Hip hop has permeated popular culture in an unprecedented fashion. Because of its crossover appeal, it is a great unifier of diverse populations. Although created by black youth on the streets, hip hop's influence has become well received by a number of different races in this country. A large number of the rap and hip hop audience is non-black. It has gone from the fringes, to the suburbs, and into the corporate boardrooms. Because it has become the fastest growing music genre in the U.S., companies and corporate giants have used its appeal to capitalize on it. Although critics of rap music and hip hop seem to be fixated on the messages of sex, violence, and harsh language, this genre offers a new paradigm of what can be (Lewis, 1998.) The potential of this art form to mend ethnic relations is substantial. Hip hop has challenged the system in ways that have unified individuals across a rich ethnic spectrum. This art form was once considered a fad has kept going strong for more than three decades. Generations consisting of Blacks, Whites, Latinos, and Asians have grown up immersed in hip-hop. Hip hop represents a realignment of America's cultural aesthetics. Rap songs deliver a message, again and again, to keep it real. It has influenced young people of all races to search for excitement, artistic fulfillment, and a sense of identity by exploring the black underclass (Foreman, 2002). Though it is music, many people do not realize that it is much more than that. Hip hop is a form of art and culture, style, and language, and extension of commerce, and for many, a natural means of living. The purpose of this paper is to examine hip hop and its effect on American culture. Different aspects of hip hop will also be examined to shed some light that helps readers to what hip hop actually is. In order to see hip hop as a cultural influence we need to take a look at its history.
Throughout American history there has always been some form of verbal acrobatics or jousting involving rhymes within the Afro-American community. Signifying, testifying, shining of the Titanic, the Dozens, school yard rhymes, prison jail house' rhymes and double Dutch jump rope rhymes, are some of the names and ways that various forms of raps have manifested. Modern day rap music finds its immediate roots in the toasting and dub talk over elements of reggae music (George, 1998). Busy Bee Starski, D.J. Hollywood, and African Bambaataa are the three New York artists credited for coining the term hip hop (Alexander, 1998). It began in the 70s with funky beats resonating at house parties, at basement parties, and the streets of New York (Fernando, 1994.)
In the early 70s, a Jamaican d.j. known as Kool Herc moved from Kingston to NY's West Bronx. He attempted to incorporate his Jamaican style of dj, which involved reciting improvised rhymes over the dub versions of his reggae records. Unfortunately New Yorkers were not into reggae at this time. Because of this, he adapted his style by chanting over instrumental percussion sections of the day's popular songs. Since these breaks were relatively short, he learned to extend them indefinitely by using an audio mixer and two identical records in which he continuously replaced the desires segment.
In those early days, young partygoers initially recited popular phrases and used the slang of the day. This would usually evoke a response from the crowd, who began to call out their own names and slogans. As this culture evolved, the party shouts became more elaborate as the dj, in an effort to be different, began to incorporate little rhymes. It was not long before people began drawing upon outdated dozens and schoolyard rhymes. Many would add their own twist and customize these rhymes to make them suitable for the party environment (George, 1998).
At that time it was not yet known as rap' but called emceeing. As the interest in rap music grew, so...