How Hip Hop Music and Dancing Have Evolved

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

Contributors: Andranick Tanguiane, Fred Lerdahl,


How Hip Hop Music and Dancing Have Evolved

The Early Days of Hip Hop

Hip hop music and dancing have come a long way since the early days. What started out as a way for people to express themselves has now turned into a global phenomenon. Let’s take a look at how hip hop music and dancing have evolved over the years.

The Bronx

It’s hard to pinpoint exactly when and where hip hop began. But if we had to choose a place, it would be the Bronx in the late 1970s. This is where a group of young people started experimenting with music and dance, layering simple beats with rhymes to create what we now know as rap. They also developed a new style of dance called “breaking” or “breakdancing,” which was characterized by its acrobatic moves and freeze frames.

DJ Kool Herc

In the 1970s, a new type of music was born in the streets of the Bronx, New York. This new style of music was called hip hop. It was a mix of different types of music, including rap, R&B, and disco. Hip hop also included a new type of dancing, which was called breakdancing.

DJ Kool Herc is considered to be the father of hip hop. He is credited with inventing the breakbeat, which is a key element of hip hop music. Herc would play two copies of the same record on two turntables, and he would extend the part of the record that had the strongest beat. This allowed dancers to have a continuous beat to dance to.

Hip hop has evolved over the years, but it still retains its roots in the Bronx. Today, hip hop is one of the most popular genres of music in the world.

Afrika Bambaataa

A DJ from the South Bronx, Afrika Bambaataa is widely credited as being one of the fathers of hip hop. His work in the 1970s with groups like the Black Spades helped to lay the foundations for the genre, both musically and culturally. His biggest hit, “Planet Rock,” borrowed heavily from electronic music and was one of the first hip hop tracks to cross over into the mainstream. Bambaataa’s influence can still be felt today, both in hip hop and in electronic music more broadly.

The Golden Age of Hip Hop

The golden age of hip hop was a time when the music and dancing were fresh and new. The early 1980s saw the rise of hip hop music and culture, and with it, a new style of dancing. This style was characterized by its aggressive and energetic moves, and it quickly became popular among young people.

The Sugarhill Gang

The Sugarhill Gang was one of the first hip hop groups to gain mainstream attention. They are best known for their song “Rapper’s Delight”, which was released in 1979 and reached number one on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. The group’s name comes from the Sugar Hill neighborhood in New York City, where they were based.

The Sugarhill Gang was formed by four friends: Michael Wright (aka Big Bank Hank), Henry Jackson (aka Master Gee), Guy O’Brien (aka Wonder Mike), and Sylvia Robinson (aka Lady B). Sylvia Robinson was a singer and record producer who had started her own record label, Sugarhill Records. She recruited the three men to form a rap group, and they recorded “Rapper’s Delight” in just one take.

The song became an instant hit, and the Sugarhill Gang became famous overnight. They went on to release several more successful songs, including “8th Wonder” and “Apache”. However, creative differences between the members led to the group’s dissolution in 1985. Big Bank Hank died in 2014, but Wonder Mike and Master Gee are still active in the music industry today.


Run-D.M.C. is considered one of the most influential hip hop groups of all time, helping to shape the sound and style of the genre in the early 1980s. The group was made up of Joseph “Run” Simmons, Darryl “D.M.C.” McDaniels, and Jason “Jam Master Jay” Mizell, and they were known for their innovative approach to music, fashion, and dance. Their debut album, “Run-D.M.C.,” was released in 1984 and included the hit single “Sucker MCs.” The album was a critical and commercial success, and it helped to legitimize hip hop as a viable musical genre. Run-D.M.C.’s follow-up album, “King of Rock,” was even more successful, reaching #1 on the Billboard 200 chart. The group became hip hop superstars and helped to bring rap music into the mainstream. They continued to release successful albums throughout the 1980s and early 1990s before disbanding in 2002 after Jam Master Jay’s untimely death.

Public Enemy

Public Enemy is widely credited as being one of the most influential and innovative groups in the history of hip hop music. Formed in Long Island, New York in 1985, the group originally consisted of Chuck D (vocals), Flavor Flav (vocals), Professor Griff (vocals, percussion), Khari Wynn (guitar), and Rich Norman (bass). Public Enemy’s debut album, Yo! Bum Rush the Show, was released in 1987 to critical acclaim, and their second album, It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back, is considered one of the greatest hip hop albums of all time.

With their politically charged lyrics and innovative production, Public Enemy helped to define the sound and style of 1980s hip hop. They are also credited with helping to bring political and social awareness to rap music, and their albums are often seen as reflections of the socio-political climate of the time period in which they were released. In 1988, Public Enemy’s song “Don’t Believe the Hype” was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Rap Performance. The group has released 13 studio albums over the course of their career, and they continue to be an influential force in both hip hop music and popular culture.

The Modern Era of Hip Hop

While Hip Hop has been around since the 1970s, it has evolved significantly since then, both in terms of the music and the dance. In the early days, Hip Hop was about expressing yourself and your identity, and the music and dance reflected that. Today, Hip Hop is still about expression, but it is also about entertainment and competition.


Outkast is an American hip hop duo formed in 1992 in Atlanta, Georgia, United States. The duo is composed of Andre “Andre 3000” Benjamin (formerly known as Dré) and Antwan “Big Boi” Patton. The group achieved both critical acclaim and commercial success in the early to mid-2000s, helping to popularize Southern hip hop while experimenting with diverse genres such as funk, psychedelia, techno, and gospel. They have released six studio albums, one live album, and two greatest hits albums. In 2000, Outkast won the Grammy Award for Best Rap Album for Stankonia and Best Rap Performance by a Duo or Group for “Ms. Jackson”. They also won awards for Album of the Year and Best Rap Performance by a Duo or Group at the 46th annual Grammy Awards.

Kendrick Lamar

arguably one of the most popular and successful rappers of the modern era, Kendrick Lamar has been credited with helping to bring hip hop back to its roots. His music is often seen as a throwback to the golden age of hip hop, with its focus on beats and rhymes rather than flashy production values. Lamar is also known for his electrifying live performances, which often incorporate elements of dance and theater. He has won multiple Grammy Awards and is widely considered to be one of the most talented rappers currently working.

Chance the Rapper

With the release of his third mixtape, Coloring Book, in 2016, Chance the Rapper became one of hip hop’s most celebrated artists. A protege of Kanye West, Chance melds positive, uplifting lyrics with smooth production, creating a sound that is both fresh and classic. His success is indicative of a larger trend in hip hop music and culture: a return to the roots of the genre.

For years, hip hop was dominated by artists who glorified violence, drugs, and crime. But in recent years, there has been a resurgence of so-called “conscious rap,” with artists like Kendrick Lamar and J. Cole using their platform to address social issues. Chance the Rapper is part of this new wave of hip hop, and his music is helping to redefine what it means to be a rapper in the 21st century.

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