Shannon Brady
Writer & Editor

Hip-hop originated as and remains an important development in the world of music as a whole and a major cultural movement in the United States.

While “hip-hop” and “rap” are often used interchangeably, they are not the same: rapping is the style of vocal performance characterized by rhyming, rhythmic speech delivered over a beat, inspired by African and African-American poetry. Hip-hop is the wider cultural and musical style that provides the backing for rap music. It includes not only rapping itself but deejaying/DJ-ing (a style of sound mixing using turntables), break dancing (an energetic style of dance also called “breaking,” or “B-boying/B-girling”), and graffiti art, wall art usually done in spray paint and consisting of artists “tagging” names or images in large lettering and bright, visible colors.

The origins of hip-hop can be traced to 1970s New York City, specifically to African-American communities in the Bronx. Young artists gathered and collaborated in block and house parties, experimenting with vocal styles and sound mixing as they created art reflecting their feelings about their communities and aspirations for the future. Hip-hop evolved through the decades from not only a wide variety of cultural influence, but the influence of older styles such as rhythm and blues, jazz, soul, disco, funk, and more.

This year, we celebrate 2023 as the fiftieth anniversary of hip-hop: at a house party on August 11, 1973, the Bronx musician DJ Kool Herc is credited with being the first to combine traditional elements of hip-hop such as turntabling, extending the instrumental break of his songs so the crowd could dance longer, and exciting the crowd by also emceeing over that break.

The occasion is being celebrated across New York City with events such as The 50th Anniversary of Hip-Hop and the “Hip-Hop Til Infinity” installation at Manhattan’s Hall des Lumières. Check out concerts and educational events near you to experience the evolution of the genre that’s spread from New York City to achieve worldwide popularity.

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