that hip hop is such a poorly documented culture, it is understandable that subjective opinions and false myths run amok. Now, a fact is a fact. And a fact can be backed up with unrefutable evidence. But what I have collected here are a bunch of rumors, hearsay, and subjective opinions which are often presented as facts. I have collected, what I think are the most blatantly false "myths", and given my perspective on them. The purpose is to reexamine commonly accepted beliefs within the hip hop community. --Eric Nord for http://www.stinkzone.com/writing/hiphop_myths.html, accessed May 2003


  1. Speakerboxxx/ The Love Below (2003) - Outkast[Amazon US] [FR] [DE] [UK]
    At a time when experimentation is taboo in most overground rap, that’s all Outkast seem intent on executing. Firstly, this double CD has no cohesive link, other than the fact that it sounds like a pair of solo albums stitched together to demo exactly how Andre’s yin works to augment Big Boi’s yang. Andre 3000’s Love Below disc rates as the more eclectic of the two, given that he’s turned in his emcee credentials to become a full-on funk-soul-jazz vocalist who mostly sings about items of love ("Happy Valentine's Day"), carnal lust ("Spread"), and female adoration ("Prototype"). Minus the big band schmaltz of "Love Hater" and cheesy cover jobs ("My Favorite Things"), Andre’s disc is sick (meaning great). As is to be expected, the Big Boi disc is less arty, more gangsta and worldly, and features the less-progressive guest raps of ATL crunk purveyors Lil’ Jon and The Eastside Boyz ("Last Call") and Jay-Z who rhymes the hook on "Flip Flop Rock". Unlike Big Boi, Andre keeps his collabos to a minimum, once crooning alongside Norah Jones on the cool yet sappy "Take Off Your Cool", and once with Kelis. Boi fulfills his Dungeon Family duty with flying colors by flipping some dirty southern up-tempo raps over electro beats on "GhettoMusick". By the time Cee-Lo sermonizes on "Reset", Speakerboxx and Love Below rate mostly as majestic and inspiring, with the remaining 23 per cent being just plain incredible --Dalton Higgins, Amazon.com

  2. Hip-Hop From The Top: Part 1 - Various Artists [1 CD, Amazon US]
    1. Skanless Hip-Hop from the Top Mega-Mix 2. Rapper's Delight - The Sugarhill Gang 3. Breaks - Kurtis Blow 4. Sucker D.J.'s (I Will Survive) - Dimples D. 5. Request Line - Rock Master Scott and the Dynamic Three 6. What People Do for Money - Divine Sounds 7. Adventures of Super Rhyme - Jimmy Spicer 8. King of the Beat - Pumpkin 9. Message - Duke Bootee 10. Friends - Whodini 11. One for the Treble - Davy DMX 12. Pure - Captain Rock [...]

  3. Kurtis Blow Presents The History of Rap: Vol. 3 [Amazon US]
    1. Rock Box - Run DMC 2. Friends - Whodini 3. Five Minutes Of Funk - Whodini 4. Jail House Rap - Fat Boys 5. Roxanne, Roxanne - UTFO 6. The Bridge - M.C. Shan 7. Rebel Without A Pause - Public Enemy 8. Criminal Minded - Boogie Down Productions 9. Raw - Big Daddy Kane 10. It Takes Two - Rob Base & D.J. E-Z Rock 11. Vapors - Biz Markie 12. Just A Friend - Biz Markie

  4. Kurtis Blow Presents The History of Rap: Vol. 2 [Amazon US]
    1. Rapper's Delight (Short 12' Version) - Sugarhill Gang 2. Funk You Up (Short 12' Version) - The Sequence 3. Rappin And Rocking The House (Album Version) - Funky Four Plus One More 4. Christmas Rappin' - Kurtis Blow 5. The Breaks - Kurtis Blow 6. Monster Jam - Spoonie Gee Meets The Sequence 7. Jazzy Sensation (Short 12' Bronx Version) - Africa Bambaataa & The Jazzy Five 8. Feel The Heartbeat - The Treacherous Three 9. The Message - Grand Master Flash & The Furious Five 10. Starski Live At The Disco Fever - 'Love Bug' Starski 11. One For The Treble (Fresh) - Davy DMX

  5. Kurtis Blow Presents The History of Rap: Vol. 1 [Amazon US]
    1. Give It Up Or Turnit A Loose (In The Jungle...) - James Brown 2. Get Into Something - The Isley Brothers 3. Melting Pot - Booker T. & The M.G.'s 4. Listen To Me - Baby Huey 5. Scorpio - Dennis Coffey & The Detroit Guitar Band 6. It's Just Begun - The Jimmy Castor Bunch 7. Apache - Micheal Viner's Incredible Bongo Band 8. Hum Along And Dance - The Jackson 5 9. Love The Life You Live - Black Heart 10. Theme From S.W.A.T. (Extended 7' Version) - Rhythm Heritage 11. Dance To The Drummer's Beat - Herman Kelly & Life 12. King Tim III (Personal Jock) - Fatback Band

  6. The Best of Enjoy Records [Amazon US]
    1. Superappin - Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five 2. Love Rap - Spoonie Gee 3. Body Rock - Kool Moe Dee 4. At the Party - Kool Moe Dee 5. It's Magic - Fearless Four 6. Move With the Groove - Disco Four 7. Funk Box Party - Masterdon Committee 8. Feel the Heart Beat - Kool Moe Dee 9. Just Havin Fun - Doug E. Fresh 10. New Rap Language - Treacherous Three 11. Rockin' It - Fearless Four
    Enjoy was Bobby Robinson's label. This Harlem label had been home to saxophone legend King Curtis, and in 1979 it put out its first hip hop record, "Rappin' and Rockin' in the House" by The Funky Four (Plus One More). [more on Enjoy Records]

  7. Tribe Called Quest - Anthology [1CD, Amazon US]
    In their decade of existence, A Tribe Called Quest weren't rap's biggest hit makers, but their signature numbers indeed fill this CD with style, eclecticism, and laid-back but deliberate flow; indeed, the group's stature seems to have grown since its 1998 breakup. The continued importance of their music and ideals for many hip-hop fans will only be enhanced by Anthology's 18 tracks (Q-Tip's recent hit "Vivrant Thing," from the Violator album is a bonus track). Those unfamiliar with Tribe's achievement should have their heads and booties set into motion by the fellas' many moods, from the playful "Check the Rhime" and "I Left My Wallet in El Segundo" to trenchant commentaries such as "Description of a Fool" and "Sucka Nigga." And with its inclusion here, the somewhat rare and all-the-way out "If the Papes Come" will doubtless reestablish itself as an underground favorite. --Rickey Wright


  1. Vibe History of Hip Hop (1999) - Alan Light [Amazon US]
    In his introduction, founding Vibe editor Alan Light justifies the magazine's 300-page hip-hop chronicle in historical terms, noting that while less than 15 years passed between Elvis's first single and Woodstock, it's been two full decades since rap busted out of New York City street parties via the Sugar Hill Gang's "Rapper's Delight." It's a righteous point, and the multi-author Vibe History indeed deserves to be filed next to The Rolling Stone Illustrated History of Rock & Roll. Like that book, Vibe's serves both as a fact-heavy primer and a passionate critical missive aimed straight for fans' hearts. Here we find all the contradictions of a pop-culture phenomenon: art and a hope for immortality rolled into a brightly colored form whose practitioners, even the most politically driven, demand to get paid. Or, as Charles Aaron writes in his essay on KRS-One, the rapper "has never failed to passionately contradict himself--footnotes, bibliography, and dope beats included." Those contradictions may not make the culture go, but as with rock's, they help make it both more frustrating and more fascinating. Whether reminiscing about the future shock of first hearing Run-D.M.C.'s "Sucker M.C.'s," gnawing at the tragic knots at the heart of Tupac Shakur's story, or celebrating women rappers, hip-hop movies, and dancehall reggae, these chapters do what the best music writing should--educate, excite, and lead the reader to the record racks. --Rickey Wright, amazon.com

  2. Rap Attack 3 - David Toop [Amazon.com]
    "All music has a history, shameful or illustrious, but for a 14-year old chilling out in Playland, white nylon anorak with the hood pulled tight and maybe a pair of Nike kicks with the tongues pulled out, what matters in the mini-phones plugged into the Walkman (or one of its cheaper variants) is the post-NASA - Silicon Valley - Atari - TV Break Out - Taito - Sony - Roland - Linn - Oberheim - Lucas - Speilberg groove." That's David Toop on the "electro" music of the early '80s--just one of many subjects handled with real sensitivity and street smarts in _Rap Attack_, a classic text now in its third edition. A musician as well as a writer, Toop conveys the magnitude of hip hop's revolution in sound--combining the musique concrete of Edgar Varese with the urban frenzy of a Bronx social club at 2:00 a. m.--but also its verbal genius, a lineage extending from the griots of Northern Nigeria to "doin' the dozens" to Kool Keith. With a dry wit and the erudition of a walking pop-music encyclopedia, Toop tells the tale of the amazing homegrown phenomenon that by 1998 "had overtaken country music to become America's biggest-selling format." --Tom Moody for amazon.com

  3. Hip Hop America (1998) - Nelson George [Amazon.com]
    Although it's been part of the cultural soundscape for over 25 years, hip-hop has been the focus of very few books. And when those books do pop up, they tend to be either overtly scholarly, as if the writer in question has just landed on some alien planet, or a bit too much like a fanzine. If there's anyone qualified to write a solid, informative, and entertaining tome on the culture, politics, and business of hip-hop, it's Nelson George. A veteran journalist, George is one of the smartest and most observant chroniclers of African American pop culture. Much as he broke down and illuminated R&B with his acclaimed book The Death of Rhythm and Blues, George now tackles hip-hop with the clarity of a reporter and the enthusiasm of a fan--which is fitting, because George is both. A Brooklyn native, he began writing about rap back in the late 1970s, when the beats and the lifestyle were not only foreign to most white folks, they were still underground in the black communities. Hip Hop America is filled with George's memories of the scene's nascent years, and it tells the story of rap both as an art form and a cultural and economic force--from the old Bronx nightclub the Fever to the age of Puffy. Highlighting both the major players and some of the forces behind the scenes, George gives rap a historical perspective without coming off as too intellectual. All of which makes Hip Hop America a worthwhile addition to any fan's collection. --Amy Linden or amazon.com

    Nelson George (b. September 1st, 1957) is an African American author, music and culture critic, journalist, and filmmaker. He has been nominated twice for the National Book Critics Circle Award. --http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nelson_George [Jun 2006]


  1. Style Wars (1983) - Tony Silver[Amazon US] [FR] [DE] [UK]
    Some call it tagging, some call it writing, still others call it bombing--it's all graffiti. Whether it's art or not is another matter, but it's undeniably illegal. Tony Silver and Henry Chalfant's historic PBS documentary Style Wars tracks the rise and fall of subway graffiti in New York in the late 1970s and early 1980s. At the peak of its popularity, graffiti was as much a part of B-boy culture as rapping, scratching, and breaking. The filmmakers present a sympathetic, but well-rounded portrait of their subject through extensive interviews with taggers--notably Seen, Kase, and Dondi--art collectors, transit authorities, and even Mayor Ed Koch, who would eventually put the hammer down. Along the way, they documented the burgeoning breakdance scene, with a focus on the world-famous Rock Steady Crew. The soundtrack features selections from Grandmaster Flash, the Treacherous Three, and other tagger-approved icons of old-school hip-hop. --Kathleen C. Fennessy

  2. The Freshest Kids - A History of the B-Boy (2001)[Amazon US]
    The subtitle couldn't be more accurate: A History of the B-Boy is a comprehensive look at the world's "freshest kids." This lively documentary isn't about hip-hop or hip-hop culture as much as about an integral part of that culture. B-boys are defined, variously, as "breakboys" (the original term) and "breakdancers" (the more widely known one). These "kids," many now in their 30s, helped to shape hip-hop's look and spread its gospel. The narrative traces their evolution from the South Bronx 1970s to media-crazed 1980s--when they were featured in movies from Wild Style to Flashdance--to today, as the phenomenon has returned to the underground while remaining as popular as ever (as exemplified by footage from Germany, Japan, etc.). The old and new school are on hand to explain and to praise the b-boy; everyone from rappers like KRS-One and Mos Def to breakers like Crazy Legs and Ken Swift. --Kathleen C. Fennessy for amazon.com

  3. Wild Style (1982) - Charlie Ahearn [Amazon US]

    [T]he cult movie that captured the essence of the new sub-culture that was happening in the the Bronx, New York in the early 1980s.

    Wild Style is a slice of hip hop history with appearances from old-skool hip hop artists such as GrandMaster Flash, The Rock Steady Crew, Fab 5 Freddy, The Cold Crush Brothers, Rammellzee, Double Trouble and Grand Wizard Theodore.

  4. Scratch(2001) Doug Pray [Amazon US]
    In the language of hip-hop, the MC raps on top of the beats. The DJ--or turntablist--supplies the beats. Doug Pray's lively documentary is a tribute to these unsung heroes of the "scratch." His approach is neither dry nor academic and is designed as much for the masters of the form as for the fans. Pray was also behind Hype!, which focused on the Seattle scene in the 1980s and 1990s. In his 2002 follow-up, he travels as far back as the 1970s (DJ Kool Herc, Afrika Bambaataa) and roams the U.S. from New York (Gang Starr's DJ Premier) to the Bay Area (DJ Shadow, Q-Bert). After watching the film and grooving to the beat, you're likely to wonder if there's a soundtrack to accompany it. Fortunately, there is--Bill Laswell, producer of Herbie Hancock's seminal "Rockit," is behind a compilation featuring many of the same artists celebrated in Scratch. --Kathleen C. Fennessy for amazon.com [...]

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