What oldheads taught me about Hip-Hop

Most of us remember when we were first introduced to our favourite genre of music; I remember being 6-years-old and listening to my Mom and Uncle play OutKast and Geto Boys in the car. They grew up during the golden-age of Hip-hop. The older-generations know more about modern-day hip-hop than we think; they know where the samples came from, which new-age rapper is biting whose style, and they know where it all began. Recently I discovered The Netflix Original documentary “Hip Hop Evolution”, which premiered on September 4, 2016. The docuseries has explored everything from the very origins of Rap and Hip-Hop to the political movements depicted in the hit songs.

As a millennial, I’ve experienced multiple eras of hip-hop, but not the origins. I wasn’t around for Afrika Bambaataa, Grandmaster Flash, or KRS-One, but I’ve been around for the everlasting impact. Here are three important things I’ve learned from the two seasons of the docu-series and some of the older hip-hop heads in my life:

How did Hip-Hop originate?

If you ask any hardcore hip-hop fan who the first MC was or how hip-hop came to be, I’m sure they’d all give different theories. One thing that can’t be disputed is Clive “DJ Kool Herc” Campbell and his contributions to MCing, partying, and DJing. DJ Kool Herc threw the first ever hip-hop party in the 1970s. The tracks that were played, the stretch of the breaks, and the use of two turntables ushered in a new era of partying. Kool Herc and Coke La Rock, his right-hand-man, paved the way for young MC’s and DJ’s such as the legendary Afrika Bambaataa and Grandmaster Flash.

The Birth & Perfection of Mixing

Joseph “Grandmaster Flash” Saddler saw the art in what DJ Kool Herc was doing with records and decided to delve even further into it. The originator of scratching and cutting records; Grandmaster Flash had it down to a science. Finding the breaks in songs and marking them on the record with a crayon is what modern-day DJ’s have to thank for methods such as chopping and screwing, crabbing, looping, flaring, scratching and so much more. Grandmaster Flash perfected mixing records by realizing he had absolute control of the record without touching the needle; “Grandmaster Flash made the turntables into an instrument”.

The Impact of the Bay Area

As an LA native, I’ve always known that the Bay Area was a big part of the West Coast’s influence on Hip-Hop and R&B. I’ve known about Mac Dre, MC Hammer, and Too Short. What I didn’t know? Too Short laid down the “player persona” and the pimp characterization that has been so often portrayed in Hip Hop. Records like “Born to Mac” set the tone in not only the Bay-Area but New York, Los Angeles, DC, and Miami. The Bay Area, so often overlooked and disregarded in the modern day in terms of Hip-Hop, arguably brought “pimpin” into the Rap game. While this topic is more than likely up for debate, many veteran Bay-area rappers agree that Too Short is “The Godfather of Pimpin”, or at least the Godfather of rapping about it.

The most important thing to be taken away from the docuseries is that Hip-Hop has always been a cultural movement more than a genre. Knowing the history has given me a deeper understanding and appreciation for its origins. I highly recommend watching the 2-part series if you haven’t already.

Words by Brax Chea

Written by Manny King John


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