Hip hop became part of modern culture during the ’80s and over the years, it has become a lifestyle for many. Based on unique new art forms that developed in the streets because of a need for self expression, it is commonly known to contain four elements: DJ-ing, MC-ing (rapping), Graffiti and B-Boying. This article is going to look specifically look at hip hop culture in music.
Briefly, hip hop music is defined by four key stylistic elements: Rapping/MC-ing, DJ-ing/Scratching, Sampling (or Synthesis), and Beat boxing.
Rapping, as it is commonly known, is also referred to as emceeing, MC-ing, spitting bars, or rhyming. Historically, it is believed that rapping is a form of expression embedded within ancient African culture and oral tradition.
Today, rapping is a primary ingredient in hip hop music and reggae. This style of music can be broken down into different components, namely: content, flow and delivery.
Content refers to the lyrics or words spoken by the rapper. Rappers usually talk about the world’s current events in their content. Some even use rap to satirize or criticize some of the things happening in society.
The flow of the rap refers the rhythms and rhymes of a hip hop song’s lyrics and how they interact. Flow can be broken down into rhyme, rhyme schemes, and rhythm (also known as cadence). Sometimes, flow is also used to refer to elements such as pitch, timbre, volume.
Delivery refers to the execution or performance of the rap. When preparing to deliver or perform a rap routine, a rapper must develop vocal presence, enunciation, and breath control. Vocal presence is the uniqueness of a rapper’s voice on record. Enunciation affects the flow of rap – some rappers choose also to exaggerate their enunciation for comic and artistic effect. Breath control involves taking in air without interrupting the rap delivery. This is essential in any delivery because with poor breath control, one cannot deliver difficult verses without making unintentional pauses in between hip hop dance songs.
DJ-ing involves the use of turntablism, an art of manipulating sounds and creating music using phonograph turntables and a DJ mixer.
Among the first few hip hop DJ’s was Kool DJ Herc. Kool Herc created break-beat DJ-ing which became the foundational development of DJ-ing in hip hop history. This type of DJ-ing involves the isolation of breaks in songs. A break is a musical fragment only seconds in length in which all or most of the music stops except for the percussion.
Besides Herc’s techniques, DJs Grandmaster Flowers, Grandmaster Flash, Grand Wizard Theodore, and Grandmaster Caz also made further innovations with the introduction of scratching.
Sampling involves taking a portion, or sample, of one sound recording and reusing it as an instrument or a sound recording in a different song or piece. While sampling, producers will physically manipulate tape loops or vinyl records on a phonograph.
Sampling in hip hop dance songs first emerged with Kool Herc, contemporary disc jockeys and imitators creating rhythmic beats by looping breaks on two turntables.
Over time, sampling technology has become more advanced, modern equipment allowed not only more memory but more flexibility for creative production. Producers were able to filter and layer different hits, re-sequence them into a single piece.
Unfortunately, with the emergence of new and hi-tech equipment, it may prove to be very expensive to keep up with the technology causing a decrease in the quality of the album.
Beat boxing is a unique form of music style that do not use any kind of instrument or electronic equipment to produce. It is the vocal percussion of hip hop culture involving the production drum beats, rhythm, and musical sounds using the human mouth, lips, tongue, and voice. Specifically, this is done through singing, vocal imitation of turntablism, and the simulation of horns, strings, and other musical instruments.
Generally considered to be part of the same DJ-ing, beat boxing is typically used to provide a musical backdrop or foundation for rappers to rhyme over.