Hip Hop: An Introduction

  • rap music sampleThe Fatback Band - King Tim III (Personality Jock)
  • rap music sample Run DMC featuring Aerosmith - Walk This Way
  • rap music sample Mobb Deep - Shook Ones Pt. II
  • rap music sample 

    These four songs clearly show they way hip hop has changed since the beginning. The first song, King Tim III, represents hip hop of the '70s with its very funk inspired music but even as early as 1979 rap was a clearly defined vocal style. "Walk This Way" from 1986 gained hip hop its first Grammy award and revived Aerosmiths career............

The terms Hip hop and Rap are generally interchangeable. It is a genre of music that begun in the early 1970's among predominently African-Americans in New York. By the late 70's hip hop was seen as a viable alterative to disco which by then had became over-commercialised with everyone from the Rolling Stones to even Frank Sinatra jumping on the disco band wagon. Disco was starting to fall out of favour with its original listeners who tend to shun mainstream trends.

Ironically a parallel can be drawn between the demise of disco in the late 70's and what is currently happening in Hip hop today in the 2000's with much of the same comercialism killing it for traditional listeners culminating in 2006 with many releases by rap heavyweights being shunned by their usual fans who automatically dismiss the album as the same comercial rubbish that has been flooding hip hop for most of the decade.

Not only does hip hop encompass rapping, it decribes a movement that also includes its own dance style with break dancing and even its very own visual art form with grafitti. Hip hop also has its own unique DJ methods.

The vocal style of hip hop is talking rythmically to the music (or beat). The term rap itself stems from the 1960's use of the term to describe conversing with aquaintances.
Rapping is very different to singing with vocal range taking a definite back seat to innovative rhyming. Vocal range is infact, so unimportant to rap that, generally, rappers are not expected to be able to hit ANY note whatsoever. The vocal of a hip hop record is usually in tune with the music only by accident - the rapper adjusts his/her style to what sounds best for the recording. It's just by conincidence that the best style is usually in tune.
The rapper is also refered to as the MC or even emcee. This name derives from the "Master of the Ceremonies" which is an alternative to the term Compere.
Many rappers use MC as a title in much the same was a knight uses sir and a doctor uses Dr as a title. A few examples include: Lorenzo Patterson who goes my the name MC Ren; Daryl McDaniels with DMC; ......


The use of pseudonyms among MC's is very common. Not for anonimity but because most of the names simply sound cool. For example, James Todd Smith goes by the name LL Cool J - J obviously stands for James but, amusingly, LL stands for "ladies love".
Mashall Mathers III (Eminem) not only used the pseudonym, but also created an alterative persona with his character "Slim Shady". Mathers' Slim Shady character was quite politically incorrect and usually rapped about socially sensitive topics in a very derogitory way.


As the use of alter-egos in any for of music is rare Mathers had to battle hard with detractors who wanted boycotts on his music. He tried, usually unsucessfully, to explain that Slim Shady was only a character who doesn't neccesarily reflect his own views. This situation seems stupid when one considers that Arnold Schwarzenegger never needed to convince anyone that he wasn't a cyborg sent from the future to "terminate" the establishments enemies' parents before they are concieved like his character in the movie "The Terminator" was.

This battle was also fought by Ice-T in the early 90's when the then President Gearge H.W. Bush cited his music as the blame for the 1992 Los Angeles riots. Ice-T stated that anyone believing that he infact engaged in behaviour outlined in his music, such as murdering police officers, was as rediculous as people believing that David Bowie was an astronaut......
Nevertheless, Ice-T caved into the pressure and withdrew his album and reissued it in slightly watered down form. The song in question, "Cop Killer" was never again made avaliable to his listeners.