A History of Hip Hop and Rap Music

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

Contributors: Andranick Tanguiane, Fred Lerdahl,


A History of Hip Hop and Rap Music is a blog that discusses the origins and evolution of hip hop and rap music.

The Origins of Hip Hop

Hip hop and rap music are genres of music that have their roots in African American culture. Hip hop is a type of music that originated in the 1970s in New York City. Rap is a type of music that originated in the 1980s in the United States.

The Bronx

In the 1970s, a new kind of music emerged in the Bronx, New York. Called hip hop, it was a blend of rap,djing, and graffiti art. Hip hop soon spread to other parts of the city, and then to other major cities in the United States. Today, hip hop is one of the most popular music genres in the world.

Hip hop began in the Bronx in the early 1970s. The neighborhood was plagued by poverty and crime, and many young people turned to gangs for protection and community. However, a few young people found another way to express themselves: through music.

DJs would set up equipment inlocal parks and playgrounds, and people would gather to listen to music and dance. These gatherings were called block parties. At first, DJs played mostly funk and soul music, but they soon began playing more experimental styles of music, including Jamaican dub and African American jazz.

Rapping—or rhyming spoken word over a beat—also became popular at these block parties. MCs (masters of ceremonies) would encourage people to dance and would often insult other gangs at rival parties. This competitive style of rapping helped to create an electric atmosphere at parties.

By the late 1970s, hip hop had become a citywide phenomenon in New York. In 1977, DJ Kool Herc threw a party in the Bronx that is considered one of the first hip hop events. That same year, an album called The Message by Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five was released. The album featured socially conscious lyrics about life in inner-city neighborhoods like the Bronx.

DJ Kool Herc

DJ Kool Herc is a hip hop pioneer who is credited with helping to create the genre. Born in Kingston, Jamaica, in 1955, Herc began playing records at parties and clubs in the Bronx in the early 1970s. He was one of the first DJs to extend the breaks in songs (the part where there is no singing), which helped create a new style of dancing called “breakdancing.” Herc’s style of DJing, which featured quick cuts and strong bass lines, influenced many other DJs and producers who would go on to create classic hip hop tracks.

Afrika Bambaataa

Afrika Bambaataa is a New York City DJ who is credited with being one of the first hip hop DJs. He is known for his work with the Sugarhill Gang and for his hit song “Planet Rock.”

Bambaataa was born in the South Bronx in 1957. He was a member of the Black Spades, a street gang, before he became a DJ. He started spinning records at block parties in the 1970s. He became known for his eclectic taste in music, which included funk, disco, dub, and rock.

Bambaataa’s work with the Sugarhill Gang helped to popularize hip hop outside of New York City. “Planet Rock” was a hit in both the United States and Europe. It featured elements of funk and electronic music.

In the 1980s, Bambaataa founded the Universal Zulu Nation, an organization that promotes peace and unity through hip hop culture. He has continued to DJ and produce music throughout his career.

The Golden Age of Hip Hop

The Golden Age of Hip Hop is considered to be from 1986 to 1993. This is when Hip Hop and Rap music started to become mainstream. This is the time when Hip Hop and Rap music was at its freshest, and artists were experimenting with new sounds. This is also the time when some of the most iconic Hip Hop and Rap songs were released.


Run DMC was an American hip hop group from Hollis, Queens, New York, founded in 1983 by Joseph “Run” Simmons, Darryl “DMC” McDaniels, and Jam Master Jay. The group is widely acknowledged as one of the most influential acts in the history of hip hop music. They were the first rap group to achieve mainstream success with their 1984 breakthrough album Run-D.M.C., which included the hit singles “It’s Tricky”, “Walk This Way”, and “Rock Box”. The group went on to release a string of gold and platinum albums throughout the 1980s and 1990s, including Raising Hell (1986), Tougher Than Leather (1988), Back From Hell (1990), Down with the King (1993), Crown Royal (2001), and Swagger Like Us (2009). They are considered pioneering artists in the genre, helping to popularize hip hop culture and music throughout the world.

Public Enemy

Public Enemy is an American hip hop group from Long Island, New York, consisting of Chuck D, Flavor Flav, Professor Griff, Khari Wynn, DJ Lord, and the S1W group. Formed in 1986, they are known for their politically charged music and their criticism of the American media, with an active interest in the perspectives of African Americans. Their debut album Yo! Bum Rush the Show (1987) was released to critical acclaim and their next five albums achieved commercial and critical success. By the early 1990s, Public Enemy became one of the most popular hip hop groups in history.

With their 1988 album It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back, Public Enemy were raised to national prominence on the strength of lead rapper Chuck D’s aggressive delivery and Flavor Flav’s wild style. The album charted at number 42 on the Billboard 200 album chart and number one on the Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums chart[1]and was certified platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA). As a result of their success, by late 1989 Public Enemy became one of hip hop music’s first political bands.[2] They were also named that year as “Artist of the Decade” by Melody Maker.[3]

In 2003, The Source ranked Public Enemy number 24 on their list of the Top 50 Lyricists of All Time.[4] In 2012, Pitchfork Media ranked Public Enemy at number 19 on their list of “The 100 Greatest Artists of All Time”.[5] Chuck D and Flavor Flav met while both were students at Adelphi University on Long Island in 1985. Initially Chuck D planned to rap as a solo artist while working with DJs Jayson “Keyser Soze” Rodriguez[6][7]and William “Funkadelic” Drayton Jr..[8][9] The trio began making recordings together in Chuck D’s home studio called The House Of Pain,[10] sporadically releasing material through Soda Jerk,[11] which would become a part-time record label for them after graduating from college.

During one recording session Drayton claimed he felt like writer’s block set in and began freestyling; around the same time he heard Afrika Bambaataa & Soulsonic Force’s song “Planet Rock”,[12][13][14][15]which inspired him to incorporate electronic music into hip hop production.[16]:60–61 He then wrote new lyrics for Drayton’s instrumental track including Poisonous foods fill me/ Now I tell you what I won’t do/ Eat dead animals or give support to plans that hurt animals too.[17]:117 In 1985 Flavor Flav began attending another college while still periodically recording with Public Enemy.[18]:117 In 1986 he helped organize a rap battle where he met Carlton Ridenhour (later known as Chuck D), who noted Flavors distinctive delivery style; soon after this they began working together on songs.[19]:107


N.W.A. (an abbreviation for Niggaz Wit Attitudes) was an American hip hop group from Compton, California, United States widely considered one of the seminal groups in gangsta rap reggae. They were among the first and most significant popularizers and controversial exponents of the gangsta rap subgenre, a style of Hip Hop characterized by themes and lyrics that generally emphasized the “thug” lifestyle. The group found themselves at odds with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) over their song “Fuck tha Police” and vehemently denounced in songs such as “Fuck tha Police”.

N.W.A’s debut studio album Straight Outta Compton was released on August 8, 1988. It included the tracks “Fuck tha Police”, which led to an FBI warning letter to their record label; as well as the top ten single “Express Yourself”. The success of these singles helped propel Straight Outta Compton to number one on the Billboard 200 albums chart, making it not only the highest-selling hip hop album ever released, but also one of the highest-selling albums ever released regardless of genre.

The Birth of Rap Music

In the late 1960s, a new form of music began to emerge on the streets of New York City. This music was called hip hop, and it would go on to change the course of popular music forever.

The Sugarhill Gang

The Sugarhill Gang is a music group widely credited with being the first hip hop group to gain widespread mainstream recognition with their hit song “Rapper’s Delight”. The song was released in 1979 on their self-titled album and went on to become a Top 40 hit, making it the first rap single to do so. The group was formed in Englewood, New Jersey, in 1974 by Sylvia Robinson, who was also a record producer. The group consisted of three members: Michael “Wonder Mike” Wright, Henry “Big Bank Hank” Jackson, and Guy “Master Gee” O’Brien.

Grandmaster Flash

Grandmaster Flash is one of the most influential figures in the history of hip hop and rap music. He was born Joseph Saddler in Barbados in 1958, and moved to the Bronx, New York with his family when he was a child. Flash began DJing in the early 1970s, and quickly developed a unique style that incorporated elements of funk and disco into the burgeoning hip hop sound. In 1973, he formed a group called Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five, who went on to release a number of classic tracks including “The Message” and “White Lines (Don’t Do It)”.

Flash continued to produce and perform throughout the 1980s and 1990s, helping to shape the sound of hip hop as we know it today. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2007, and remains an important figure in the world of rap music.

Kurtis Blow

Kurtis Blow was the first commercially successful rapper and hip hop artist. His debut album, The Breaks, was released in 1980 and contained the hit single “The Breaks”, which was one of the first rap songs to receive significant radio airplay. His career took off from there, and he went on to release a number of successful albums throughout the 1980s. He is credited with helping to bring rap music into the mainstream and is considered one of the pioneers of the genre.

The Modern Age of Hip Hop and Rap

While the Hip Hop and Rap music of today has its roots in the sounds and culture of the 1970s, the modern age of the genre is often considered to have begun in the late 1980s and early 1990s. With the release of N.W.A.’s album Straight Outta Compton in 1988, the genre exploded in popularity, becoming a staple of popular culture. In the years that followed, Hip Hop and Rap artists began to experiment with new sounds and styles, resulting in the emergence of sub-genres like gangsta rap and alternative rap.


Tupac Shakur was one of the most influential rappers of all time. He was born in New York City in 1971 and raised in Los Angeles, California. Tupac’s mother was a member of the Black Panther Party, and his father abandoned the family when he was young. Tupac began rapping at an early age, and his first album, 2Pacalypse Now, was released in 1991.

Tupac was a controversial figure during his lifetime, and his music often dealt with themes of violence and poverty. He was arrested several times for assault and robbery, and he spent time in prison for sexual assault. Tupac was murdered in 1996, and his murder has never been solved. His posthumous albums have sold millions of copies, and he is considered one of the greatest rappers of all time.


Christopher Wallace, a.k.a. Biggie Smalls, a.k.a. Notorious B.I.G., was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York. His mother nicknamed him “Biggie” because of his large size as an infant. When he was a child, his parents divorced, and his mother took on several jobs to support the family. Biggie dropped out of high school in the eleventh grade but continued to sell marijuana to make money. He eventually started dealing crack cocaine after being introduced to the drug by a friend. In his teens, Biggie became involved in the local hip hop scene and began freestyling and writing rap lyrics.

In 1992, Biggie was discovered by rapper Puff Daddy, who signed him to his record label, Bad Boy Records. Biggie released his debut album, Ready to Die, in 1994. The album was a critical and commercial success, and its lead single, “Big Poppa,” became a top ten hit on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. Ready to Die also featured the song “Juicy,” which is often considered one of the greatest hip hop songs of all time.

Biggie released his second album, Life After Death, in 1997 just two weeks after he was shot and killed in a drive-by shooting in Los Angeles, California. The album was an even bigger success than his first album, debuting at number one on the Billboard 200 chart and selling over 700,000 copies in its first week of release. It features the singles “Hypnotize” and “Mo Money Mo Problems,” which both topped the Billboard Hot 100 chart.”


Eminem is one of the most successful rappers of all time. He is also one of the most controversial, with his lyrics often causing uproar. Despite this, his records have consistently topped the charts and he has won numerous awards, including 13 Grammy Awards and an Academy Award.

Eminem’s career began in 1996 when he released his first album, ‘Infinite’. His breakthrough came in 1999 with the release of ‘The Slim Shady LP’, which won him critical acclaim and commercial success. He followed this up with ‘The Marshall Mathers LP’ in 2000, which was even more successful, becoming the fastest-selling rap album of all time.

Eminem has since released a further five studio albums, all of which have been hugely successful. He has sold over 170 million albums worldwide, making him one of the best-selling music artists of all time.

In addition to his solo work, Eminem is also a member of the hip hop group D12, and has collaborated with a number of other artists, most notably Dr. Dre.

The Future of Hip Hop and Rap

It is safe to say that hip hop and rap have come a long way since they first emerged in the late 1970s. What started out as a niche genre of music has now become one of the most popular and mainstream genres in the world. As the genre continues to evolve, we can only wonder what the future of hip hop and rap will be.

Chance the Rapper

Chance the Rapper is one of the most popular and successful rappers of his generation. His unique style and positive message have resonated with both critics and fans, and he has become one of the most influential voices in hip hop.

Chance was born in Chicago, Illinois, in 1993. His dad worked for an ad agency and his mom was a teacher. Chance began rapping at a young age, and by the time he was in high school, he had already released his first mixtape. After high school, Chance enrolled at Jones College Prep, but dropped out after one semester to focus on his music career.

Chance’s big break came in 2013, when he released his second mixtape, Acid Rap. The mixtape was a huge success, and it helped to launched Chance’s career. Since then, Chance has released two more mixtapes (Coloring Book and The Big Day), and he has also collaborated with a number of other artists. In 2017, Chance won three Grammy Awards for Coloring Book, making him the first independent artist to ever win a Grammy in the category of Best Rap Album.

Looking to the future, it is clear that Chance the Rapper is one of the most talented and innovative rappers of his generation. He has already had a huge impact on hip hop, and it is safe to say that he will continue to shape the sound and direction of rap music for years to come.

Kendrick Lamar

Since the release of his first album in 2011, Kendrick Lamar has been one of the most acclaimed and popular rappers in the world. His 2016 album, DAMN., debuted at #1 on the Billboard 200 chart and won five Grammy Awards, including Best Rap Album. In addition to his solo work, Kendrick has also collaborated with some of the biggest names in hip hop, including Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, and Jay-Z.

Born and raised in Compton, California, Kendrick began rapping at an early age. He released his first mixtape, YBILDGKDLC (Young Bosses in Life Getting Keeps Dough Like Cookies), in 2003. After signing with independent record label Top Dawg Entertainment (TDE), Kendrick released his first studio album, Section.80, in 2011. The album was a critical and commercial success, debuting at #2 on the Billboard 200 chart and earning Kendrick five Grammy nominations.

In 2012, Kendrick released his major label debut album, good kid, m.A.A.d city. The album was an instant classic, debuting at #2 on the Billboard 200 chart and earning Kendrick seven Grammy nominations (including Album of the Year). In 2015, Kendrick released his third studio album, To Pimp a Butterfly. The album was praised by critics and won five Grammy Awards (including Best Rap Album). In 2016, Kendrick released DAMN., which debuted at #1 on the Billboard 200 chart and won five Grammy Awards (including Album of the Year).

Kendrick is widely considered to be one of the best rappers alive today. He is known for his lyrical prowess and inventive rhymes. In addition to his solo work, Kendrick has also collaborated with some of the biggest names in hip hop, including Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, and Jay-Z.

Cardi B

Cardi B, born Belcalis Almanzar, is a 26-year-old rapper, songwriter, and actress. She first gained attention as a cast member on the VH1 reality television series Love & Hip Hop: New York in 2015. In early 2017, she signed a record deal with Atlantic Records after releasing two commercial mixtapes—Gangsta Bitch Music, Vol. 1 and 2—and the single “Bodak Yellow”, which peaked at number one on the US Billboard Hot 100 chart. Her debut studio album Invasion of Privacy (2018) debuted at number one on the Billboard 200, broke several streaming records and received five Grammy nominations, winning Best Rap Album making her the only woman to win the award as a solo artist. Cardi B has broken numerous chart records; she is the first female rapper to have three songs simultaneously charting in the top ten of the Billboard Hot 100, with “Bodak Yellow”, “Bartier Cardi” and “I Like It”. She is also the first female rapper to top the Hot 100 chart with a solo writing credit for “I Like It”, and is also the youngest woman to achieve five US Top 40 singles in a calendar year.

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