Tattoos, graffiti, hats, anger, large hoodies, rings, something to complain and everything #thuglife can evoke. In a single word: hip hop.
It’s so clear but at the same time so blurry.
Is hip hop a style? A music genre? An art form? Is it a political issue or the last Tezenis adv with Rita Ora snarky in bra and studs?
Here we are, not to get lost in the crap and to make things clear around hip hop.
New York, 70s, Africans and Latin-Americans living in the blocks of Bronx, with violence, poverty and exclusion as neighbors.
Their parties were on the street, the so called “block party”, large, open air and free, where local DJs played funk, the new born disco and soul music, reproducing the songs popular at that time.
To the DJs –many of them were Jamaican immigrants- was pretty clear that people loved the percussive sections of the songs they were playing. Those rhythmic sections made them dance free.
With this in mind, DJs started to isolate the breaks of songs that included only percussion and to extend them using an audio mixer and two turntables. This technique was hence widespread in Jamaica - known as dub- and DJ Kool Herc, Jamaican born, knew it very well.
Considered one of the founders of hip-hop DJ Kool Herc picked out the rhythmical sections -the breaks - of popular songs and joined them together in a longer rhythmical collage. He did it by switching from one turntable to the other, letting the first turntable playing another break.
He used to choose songs by James Brown and Mandrill for the groove behind the breaks, while grabbed the breaks from funk, soul, jazz and pop pieces. In short words, he introduced an early form of “sampling”, creating a string of rhythmical pieces: the breakbeats.
But a block party wasn’t a concert, it was a mass of vibrating people, a community hungry of power, that had to daily fight to survive, with the need for express themselves. People who had to shout to do that, moving like excited snakes between guns and crimes.
Mr. Herc and his friends knew the audience, name by name, they wanted them to react to music. Therefore while Herc focused on DJing, his two friends -Coke La Rock & Clark Kent- solicited the crowd during the breakbeats, they called them out and recited some rhymes or greetings.
This particular kind of toasting became famous as MCing because Master of Ceremonies was the performer who spoke over the breakbeats.
As a result, DJ and crowd spoke the same language, from the same world, and the string of breakbeats was music with no record labels and distinguishing marks.
During the breaks of selected pieces, some dancers challenged each other over the most acrobatic move. They were called “B-boys” (“break boys” ) and “b-girls” (“break girls”) who snapping head and limbs, showing spins, freezes and body rocks, invented the Breakdance (Breaking dance or B-boying).
From the New York Bronx, in the early 80s, hip hop spread on several US cities such as Atlanta, Los Angeles, Washington, Baltimore and Dallas, Kansas City, San Antonio, Miami, Seattle, St. Louis, New Orleans and Huston.
Over the time the DJs extended the breakbeats allowing the emcee to rap uninterrupted, eventually accompanied by chorus.
We can thus remember the first big contributors after Dj Kool Herc, like Afrika Bambata, Melle Mel, Grandmaster Flash, Jazzy Jay, Kurtis Blow as weel as the Sugarhill, Dude Bootee, the Run Dmc, the Pubblic Enemy, Ice-t, the N.W.A and many others.
Different geographical gave rise to many sub-genres differentiating one another from the sounds of the bases and the slang used by rappers.
we can distinguish main sub-genres being underground hip hop, boom bap, soul hip hop, g-funk, gangsta rap, grime, electro hop, jazz rap, pop rap and political hip hop.
Moreover, Hip hop music and dance developed in parallel with the phenomenon of writing: graffiti helped people to create a common identity. The city was seen as both living space and as a space for expression.
MCing, DJing, B-boying and Writing: Hip hop hip stood out as a real culture.
In the late 80s and 90s this culture underwent a strong media exposure, crossing the US borders and expanding worldwide.
Up to now, the reflection of this "urban" culture has generated an impressive commercial and social phenomenon, revolutionizing apart from music, the world of dance, clothing and design.
So, if today we wanna talk about hip hop music, what has to be seen is whether the engine that lies beneath this form of expression is the same as its origin. The same anger to the surrounding context and the same desire of expression.
To remove all doubts Resuer Magazine turned to one of the most influential and expert person when it comes to hip hop music: Miss Lily Mercer.
A life in hip hop, hailing from North London, Lily is renowned for breaking US & UK acts into the scene through her self-funded hip hop magazine Viper http://vipermag.com/ as well as her Apple Beats1 Radio show & The Lily Mercer Show on Rinse FM.
Lily has interviewed the most important names in hip hop scene such as Mary J.
Blige, Nas, Pete Rock, Pitbull, Raekwon, Just Blaze, Swizz Beats, Cypress Hill. She has been very important in making hip hop a more mainstream genre
Dynamic and self made, we’ve seen her in many campaigns for Adidas, G-Shock and Puma and DJ’ing for the likes of Google, Adidas, Supreme, etc.
After already being the talk of the music and fashion scene is quickly becoming the talk of London town, London’s new ‘It Girl’.
Hi Lily! Thank you for being our guest, today. We spent quite a lot of words clarifying the origin of hip hop music and culture, from the mid 70s to the 90s… let’s now give our readers a few pieces to enjoy. Can you recommend us a list of “must know” songs?
Wow, there are a lot over the last four decades! There's way too many classic songs to list but 'Juicy' by Biggie and 'NY State of Mind' are some of the more recent classics. 'Shook Ones' by Mobb Deep is a Queens classic too. Queensbridge did a lot, Marley Marl is one of my favourite producers of all time, there will never be a time that I hear 'The Symphony' by Juice Crew and it doesn't sound brand new to me.
Obviously 'Apache' is the number 1 iconic hip hop song because it kinda birthed the scene and was super significant for the breakdancers. I also love Kool Herc's 'Let Me Clear My Throat'. Even though I was young when that song came out, it's been referenced a lot throughout the 2000 era that I grew up on. Hip hop is a collage of musical genres and as a fan it's important to know that the "Roof is on fire" refrain was used a long time before Nelly came on the scene!
What about today’s scene? What’s hip pop today? Are US still the home of hip hop music?
Today's scene is really exciting to me, although I do feel that there's less longevity for an artist releasing music today. There's also 10 times more rappers today so the competition is crazy! But the Internet has made it possible to get recognition even if you're just releasing music from your bedroom. The industry side has changed a lot so record deals and million dollar advances aren't handed out the way they were in rap's golden era, but I think the post-2000 era of excess saw the financial side of rap peak. Nowadays an artist can have more long-term success independently.
The US will always be the home of rap, that's where it all began! But I think that non-US artists have the opportunity to be taken more seriously these days. There's also a great deal of crossover between US and UK artists which has given the London scene a bit of a boost.
. We see so many rappers, many of them similar one another, is there someone who is really setting the pace?
. It's definitely an over-saturated scene at the moment but not every artist has that star quality. At the moment, G Herbo aka Lil Herb stands out to me because he's releasing tons of music and all of it sounds good. He's part of Chicago's drill scene but has some really conscious, reflective lyrics and reminds me of a young DMX.
Another guy that stands out is Natia from Inglewood, he hasn't got a big following yet but when I found him, I was so mad that I hadn't heard of him before, he's that good. His lyrics are more intricate than most rappers today and as a writer, I appreciate how he plays with words. Once his profile rises, I think he'll set the pace for many rappers that follow.
. What’s the direction hip hop is heading to?
It's heading in an interesting direction, over the last couple of years I've noticed a lot more spirituality creep in via artists like Pro Era, Flatbush Zombies and Chance the Rapper. There's been a kinda seventies vibe as a result but at the same time, the political climate in America is inspiring a more aggressive, revolutionary sound. Hip hop acts as a mirror reflecting youth culture at that moment and I think that with the rise of documented police brutality in America, rap music is the only voice for young people that can be understood by all. Activists like Malcolm London are important but for those that aren't looking to wise young men like him for guidance, it's going to be the popular rappers that lament youth issues through music. This is why we're so lucky to have Kendrick Lamar in our lives.
I'm biased but I think my Rinse FM show is a great place to discover new rap artists, the show is super underground but 2 years ago I was playing songs by Chance
the Rapper and Vic Mensa who have since gone on to do big things, they've collaborated with Justin Bieber and Kanye West respectively.
Outside of my show, I find blogs like NahRight and 2DopeBoyz still cover all bases and Illroots is good for the more hype, party tunes and less backpack sounding rap music. Also for anyone following what's happening in Chicago, Andrew Barber's blog FakeShoreDrive is the one.
. Lily, can you recommend our readers the best places to listen to great hip hop and the best festival/concerts?
For festivals and concerts, I think the US have some great ones like SXSW and Coachella. But in the UK there are some great festivals too like Boomtown and Ceremony. I prefer those two to the commercial ones like Wireless. For shows, Oslo is my favourite venue in London because their sound system literally vibrates your whole body. It's a feeling you only get at Notting Hill Carnival once a year but Oslo thankfully have shows all year round. For larger shows, Village Underground is a great setting and for the emerging artists, Birthdays in Dalston is essential. East London wins for show venues, hands down.
. You know Resuer is only for curios people…therefore let’s end this article with a confession: you met and spoke to so many fascinating rappers, bad man has always a certain appeal..have you ever fell for someone??? (if she can’t answer, is there anyone you remember the most?)
Ha ha, interviews are pretty intimate and things can get a little flirty but if there's one thing I've learnt in my career, it's that you shouldn't fall for a rapper.
Everything’s clear, b-boys and b-girls????
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