How Hip Hop Got Its Start in the Auto Industry

This article is a collaborative effort, crafted and edited by a team of dedicated professionals.

Contributors: Andranick Tanguiane, Fred Lerdahl,


Before it was a multi-million dollar industry, hip hop was born in the streets of New York City. Specifically, it was the Bronx where hip hop first took root in the early 1970s.

The Origins of Hip Hop

It is widely known that hip hop started in the Bronx, New York in the 1970s. However, what is not as widely known is that the auto industry played a large role in the origins of hip hop. In the early days of hip hop, many of the songs were about cars and the Fast and Furious lifestyle. In fact, one of the earliest hip hop songs was called “Good Times” by Chic, which is about a Rolls-Royce.

DJ Kool Herc and the Birth of Hip Hop

Hip hop began in the Bronx in New York City in the 1970s. It was created by African American and Latino youths who were influenced by the vibrant, soulful music of their cultures and the hip hop culture that was emerging in the streets.

The first hip hop DJ was DJ Kool Herc, who is credited with creating the genre. Herc played soul and funk music at parties and block parties, using two turntables to extend the length of the songs. He would also isolate the “break” section of a song, which is where the beat is especially intense, and repeat it to create a continuous groove. Herc’s style of DJing laid the foundation for all subsequent hip hop DJs.

Other important early pioneers of hip hop include Grandmaster Flash, Afrika Bambaataa, and Funkadelic. Hip hop was originally created as party music, but it soon became a powerful tool for social and political commentary as well. In the 1980s, rappers like Public Enemy and N.W.A emerged with aggressive, politically charged lyrics that spoke to the experiences of inner-city youth.

Today, hip hop is one of the most popular genres of music in the world, with artists like Kendrick Lamar, Drake, and Cardi B topping charts around the globe. It has also come to be synonymous with fashion, art, dance, and attitude. Hip hop culture continues to evolve and inspire new generations of fans every day.

The Rise of Gangsta Rap

In the late 1980s, gangsta rap became the most commercially viable subgenre of hip hop. Gangsta rap is a subgenre of hip hop that often focuses on the violent lifestyles and illicit activities of inner-city youth. The genre was pioneered by groups and artists such as N.W.A, Ice-T, and Snoop Dogg.

Gangsta rap enjoyed its greatest commercial success in the early to mid-1990s. At this time, the subgenre was often associated with controversies, such as violence, explicit lyrics, and drug use. This reputation eventually led to censorship and bans on gangsta rap music in some areas. In spite of these challenges, gangsta rap remained popular with many listeners throughout the 1990s and 2000s.

How Hip Hop Took Over the Auto Industry

It’s no secret that the auto industry and hip hop have had a long, complicated relationship. For years, the two industries have been intertwined, with each influencing the other in a variety of ways. The auto industry has long been a source of inspiration for hip hop artists, and the music has had a profound effect on the way cars are marketed and sold.

The Role of the Car in Hip Hop Culture

Since the birth of hip hop in the late 1970s, the car has played a significant role in the culture. From early songs like Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five’s “Superrappin'” to modern hits like Wiz Khalifa’s “Black and Yellow,” cars have been an integral part of hip hop. And while the specific make and model of car mentioned in a song might change over time, the car’s role in hip hop remains consistent: it is a symbol of luxury, success, and status.

For many young people growing up in disadvantaged neighborhoods, the car is an unattainable dream. It is a physical representation of the wealth and success that seems so out of reach. And yet, it is also a source of hope; if one can attain the material possessions that are glorified in hip hop, then anything is possible.

The car is more than just a consumer good in hip hop culture; it is a signifier of one’s hard-earned success. It is a way to show off one’s wealth and status to the world. For those who have grown up without much, the car represents everything that they are working towards.

The Influence of Hip Hop on Auto Design

The rise of hip hop culture in the late 1970s and 1980s had a significant impact on the auto industry. American carmakers began to heavily target young, black urban consumers with advertising and design that reflected their lifestyle and interests. This shift coincided with a wider trend in the advertising industry of targeting consumers based on cultural identity.

In the 1990s, hip hop culture went mainstream, and its influence on the auto industry became even more pronounced. Designers began to incorporate «hip hop» elements into cars that were not necessarily intended for young, black urban consumers. This trend was driven by both a desire to appeal to a wider range of consumers and a genuine interest in the style and aesthetics of hip hop culture.

Today, the influence of hip hop on auto design is evident in many different ways. From the use of oversized logos and bold colors to the incorporation of music and sound systems, hip hop has made its mark on the auto industry in a big way.

The Marketing of Hip Hop Cars

How did hip hop become the defining music genre of the car industry? It all started with a marketing campaign by Chrysler in the early 1990s.

chrysler-ads-feature-rappers-2At a time when the American car industry was struggling, Chrysler found a way to tap into the growing popularity of hip hop. They started featuring rap songs in their ads, and even hired rappers to endorse their cars.

The strategy worked. Hip hop and cars quickly became synonymous with each other, and today almost every major auto manufacturer features rap songs in their commercials. Even luxury brands like BMW and Mercedes have gotten in on the trend.

While some people may see this as a crass marketing tactic, there’s no denying that it’s been effective. After all, what could be more “cool” than driving around in your favorite rapper’s car?

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