The Hip Hop Ages

The Old School Era: From 1979 to 1987 hip hop culture cultivated itself in and through all of its elements usually remaining authentic to its counter cultural roots in the post-industrial challenges manifested in the urban landscape of the late 20th Century. Artists associated with this era included Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, The Sugarhill Gang, Lady B, Big Daddy Kane, Run DMC, Kurtis Blow and others.

The Golden Age Era: From 1987 – 1993 Rap and rappers begin to take centre stage as the culture splashes onto the mainstream platform of American popular culture. The extraordinary musical production and lyrical content of rap songs artistically eclipse most of the other primary elements of the culture (breakdancing, graf art, and DJing). Eventually the Recording Industry contemplates rap music as a potential billion dollar opportunity. Mass mediated rap music and Hip hop videos displace the intimate, insulated urban development of the culture. Artists associated with this era include: Run DMC, Boogie Down Productions, Eric B and Rakim, SaltNPepa, Queen Latifah, De La Soul, A Tribe Called Quest, Public Enemy, NWA, and many others.

The Platinum Present: From 1994 to the present Hip Hop culture has enjoyed the best and worst of what mass mediated popularity and cultural commodification has had to offer. The meteoric rise to popular fame of gangsta rap in the early 90s set the stage for a marked content shift in the lyrical discourse of rap music toward more and more violent depictions of inner city realities. Millions of magazines and records were sold, but two of Hip hop’s most promising artists, Biggie Smalls and Tupac Shakur were literally gunned down in the crossfire of a media fuelled battle between the so called East and West Coast constituents of Hip Hop culture. With the blueprint of popular success for rappers laid bare, several exceptional artists stepped into the gaping space left in the wake of Biggie and Tupac. This influx of new talent included Nas, JayZ, Master P, DMX, Big Pun, Snoop Dogg, Eminem, and Outkast. The current era of Hip Hop is still unfolding, but since the demise of Tupac Shakur and The Notorious B.I.G., an era of battling amongst MCs and crews of MCs has taken root even as the Platinum era seems to be waning. It is no longer simply good enough to be gangsta or to be rich and ‘blinged’ out. These days you need to be gangsta, rich and prepared to at least do lyrical battle in the name of your crew and/or your position in Hip Hop culture.

The Sugar Hill Gang recorded the first popular commercial rap recording, “Rapper’s Delight,” in 1979. This song was many Americans’ first brush with hip-hop. In the 1980s the hip-hop scene expanded and entered the mainstream in the U.S. The films “Wild Style” and “Style Wars” were released. Def Jam Recordings was established. Two big steps in making hip-hop mainstream were Run-DMC’s release of its version of Aerosmith’s “Walk This Way” and the group’s nomination for a Grammy. MTV and the radio started to have rap-specific programming with “Yo! MTV Raps!” and “Mr. Magic’s Rap Attack” on the New York FM radio station WHBI. MTV would not play Black music and Micheal Jackson was the first artist to appear on their programming.

Two noteworthy women in the hip-hop world in the 1980s were Wendy Clark and Queen Latifah. At the end of 1980s hip-hop started getting some negative press. Politicians and media personalities painted a picture of commercial hip-hop as music that taught immoral values. During the late eighties that many Hip Hop scholars consider the golden era saw a group emerge from Long Island called Public Enemy. They opened the eyes to what it was like in the black community. Inspiring and providing a generation with positive role models and identity.

In the 1990s gangsta rap, a type of rap that describes life in inner-city neighborhoods, became commercially popular in the U.S. Even though many people criticized it, this music spoke to youth who could identify with its themes of anger, rebellion against authority, and apathy. Companies who could profit from young consumers caught onto this trend and linked up their products with popular rap music. Some hip-hop fans see the commercialization of hip-hop music as selling out and compromising hip-hop’s original message.

Breakdancing, rapping, scratching, and graffiti art all became part of youth culture’s vocabulary. Looking at the roots of hip-hop, we see a powerful example of human creativity. A group of deprived kids managed to create an entire culture and art-form with the limited resources they had.

We now see a new genre of music: A distorted by product of true hip hop culture called rap music (really rapusic) where the MC has been transformed into something called a “rapper.” Where money is energy, jewellery and expensive cars are his presence and he possesses no technique at all. For in his blindness he has been used to destroy everything hip hop culture stands for. Within this madness, the DJ, who has become nothing more than a sidekick to the rapper, continues to struggle, doing everything he can to bring hip hop from the underground to the service where it belongs. The hip hop DJ now spends more time with samplers, computers, synthesizers and drum machines than with turntables. Now some DJs just call themselves producers and the rap artist depends on them to make up beats with the new technology. So it seems that everything happens for a reason, because now that sampling is the main process of rap music, the producer has to find new sounds to sample. He must educate himself like the original hip hop DJs did because the only way to compete is to practice hard and research. In this quest/search you will find hip hop culture; it’s there, it’s always been there, and it will always be here.
These Nine Elements are the beginning of Independence and Self-Governance for Hiphoppas. We are financed by our cultural Elements, these are our intellectual properties. If we are to become and remain politically and socially strong we cannot continue to give our intellectual property (our Elements) away to those who care little for our continued development and well-being as a people.
A Hip Hop Element is one of Hip Hop’s cultural expressions. It is a material good. It is our intellectual property. It is our capital. It is an act, art, or idea that further expresses Hip Hop’s culture and consciousness. It is a skill that reflects the character of the Hiphop consciousness and enhances the Health, Love, Awareness, and Wealth of the truly committed Hiphoppa.

Presently Hiphop’s elements are symbolized as B.E.G.D.B.F.L.K.E.

  • Breakin
  • Emceein
  • Graffiti Art
  • Deejayin
  • Beat Boxin
  • Street Fashion
  • Street Language
  • Street Knowledge
  • Street Entrepreneurialism

Hip Hop’s Elements are the sources of Hiphop culture’s political power. They are also the sources of a Hiphoppa’s liveliehood. They are how the Hiphoppa provides for and protects her Self and her family. True Hiphoppas are specialized in at least one or more of Hiphop’s Nine Elements.