The cultural roots of HIP HOP history and the holy trinity
Today hip hop is considered as one of the greatest global phenomena that pervades all the facets of our society, from politics to popular culture, from the world of entrepreneurship to the world of sport. It is a phenomenon that has found and is still very successful. Despite this, the search for its true origins is often overlooked and forgotten.
My story about HIP HOP can start from one of the largest cities in the world: New York City. I had the great pleasure of living it for a short period of my life and I was able to see with my own eyes different places and environments that are described below. We can historically place the birth of HIP HOP around the early 70s.
In 1979 a film called “The Warriors – The Warriors of the Night” was released, the film brought to light the serious situation in which New York was living, totally different from how we can imagine it today. In a somewhat romantic manner, the city that “never sleeps” was described as a dirty, dangerous den with a high presence of immigrants from all over the world, extremely ghettoised. Every immigrant, in fact, settled in neighborhoods where many of his countrymen lived, to find protection and support, even economic, which were more than necessary to survive in the metropolis. The police did not dare to set foot in the most problematic neighborhoods, and from the early 1960s, in order to intensify in the 1970s, crime had ample room to take root and spread. With the intensification of the disastrous condition, more and more young people will begin to associate themselves with street gangs, which, increasing in number, will begin to acquire a hierarchy, real uniforms (with symbols and writings that evoke the name of the band) and strategic plans for the control of their own plot of land. A portion of New York, in particular, will be the protagonist of violence for a long decade, the Bronx. Between 1970 and 1979 more than ten gangs were active; In New York in 1974 they were 315, located throughout the district and concentrated mainly in the southern sector known as South Bronx. Among the most important gangs are the Savage Skulls, the Black Spades and the Ghetto Brothers. In particular, the first two will be distinguished by violent actions to the detriment of residents and members of rival gangs, while the latter will also be distinguished by actions to upgrade its territory, contributing to cleanliness and social control. At the beginning of the summer of 1975, in the eyes of the immigrants just landed after a long journey, plainclothes police officers distributed flyers with the design of a skull partially covered by a hood and the words “Welcome to Fear City”.
In the mid-seventies, New York went through the worst moment in its history: a fiscal crisis had followed the years of the Great Society. After the Second World War, the city had lost one million jobs in the manufacturing sector alone and, having to maintain the largest and most expensive welfare system in the country, the New York administrations had resorted to increasingly difficult loans and obligations to repay. In fact, Welcome to Fear City was part of a broader protest strategy carried out by the unions of public workers hit by the cuts announced by Mayor Beame, who for his part had tried to prohibit the distribution of the flyer, failing it. In New York City, the number of homicides had more than doubled compared to the previous decade. Baker describes a metropolis plagued by chronic vandalism and afflicted by a sense of precariousness and abandonment.
Well, after having framed the economic and social situation of those years, we can proceed with our history.
Success and social abyss, wealth and poverty, salvation and perdition: New York in the 1970s is the metropolis in black and white. The NY of the 70s is the New York of wild dancing under the banner of disco music, it is the NY of champagne, diamonds, fur and silk, it is the NY of the Studio 54 but it is also the NY of the popular and dangerous Bronx .
The Bronx, that neighborhood that burned, where people did not work, where children did not go to school and where it was not possible to cross certain areas without encountering problems: it was a real urban mass degradation.
This state of exception, turbulence, disorder and total chaos has allowed and stimulated the birth of a new culture, based on solidarity, a constant search for affirmation and the need for expression in a difficult and suffocating context. Here, here lies the true roots of HIP HOP, ladies and gentlemen.
While the old NYC allowed itself to be carried away by the disc, the Bronx boys and girls were looking for something new.
Hip hop has thus begun to give voice to young African Americans to make their questions heard; “Like rock and roll, hip hop is strongly opposed by conservatives because it romanticizes violence, violation of the law and gangs.” It also gave people a chance for financial gain by “reducing the rest of the world to consumers of its social concerns. “(Box 1.0)
However, when it is necessary to choose a particularly significant date in the history of hip hop to celebrate its origins, it is very important to mention it on 11 August 1973. It was precisely in that evening that Clive Cindy Campbell, a Dj born in Jamaica, nicknamed Kool Herc (1955), organized the first HIP HOP party at 1520 Sedgwick Avenue, which could have been attended by up to fifty people. “Herc’s parties were surreal, the voices crossed an echo chamber, the spaces were dark and smoky and he was able to create an atmosphere of excitement but at the same time of danger”. Hip hop then was a new music: it was not yet sung and had its performers in DJs, who, in search of the best ways to make people dance, were experimenting with turntables to make funk and soul records play. The whites danced with artificial and glossy music, which the African Americans mostly hated: they wanted music that belonged to them, and they found it precisely in funk and soul, two of the many musical genres they had invented in previous decades. The frontier at that time was to mix a song together and the other without pauses, to prevent people from stopping dancing when changing a disc with another. While on the radio they were blurring songs, Kool Herc had invented a revolutionary way to avoid it: he played the part of the funk songs in which there was only the drums and the bass on two identical vinyls on the two separate plates. Then, with the mixer, he switched from one to the other, always bringing back one of the two discs to the instrumental part, which was then repeated in a circle creating a new song. Kool Herc’s intuition is considered by many to be the founding moment of hip hop. Listening to Kool Herc was like getting on those rides that spin around and take your breath away. The selections of dark Funk and Latin chased each other without interruption between the grooves of his disks. Usually they were instrumental interludes that enhanced the percussive structure of a piece. That was the key to keeping everyone anxious and euphoric. Kool Herc had isolated the break or The Higgs boson or the Rap God particle. This new technique he invented takes the name of Merry – Go – Round (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7qwml-F7zKQ&index=2&list=PLlD_Y1yT0AazCoHsU0yKh5NuhxL2_yvRt).
Kool Herc was a revolutionary, he had rebelled.
The pieces he mixed were nowhere to be heard, no one could have his records otherwise “what’s the point of going to his parties?”
The new way of dancing of boys and girls that move on the notes of numerous breaks, provides the complete picture to represent the hip hop culture of the period. And it is precisely here that B-boying is born. During his performances, Herc used to scream “b-boys go down!”, With which he invited breakdance dancers to start. 1969 was the year that James Brown recorded “Get on the Good Foot” (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VgGwI12zMJg&list=PLlD_Y1yT0AazCoHsU0yKh5NuhxL2_yvRt) a song that promoted a very energetic and acrobatic form of dance. The history of Breakdance can be divided into 3 phases: The Blueprint (1968-1974), Foundation (1975-1979) and Powermove Era (1980s).
It was in the 1980s that break dance was included in the program of the Black Power Movement, a black American movement for social equality, in order to solve the problems of violence between rival colored gangs. So the break challenges became a way to challenge each other in a non-violent maine directly on the city streets to determine their supremacy, through moves and acrobatics. A crew that made breakdancing history from the United States and was born in New York is the New York City Breakers and is considered as the historic rival of the Rock Steady Crew. The first performance of the New York City Breakers was recorded during the TV show The Merv Griffin Show, and then the crew also appeared in the first television program on hip hop Grafitti Rock and during other famous shows like Soul Train. The crew will also be remembered for being the first to perform in front of an American President, specifically Ronald Reagan, during the Kennedy Center Honors in 1984. The performance was then broadcast by CBS and has remained in history as one of the crucial moments for acceptance of hip hop culture in American public opinion. The role of NYC Breakers in spreading the word hip hop in the world is in fact recognized everywhere, whether they are lovers or just lovers of the discipline. (Https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_KH37phI6gE&index=3&list=PLlD_Y1yT0AazCoHsU0yKh5NuhxL2_yvRt).
Kool Herc in his parties had a partner with a microphone that is still considered the first Master of Ceremonies, Coke La Rock’s MC. Herc brought with him elements of the first dub music from Jamaica and together with it brought a new technique, the so-called toasting, a fast and rhythmic speech on regular beats. Coke La Rock, fellow MC Clark Kent, Timmy Tim and Herc gave birth to the Herculoids group and the three MCs started performing in the same spoken mode, on funk, disco and soul rhythms.