If you’d like to read a much better SJPL blog on the history of Hip Hop, I can’t recommend enough 2020’s article ‘I Used to Love H.E.R.” – An Ode to Hip Hop’. It’s written by a very knowledgeable, talented librarian who shows her love of music through personal narrative. My own introduction to Hip Hop was as a white kid in middle school, when my super-cool BK (British Knight) shoes came with an MC Hammer cassette.
Hip Hop is a culture and art movement that is characterized by four elements: MCing (Rapping), DJing, Breakdancing, and Graffiti Art. Some include authenticity (street knowledge), fashion, race, background, and other elements as a fifth element, but these are debated. It has its roots in the Bronx, New York City with DJ Kool Herc and sister Cindy Campbell. From The Bronx, Hip Hop spread worldwide.
Hip Hop became more commercialized and mainstream, which has led to a wider audience and an explosion in genres (my favorite as a teen was horrorcore, much to my parent’s delight). With that popularity has come an interest in books, movies, and shows that explore the history of Hip Hop, shows like the Netflix series Hip Hop Evolution. The show, narrated by rapper Shad K, features interviews with Hip Hop legends like DJ Kool Herc, Afrika Bambaataa, and Grandmaster Flash. Or films like 2009’s Notorious (Notorious B.I.G.) or 2015’s Straight Outta Compton (history of N.W.A.).
Most the books on Hip Hop History out there are written by music journalists or historians. Such as Can’t Stop Won’t Stop by Jeff Chang, Soren Baker’s The History of Rap & Hip Hop, or the graphic novel series Hip Hop Family Tree by Ed Piskor. They’re well written, and thoroughly researched, but not written by people who were involved in the creation of Hip Hop, despite many of those people still being alive. More uncommon are #ownvoices narratives like Chuck D Presents This Day in Rap and Hip-hop History, written by Chuck D of Public Enemy. Or Diary of a Madman by Geto Boys front man Scarface. More space needs to be made for these incredible people to lead the projects and tell their stories their way.