How Mainstream Hip Hop Music Has Changed Over the Years

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

Contributors: Andranick Tanguiane, Fred Lerdahl,


How has mainstream hip hop music changed over the years? In this blog post, we take a look at how the genre has evolved, from its early days to its current state.

The Origins of Hip Hop

Hip hop music originated in the 1970s in the Bronx, New York City. It was created by African American and Latino youth who were looking for a way to express themselves. The music was a mix of different styles, including funk, soul, and jazz.

DJ Kool Herc

DJ Kool Herc, one of hip hop’s earliest pioneers, is credited with helping to start the genre. Born in Kingston, Jamaica, Kool Herc moved to the Bronx in 1967. It was there that he began throwing parties and experimenting with music, using two turntables to extend the breaks in songs so that dancers would have more time to show off their moves. This technique, known as “break-beating,” would go on to become a key element of hip hop music.

Grandmaster Flash

Considered one of the pioneers of hip hop, Grandmaster Flash was born Joseph Saddler in Barbados in 1958. He moved to the Bronx, New York with his family when he was a child, and it was here that he first developed a love for music. He began his DJ career in the late 1970s, and by the early 1980s, he had become one of the most popular DJs in New York City. His biggest hit, “The Message,” was released in 1982 and is widely considered to be one of the first hip hop songs to cross over into the mainstream.

The Golden Age of Hip Hop

Hip hop music has changed a lot since it first started in the Bronx in the 1970s. In the beginning, it was all about block parties and having fun. The music was simple and the lyrics were about what was going on in the neighborhood. As the years went by, hip hop became more commercialized and the lyrics became more focused on money, violence, and sex.


In the 1980s, a new style of hip hop music emerged in the South Bronx area of New York City. Called rap, this new form of music combined elements of rhyming speech, popular music, and dance. Unlike other forms of music, rap focused on street life and the problems faced by young people living in poor urban neighborhoods. Run-DMC, a rap group from Queens, New York, became one of the most popular rap groups of the 1980s. With songs like “Walk This Way” and “It’s Tricky,” the group helped to make rap music more acceptable to a wider audience.

Public Enemy

Public Enemy, a hip hop group from Long Island, New York, is often credited with helping to bring hip hop to a wider audience. The group’s use of sampling, powerful lyrics, and aggressive style helped to make them one of the most influential groups in hip hop history.

The Post-Golden Age Era

A new era of mainstream Hip Hop music emerged in the early 2000s. This was a period when Hip Hop was no longer just a genre of music, but a lifestyle and culture. The music of this era was characterized by its use of heavy bass, its focus on street life, and its often violent and sexual lyrics.


It’s safe to say that mainstream hip hop music has changed a lot since the early 1990s. The so-called “Golden Age” of hip hop was a time when the genre was just starting to explode in popularity, and the music reflected that. Artists like Tupac, Biggie, and Snoop Dogg were putting out groundbreaking albums that would change the face of hip hop forever.

In the years since then, hip hop has become one of the most popular genres in the world. But as it has grown in popularity, it has also changed a lot. Today’s mainstream hip hop is very different from the Golden Age era, both in terms of sound and subject matter.

One of the biggest changes is in the lyrics. Early hip hop was often about partying and having fun, but today’s lyrics are much more likely to tackle social and political issues. Rappers are using their platform to speak out about racism, police brutality, and other important issues. This change is largely due to the influence of artists like Kendrick Lamar and J Cole, who have helped to raise consciousness within the genre.

Another big change is in the production value of mainstream hip hop. In the Golden Age era, samples were often used to create beats, but today’s hits are more likely to be produced entirely with electronic instruments. This shift away from traditional instruments has made for a very different sound in mainstream hip hop.

Overall, mainstream hip hop has changed a lot since its early days. It’s become more conscious and socially aware, and its sound has become more electronic and polished. But despite all these changes, it’s still possible to hear traces of the Golden Age era in today’s music.


Biggie, also known as Notorious B.I.G., was an American rapper who rose to fame in the early 1990s. His debut album, Ready to Die, was released in 1994 and is considered one of the greatest hip-hop albums of all time. Biggie’s lyrics often dealt with the harsh realities of inner-city life, and his success in conveying these experiences helped to launched him into the mainstream. He was murdered in 1997, but his legacy continues to influence hip-hop music today.

The Modern Age

It is undeniable that mainstream hip hop music has changed drastically since its humble beginnings in the late 1970s. While the genre is still largely dominated by African American culture, it has become more mainstream and commercialized in recent years. In this article, we will take a look at how mainstream hip hop music has changed over the years.

Kendrick Lamar

One of the most popular and critically acclaimed hip hop artists of the modern era, Kendrick Lamar is a rapper from Compton, California. Following in the footsteps of West Coast predecessors such as N.W.A., Lamar is often lauded for his lyrical prowess and his ability to tell stories about inner-city life in a way that is both realistic and relatable. In addition to his solo work, Lamar is also a member of the hip hop supergroup Black Hippy, along with rappers Schoolboy Q, Ab-Soul, and Jay Rock.

Lamar first gained mainstream attention with the release of his major label debut album good kid, m.A.A.d city in 2012. The album was a commercial and critical success, earning Lamar several Grammy nominations and cementing his place as one of the most promising young rappers in the industry. Lamar followed up good kid, m.A.A.d city with two more critically acclaimed albums, To Pimp a Butterfly (2015) and DAMN. (2017). These albums further solidified Lamar’s position as one of the greatest rappers of all time, and helped him win five Grammy Awards, including Best Rap Album for both To Pimp a Butterfly and DAMN.

Lamar’s music often tackles social issues such as race relations, police brutality, and poverty. He has said that he wants his music to inspire people to be “active about change” in society. In addition to his hard-hitting lyrics, Lamar is also known for his skilled Flow and intricate rhyme schemes. He has been praised by fellow rappers and critics alike for his unique style and delivery, which has helped him become one of the most respected artists in hip hop today

Chance the Rapper

Chance the Rapper is an American rapper, singer, songwriter, and record producer. Born in Chicago, Illinois, Chance the Rapper began to gain mainstream recognition in 2013 after releasing his second mixtape, Acid Rap. He then released his third mixtape, Coloring Book, in 2016, which earned him three Grammy Awards. As an independent artist, Chance the Rapper has broken several streaming records on platforms such as Apple Music and Spotify.

Since Chance the Rapper’s emergence in the mainstream hip hop scene, he has been credited for changing the sound and culture of mainstream hip hop music. His use of gospel and blues influences in his music has brought religious themes back into the genre, which had been largely secular since the 1990s. In addition, Chance the Rapper’s DIY approach to making music (e.g., self-producing his albums and mixtapes) has inspired other young artists to take a similar approach.

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