Hip Hop Music History: The Facts

A look at the history of hip hop music and the facts that helped shape it into the cultural phenomenon it is today.


The history of hip hop music is often traced back to the block parties held in New York City’s Bronx borough during the late 1970s. At these parties, DJ Kool Herc would spin records and the crowds would dance. This style of music became known as hip hop.

During the 1980s, hip hop music became more popular with the release of hit songs like Sugarhill Gang’s “Rapper’s Delight” and Run-DMC’s “Walk This Way.” Hip hop music was also influenced by other genres of music, such as funk, soul, and disco. As the genre developed, it began to split into subgenres, such as gangsta rap and West Coast hip hop.

In the 1990s, hip hop continued to grow in popularity with artists such as Snoop Dogg, Tupac Shakur, and Notorious B.I.G. becoming household names. Hip hop also became more diverse with the rise of Latino and Asian rappers like Kid Frost and Wu-Tang Clan.

Today, hip hop is one of the most popular genres of music in the world. It has also had a huge impact on fashion, language, and culture.

Early History and Origins

Hip hop music first emerged in the early 1970s in the Bronx borough of New York City. It was created by African American and Latino youth who were tired of the existing music scene at the time. They were looking for something that was more representative of their own experiences and cultures.

19th century

In the late 19th century, a New York City newspaper described African American music as “strange and furious.” This was a time when African Americans were fighting for their freedom, and their music reflected this struggle.

Hip hop music can be traced back to the African American oral tradition of storytelling. Through songs and rhymes, African Americans have always been able to share their experiences and express their feelings. This tradition was passed down from generation to generation, and eventually made its way to the streets of New York City.

In the early 1970s, block parties became popular in New York City’s African American communities. These parties were a way for people to come together and have fun, but they also served as a platform for DJs to showcase their latest tracks.

It was at these block parties that DJ Kool Herc introduced a new style of music that would later be known as hip hop. Herc’s style of DJing was based on using two turntables to play extended sections of songs, which he called “breaks.” These “breaks” were usually the part of the song where the drums were most prominent. Herc would often lengthen these breaks by using a technique called “cutting,” which involved manipulating the turntables to create an uninterrupted flow of sound.

Herc’s style of DJing caught on quickly, and soon other DJs began adopting his methods. This new style of music soon spread beyond the confines of the Bronx, and hip hop began to gain popularity throughout New York City.

20th century

In the early 20th century, African American music started to gain popularity with mainstream audiences. One of the earliest examples was W.C. Handy’s “St. Louis Blues” (1914), which became a hit with both black and white audiences. In the 1920s, jazz music became increasingly popular, with artists like Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington becoming household names.

During the same period, other African American musical styles were developed, including gospel, blues, and rhythm and blues. In the 1940s and 50s, these genres started to gain more mainstream exposure through radio and television. In the 1960s, soul music emerged as a popular African American genre, with artists like James Brown and Aretha Franklin achieving widespread success.

In the 1970s, hip hop music developed in New York City out of a combination of these earlier African American musical styles. DJs began to experiment with mixing and scratching records, which created new sounds and rhythms. MCs began rapping over these beats, often talking about social issues or their own personal lives. Hip hop quickly gained popularity in inner-city communities across the country

Key Figures and Styles

Hip hop music first emerged in the Bronx in the early 1970s. It is a style of music that is characterized by rap, DJing, and sampling. Hip hop music has been influenced by other genres of music, including rock, R&B, and jazz.


In the early 1970s, disco music emerged as a popular genre, quickly dominating the airwaves and ushering in a new era of dance music. Although disco would eventually fall out of favor, its impact on popular culture was significant, and it paved the way for other genres, such as electronic dance music (EDM).

Meanwhile, hip hop was taking shape in the South Bronx. DJ Kool Herc is widely considered to be one of the most important figures in early hip hop; he is credited with inventing the break beat, a key element of the genre. Other important pioneers include Afrika Bambaataa and Grandmaster Flash. These DJs began experimenting with new ways to extend and manipulate existing records, using a technique known as sampling. This led to the development of turntablism, or “scratching,” which became a signature style of hip hop production.


In the early 1980s, hip hop music began to fragment into more defined genres with a focus on regional locations, with New York City’s hip hop scene playing a particularly prominent role in this process. By 1985, the term “rap” had first been used to describe a new form of music created by MCs. This new style combined chanting or rhyming speeches with rhythmic accompaniment from DJing. This type of music was also combined with break dancing, graffiti and other forms of street art.


The 1990s were a time of great change in the hip hop world. The genre was evolving rapidly, and new styles and subgenres were emerging. This was also a time when hip hop became more commercialized and mainstream, with artists such as Puff Daddy and Snoop Dogg becoming household names.

Some key figures and styles from this era include:

-The Notorious B.I.G.: One of the most influential rappers of all time, Biggie Smalls (aka The Notorious B.I.G.) was a major figure in the East Coast hip hop scene in the 1990s. His debut album, “Ready to Die,” is considered one of the greatest hip hop albums ever made.

-2Pac: Another hugely influential rapper, 2Pac was a central figure in West Coast gangsta rap. He released several successful albums in the 1990s, including “All Eyez on Me” and “Me Against the World.”

-Gangsta rap: This style of hip hop emerged from the West Coast in the early 1990s and quickly gained popularity around the country. Gangsta rap is characterized by its aggressive, often violent lyrical content, as well as its association with gangs and street crime. Some of the most popular gangsta rap artists of the 1990s include Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, and Tupac Shakur.

-East Coast/West Coast rivalry: In the early to mid-1990s, there was a bitter rivalry between East Coast and West Coast hip hop artists. This rivalry culminated in the murders of two of the biggest names in hip hop at the time, Tupac Shakur (West Coast) and The Notorious B.I.G. (East Coast).

The Present and Future of Hip Hop

According to dictionary.com, Hip Hop is “a style of popular music of US black and Hispanic origin, featuring rapping, a strong rhythmic accompaniment, and often a sampled beat.” This music style has been around since the 1970s and has continuously evolved throughout the decades. In this article, we will explore the history of Hip Hop and its influence on present and future generations.


The new millennium brought a new sound and style to hip hop. Rappers such as Eminem, Nelly, and Outkast brought popularity to a new wave of hip hop. Eminem’s album The Marshall Mathers LP was the first hip hop album to sell over one million copies in a week. Outkast’s album Stankonia was also a commercial success, debuting at number two on the Billboard 200 and selling over two million copies.

In the early 2000s, rap music was dominated by the so-called “Gangsta Rap” subgenre, which spread from the West Coast of the United States to other areas, including the East Coast, Canada, and Australia. This type of rap music often glorified criminal activity and violence. In response to this trend, some rappers began to create “Positive Rap” songs that had messages about peace, love, and unity.

The later 2000s saw the rise of various Hip Hop subgenres, such as “Crunk” from the southern United States, “Snap Music” from Atlanta, and “Alternative Hip Hop” from New York City. The popularity of Hip Hop music continued to grow around the world in the 2010s with hits from artists such as Kanye West, Jay-Z, Drake, Cardi B, andChildish Gambino.


In the 2010s, hip hop continued to be a dominant genre within the mainstream music industry. Dr. Dre’s Compton was released in 2015 and was his first album in sixteen years. Kendrick Lamar’s DAMN. was released in 2017 and debuted at number one on the US Billboard 200 and won a Pulitzer Prize for Music, becoming the first non-classical or jazz work to receive the award. Drake’s Views (2016) topped Billboard’s year-end list of the most popular albums of 2016, and Drake’s “One Dance” (2016) was named by Spotify as the most streamed song of all time.


In conclusion, hip hop music has come a long way since its humble beginnings in the Bronx. Today, it is one of the most popular genres of music in the world, with fans of all ages and backgrounds. The history of hip hop is fascinating, and there is still much to learn about this ever-evolving genre.

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