Have you ever felt that you have been discriminated based upon the music you listen? Believe it or not music is considered to be a space and a “space”, which is any part of your surroundings that can help, define a person. So I ask myself what message does Hip-Hop send? To get a better understanding of hip-hop and the message it sends or tries to send I wanted to analyze the history of hip-hop. I will also be looking at the main figures in hip-hop and their influences on both the industry and society. Finally I will show the progression of hip-hop in present day.
The story of hip-hop includes major events, controversies, and talent. The story of hip-hop begins in New York specifically the Bronx in the early 70s by a Jamaican DJ known as Kool Herc. (dy) He was trying to incorporate rhymes over his reggae beats. “Unfortunately New Yorkers were not into reggae” this lead him to replace the reggae beat with beats of one sometimes two songs that were popular at the time. This blending created a new style and a new way to produce what would be a new genre of music. There were five new elements brought into the game beat boxing, mc, DJ, graffiti art, and b boying. Not only were the sounds different but for the first time global view and issues were being incorporated into the lyrics. Leading artists from the island at the time Bob Marley and the roots were rapping about the struggles Jamaica faced while trying to receive its independence from Great Britain in 1962 (Garrett 53). Such struggles included political turmoil and reconstruction and intensified street violence. The struggle for power leads the streets of Jamaica to become a battle ground not only for corrupt politicians but for gang members as well. Bob Marley sung the following about the early music “Some are leaves, some are branches, but I am di roots.” The rapping about current events and harsh living would later strive in hip-hop.
Although rappers weren’t facing the hardships such as a battle for independence but they were battling being part of a minority group and facing the recession of the 1980s. The period of the 1980 was considered to be the Golden age of Hip-Hop because groups and artist arose and began to speak out not only against society but to the government as well. Hip-Hop was influencing society to try to create the identity that was being portrayed by their role models. Powerful groups at the time were the N.W.A and Public Enemy which already had created an image of Gansta rappers. You see according the documentary Planet rock Cocaine impacted hip-hop into the harder identity. This was because the music grew in the ghettos but rappers were poor because they couldn’t get jobs due to the recession their only customers were drug dealers because they were the only people with money. This lead drug dealers to become sponsors for rappers that they liked motivating them to make music that they would like to listen to.
If they weren’t making music for drug dealers they were becoming drug dealers. Many role models such as Snoop Dogg, B-real, T.I., Ice T and members of Wutang admitted to using drug money to keep their success in underground hip-hop going. They were making thousands of dollars weekly and continued to put out their cds. Dealers liked to hear music about aggression and frustration of the rappers struggles in society. Many rappers told stories of their loses due to gang violence and abuse they face from government officials. Many began to argue that music was a cause for violence. A quote was taken from the trail of Ronald Ray Howard, a man who was executed for shooting a state trooper, “He grew up in the ghetto and disliked police, and these were his heroes… these rappers… telling him if you’re pulled over, just blast away” it meant to show how music took a negative effect on society. (David Carson pg.33) Many rappers were taking sides in the gang life and started claiming sides were better from others. These negative views had no limits on targets even police were attacked lyrical the most controversial song Cop killer. This was happening on both sides of our country a genre that was originally created to express African roots and blending of styles turned into another way for “beef” to initiate.
That is exactly what happens the term beef is used to define the problems between to individuals or in music record labels. The industry began creating groups such as Niggas With Attitudes, Public Enemy which were represented by record companies such as Death Row records and Bad Boy Records. These two powerful record labels each had their face rapper with Tupac Shakur representing the west coast and Biggie Smalls representing the East coast. Both major cities, New York and Los Angeles, had a growing number of gansta rappers that liked to bad mouth each side. But to understand the greatest feud in hip-hop you have to read about the influences the record labels had. People argued the following “this is the music for sociopaths, just look at their icons. In the beginning the two were friends but after certain events it lead to controversial songs that would later influence certain members in society to act out exactly how their role models rapped. Tupac young into his career faced legal trouble in New York and ended up in jail. Death row records offered to bail him out in exchange for him to sign a deal with them which he did. Suge’s, the owner of the record label, had launched a campaign against Bad Boy records and Tupac was ready to carry through with it because he believed that they had set him up to get shot in Times Square the year before. (Garrett 225)
The beef between East and West coast would lead people to wonder what effect the music was taking on society. A showdown between both labels occurred backstage during the Soul Train Awards and Suge continued to antagonize Biggie and Puffy. (Garrett 225) Shortly Tupac released his single “Hit ‘Em Up” which took a shot at Biggie and his entourage. This lead to more artist insulting the other sides through different songs, but unfortunately this would lead to violent act that passed song lyrics. One day while Snoop Dogg tried to shoot his New York New York music video in New York his crew was shot at. That wasn’t the only acts of violence that would occur everyday fights and threats of war were taking place and another artist Ice Cube, another gansta rapper from Compton, created a hand signal that stood for west coast also now stood for war. Then we started to see icons fall on September 7, 1996 Tupac was killed in Las Vegas this event lead to the death of Biggie Smalls.
Finally government officials decided to intervene and began creating unit dedicated to rappers and their actions. That and the different interests in society had hip-hop growing and changing. Instead of gangsta rappers rapping about drugs, sex, money, bitches and hoes the rap game began to expand. It opened the way for a cultural change white and even Chicano rappers started to emerge examples of the new figures Eminem and Kid Frost. Hip-Hop has gone mainstream and became “radio friendly” the blend between pop and hip-hop created hits that people could dance to like MC Hammer in 1990 releasing “U Can’t Touch This”. This was the mentality that Hip-hop would have until present day. Now you see diversity in the rap game great examples are Honey Cocaine an Asian girl rapper and Drake a rapper that has a lot of hype who comes from Canada. The music has changed as well the genre really has no boundaries now songs have beats from other genres and includes instruments from others as well. Many hip-hop song include collaborations between rappers from both sides of the country and can even include rapping and singing.
Hip-Hop has certainly gone a long way from reggae DJ's in new York. But the perception has also changed now people don’t believe that people who listen to hip hop aren’t just necessarily gang members or drug dealers. Now rappers send almost a positive message by telling their stories and discouraging drugs, gangs, sex. For many such as T.I music saved his life and donates money back into music programs to encourage kids with talent to strive for a better future. So next time someone tells you that you are a thug because of the music you listen to you tell them about the change its gone threw.