Birth of a Culture: Hip-Hop

By Maxime Beauregard-Martin

The hip-hop movement was born in the Bronx, a New York borough deserted by the middle class in the 1970s. Extremely poor neighborhoods developed, populated principally by Afro-Americans, Puerto Ricans and people from the Caribbean.

Inspired by the Jamaican tradition of open air dances, on August 11th 1973, Cindy Campbell organized a back to school block party in the recreation room of 1520 Sedgwick Avenue in the West Bronx. Behind the turntables her brother, DJ Kool Herc, revolutionized the world of music by prolonging the beat portions of his platinum discs… just to get people to dance as long as possible.

There were more block parties to come. Hip-hop dancers showed up, as did graffiti artists. Cindy Campbell was herself a graffiti writer, with the tag name PEP-1 (174). The artists would deploy their messages on the surfaces of the neighborhood with their aerosols. These messages were often political. The MCs chanted out rhymes; spoken to a musical background, this is where rap was born. In Jamaica, in a long-established tradition, talking over the music, talking about the politics of the day, was called “toasting.” In the Bronx, the style was used to rap about the poverty of inner city neighborhoods.  

First seen on the Reflet de Société website, November 22, 2021

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