Hip-Hop vs. Hip-Pop Has Creative Control Lost to Corporate America?

The Origins of Hip-Hop

Born in the Bronx, hip-hop started in the African American and Latino communities during the 1970's. Hip-hop had been confined to New York as African Americans and Latinos engaged this cultural phenomenon, championing sociopolitical progress.

Hip-Hop's Four Core Principles: Turntablism, Rapping, Breakdancing and Graffiti. From left to right: Grandmaster Flash on the turntables, LL Cool J carrying a boombox, children breakdancing on the playground and the subway coated in graffiti.

Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five and the Sugarhill Gang are considered pioneers of hip-hop culture. The former, based in the Bronx, launched their hip-hop career in 1976. The latter originated from Englewood, NJ and launched their hip-hop career in 1979. Yet, Kool DJ Herc is seen as the founder of hip-hop because he and his sister hosted back-to-school parties at 1520 Sedgwick Avenue in the Bronx. This location has been regarded as "the birthplace of hip-hop." In addition, Afrika Bambaataa is seen as a pioneer of hip-hop culture since he hosted parties and gained recognition as a master DJ. According to Oxford Music Online, Bambaataa "looped percussive beats from obscure rock, funk and electro-pop records as rhythm tracks for rappers..."

From their contributions, hip-hop blossomed into a sensation that swept the United States.
The Phenomenon Gains Momentum throughout the United States.

More artists and groups entered the hip-hop culture during the 1980's. This cultural phenomenon transcended New York's barriers and influenced the white community. Rachel E. Sullivan notes that artists and groups "gained popularity with white adolescents outside the inner city. By the late 1980's, rap was no longer viewed as a fad, but as a distinctive musical form" (Rap and Race: It's Got a Nice Message, But What about the Message, 606). Certain artists and groups attained a fandom among African Americans, Latinos and Whites.

Public Enemy started their career in 1982 and consisted of Chuck D, DJ Lord, Flavor Flav, Khari Wynn, Professor Griff and the S1W Group. Hailing from Long Island, NY, Public Enemy entered the landscape with their debut album, Yo! Bum Rush the Show, in 1987. Former members included Sister Souljah and Terminator X.

Hailing from Queens, NY, LL Cool J started his hip-hop career in 1985 and garnered recognition through two albums: Radio (1985) and Bigger and Deffer (1987).

Run-DMC represented Hollis, Queens, NY and gained attention through their 1984 album, RUN-D.M.C., and 1986 album, Raising Hell. Members included Joseph "Run" Simmons, Darryl "DMC" McDaniels and Jason "Jam Master Jay" Mizell.

Salt-N-Pepa are seen as one of hip-hop's first female groups and attained recognition through their 1986 album, Hot, Cool & Vicious. The group hails from Queens, NY and uses sexuality and feminism as their edge. Members include Cheryl "Salt" James, Sandra "Pepa" Denton and Deidra "Spinderella" Roper.

Beastie Boys ushered in a unique form of hip-hop - rap rock - and entered the hip-hop scene with Licensed to Ill in 1986. The members included Michael "Mike D" Diamond, Adam "MCA" Yauch, Adam "Ad-Rock" Horovitz, John Berry and Kate Schellenbach.

The common denominator among these artists and groups: sociopolitical themes. Sullivan noted that 1980's hip-hop produced "genres of rap became more noticeable, and many rappers turned to more overtly political themes. They addressed gang violence, police brutality and other politically-charged issues such as poverty and racism" (Rap and Race: It's Got a Nice Beat, but What about the Message, 606).

This trend continued into the 1990's.
The Golden Age of Hip-Hop

The 1990s are often labelled the "Golden Age of Hip-Hop" since artists and groups promoted sociopolitical issues in their music. In addition, these artists and groups blended other genres and Afrocentrism into their music, creating subgenres such as jazz rap and alternative hip-hop. The list goes on and on as numerous artists and group dominated this period: Big Daddy Kane, Boogie Down Productions, Black Sheep, Brand Nubian, Cypress Hill, De La Soul, Digable Planets, Eric B. & Rakim, DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince, Kool Moe Dee, KRS-One, MC Lyte, Naughty By Nature, A Tribe Called Quest, Queen Latifah, Common, J Dilla, Fugees, Busta Rhymes, The RootsX Clan, En Vogue, Souls of Mischief and The Pharcyde.

This resulted in four collectives remaining true to hip-hop's core principles: Juice Crew, Native Tongues, Hieroglyphics and Universal Zulu Nation. These coalitions promoted peace, prosperity and progress. Thus, positivity and racial harmony seemed to dominate this period.

Top (Left to Right): A Tribe Called Quest, De La Soul and Pete Rock & CL Smooth. Bottom (Left to Right): Gang Starr, Queen Latifah and Common.
Golden Age Hip-Hop Albums: The Low End Theory (1991), De La Soul is Dead (1991), Mecca and the Soul Brother (1992), 19 Naughty III (1993), Black Reign (1993), Step in the Arena (1991), Resurrection (1994) and Reachin' (A New Refutation of Time and Space) (1993).

These Golden Age Hip-Hop albums blended blues, jazz, soul and Afrocentrism together, promoting intellectual dialogue and African American culture. In 2014, LA Weekly created a "listicle" ranking the top 20 Golden Age Hip-Hop albums, commenting on lyricism, production and themes. Furthermore, more artists and groups contributed to Golden Age Hip-Hop and created the subgenre of East Coast hip-hop.

East Coast Hip-Hop

You hear "East Coast Hip-Hop" and think about The Notorious B.I.G., Jay Z, NasSean "Diddy" CombsMary J. Blige, Aaliyah, Wu-Tang Clan, DMX, Eve and more. These artists and groups also incorporated sociopolitical issues into their music, including personal dilemmas. Their albums centered on trials and tribulations that minorities faced on a regular basis: racism, political corruption, drug abuse, sexual abuse and single-parent households. Materialism and empowerment also entered hip-hop as The Notorious B.I.G., Sean "Diddy" Combs and others flaunted their fortunes and possessions. Nonetheless, this subgenre inspired artists and groups on the West Coast to share their tales.

West Coast Hip-HoP

Hip-hop reached the West Coast as more prominent artists and groups added to the culture. This includes N.W.A., 2pac, Dr. Dre, Ice Cube, Snoop Dogg, Nate Dogg, Warren G and more. Their music and presence contributed to subgenre of gangsta rap. It gained prominence during the 1990's, relying on dark themes and grisly anecdotes. This subgenre focused on crime, murder, police brutality, gang violence and substance abuse in Southern California, especially Compton and Long Beach. West Coast artists and groups reshaped the hip-hop scene, but garnered criticism for their lyrics and music videos. Some critics labelled gangsta rap as a promoter of disrespect, sexism and violence, specifically referencing N.W.A.'s F**k the Police. In fact, David Canton held gangsta rap liable for "all of the black community's social problems, drug use, teen pregnancy, unemployment, gang violence and student truancy" (The Political, Economic, Social and Cultural Tensions in Gangsta Rap, 244).

East Coast and West Coast Hip-Hop Rivalry

Perhaps the deadliest period in hip-hop's history is the East Coast and West Coast feud. Artists and groups from both coasts engaged in a battle of lyrics, dissing one another from left to right. The main agents in this feud included Bad Boy Records and Death Row Records, featuring The Notorious B.I.G. (Bad Boy Records) and 2pac (Death Row Records) as the stars. This feud pulled in numerous people from both coasts, but certain artists and groups - such as A Tribe Called Quest - refused to participate in the feud.

"How you get West Coast n***a, from West Coast hater / I could never dis a whole coast, my time is too greater (true) / Yeah, we from the East, the land of originators / You also the West, the land of innovators / The only difference of the two is the style of the rap / Plus the musical track, this beef s**t is so wack / Let me let y'all brothas know I ain't no West Coast disser / Another thing I'm not is a damn ass kisser / So listen to my words as I set things straight / I ain't got no beef so don't come at my face" - A Tribe Called Quest

Beginning in 1991, the feud escalated and lasted until 1997 with two unfortunate losses. 2pac had been shot in Las Vegas on Sept. 7, 1996, dying from gunshot wounds on Sept. 13. Six months later, tragedy struck again as The Notorious B.I.G. died from gunshot wounds in Los Angeles on Mar. 9, 1997. Given their importance to hip-hop and deaths, Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan sponsored a rap concert to promote peace and curb the violence that manifested throughout the feud. Though the feud ended, 2pac and The Notorious B.I.G. are credited as hip-hop pioneers for their lyricism, messages and contributions to the genre.

They may be gone, but their music are regarded as timeless classics among hip-hop fans.

More prominent artists and groups from the Midwest and South emerged during the 1990s: Mos DefEminem, MF Doom, Geto Boys, Missy ElliottOutkast, Jedi Mind Tricks, Mobb Deep, Ludacris, Kool G Rap, AZ, Masta Ace, Goodie Mob, TLC, UGK, Three 6 Mafia and others. Their contributions continued into the 2000's.

Y2K and Beyond

In addition to the 1990's icons, hip-hop inducted new artists and groups during the 2000's. Drug abuse, political corruption, racism, sociopolitical crises and other issues continued to inspire artists and groups to create their music. Humor and personal anecdotes also influenced 2000's hip-hop, resulting in considerable success as the music became mainstream. Kanye West, Kid Cudi, Lupe Fiasco, Talib Kweli, Immortal Technique, Andre 3000, T.I., 50 Cent, The Game, Young Jeezy, Action Bronson, Lil Wayne and others dominated the early 2000's and maintained relevance to this day.

2000's Hip-Hop Artists and Groups (Left to Right): Immortal Technique, Kid Cudi, Kanye West, Lupe Fiasco, Talib Kweli and 50 Cent.
2000's Hip-Hop Albums: Food & Liquor (2006), The College Dropout (2004), Quality (2002), Man on the Man: The End of Day (2009), The 3rd World (2008), Get Rich or Die Tryin' (2003), The Documentary (2005) and King (2006).

Certain R&B artists also incorporated hip-hop into their music during the 2000's, such as Amerie.

Therefore, 2000's hip-hop produced successful artists and groups, but it seems Corporate America noticed this success and capitalized on it. This is the moment when hip-hop artists and groups started caring more for their success than quality.

Corporate America Sows its Seeds

Corporate America infiltrated hip-hop during the 1990's as "the Telecommunications Act of 1996 deregulated media conglomerates, permitting companies like Viacom and Clear Channel to purchase huge shares of media markets" (Hip-Hop's Profane Victory: How Corporations Co-Opted Black Cool, 2014). Thus, certain corporations used hip-hop to promote products in their commercials.

Understanding its influence and significance, large corporations capitalized and transformed hip-hop into a profitable business. This caused Corporate America to produce manufactured soundbites that frequented the radio. Brittney Cooper of Salon insisted that this stratagem "killed local radio by folding stations into larger corporate entities, with regional and remote deejays and a top 40 playlist. This is the reason why if you listen to urban radio, you hear seemingly the same 10 songs on a monotonous loop..." (Hip-Hop's Profane Victory: How Corporations Co-Opted Black Cool, 2014).

Therefore, Corporate America prefers artists and groups capable of acquiring global recognition, generating popular songs and albums, and becoming top performers on Billboard and other publications. This resulted in the creation of hip-pop instead of hip-hop.

"This corporate structure has meant that artists and innovators who could build a name for themselves locally and regionally had very few avenues in the late 1990's and early 2000's to bring their musical products to market. We lament the bastion of misogyny, gratuitous capital and emotional vacuity that represents much of mainstream hip-hop today," according to Cooper.

Hip-pop relies on materialism and superficial themes rather than the deeper messages prominent during the Golden Age of Hip-Hop. In addition, today's hip-hop fills the younger generation's mindset with images of power, wealth, sex and adulation.

Today's Most Popular Artists in Hip-Hop: Lil Wayne, Future, Drake, Rihanna, Nicki Minaj, Wiz Khalifa and 2 Chainz.

Mainstream hip-hop's success caused a number of artists and groups to go underground and promote hip-hop's original messages. There are current artists and groups that admire Golden Age Hip-Hop, incorporating the original messages into their music. Furthermore, incidents such as hate crimes, police brutality and Donald Trump's 2016 presidential campaign caused an uproar in the hip-hop community, encouraging current and Golden Age Hip-Hop artists to cover these issues.

Today's Artists and Groups (Left to Right): Kendrick Lamar, J. Cole, Anderson Paak, Isaiah Rashad, Tyler the Creator, ScHoolboy Q, Childish Gambino, Frank Ocean, Jean Grae, Vince Staples, The Weeknd, The Internet and Logic.

These artists and groups are conscious about current issues in the United States, demonstrating considerable aptitude in style and lyricism. In addition, Golden Age Hip-Hop artists and groups have recently returned to the hip-hop scene.

De La Soul - And the Anonymous Nobody... (2016)

Common - Black America Again (2016)

A Tribe Called Quest - We Got It From Here...Thank You 4 Your Service (2016)

Pete Rock and Smoke DZA - Don't Smoke Rock (2016)

Though hip-pop continues to dominate the charts, hip-hop is an agent of change and informs fans about sociopolitical issues in the United States and other countries. In addition, other artists and groups understood Golden Age Hip-Hop's significance and incorporated other genres into their music, creating eclectic forms of hip-hop. Kero One, a Korean American DJ and musician, is a main proponent of Golden Age Hip-Hop since his music integrates funk, jazz and R&B.

Thus, I hope this project has distinguished hip-hop from hip-pop, and you now understand the genre's true purpose regarding not only African Americans, but other races and ethnicities. Hip-hop has transcended U.S. borders and inspired artists and groups throughout the globe to contribute to the genre, promoting inclusion. Furthermore, do not assume that the pioneers are outdated because the new generation has much to learn from the older generation. That said, creative control has not completely fallen to Corporate America.

Created By
Rashaad Mubarak
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