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Joseph A. Bailey, II, M.D.
At the beginning of African American slavery it became essential for the Slaves, in order to maneuver through the hostile and insane world of the captors, to develop a way of speaking that White folks could not understand. One of those “Underground Language” creations consisted of a subtle core story (often hidden and calling for abstract thought) within an obvious story the White public could understand. The core story conveyed secret meanings from one Slave to another while under the very open eyes of unaware slave holders. Hence, it was called “HIP,” from Senegal’s Wolof tribe name “hipi”—to open ones eyes. An example of this coded language is the hip slang “bad, ” underground for “good.” “Hip”—which gave birth to the present day term of HIP-HOP— was perfected after the Slaves developed their own lingua franca (the main ‘seed” pidgin) for secret communications.  Then “cousin” words arose as, for example, “Rap”—the term for a Slave communication characterized a strong, aggressive, highly fluent, and powerful way to talk.

Rap, as a musical form of poetry, and the Hip-Hop Culture were invented relatively recently by inner city

Black American youth. Rapping is more of a performance than an exchange of information. It is designed to show off the originality, personality, and style of the individual speaker. Characteristic features of Rap are its presentation with creative imagery, style, and flow. Style refers to originally in rhyming lyrics, tonal quality in the rhythmic speaking or chanting, syncopation, types of hand gestures (as if for penetrating into the minds of the audience), bodily pacing back and forth, and the menacing dress of the “hood.” Flow relates to the rapper’s sense of timing and rhythmic cadence.

Hip-hop consists of five art forms – graffiti tagging, style of dress, break dancing, deejays who recruited MC’s (masters of ceremony) to lead African type “call-and-response” sessions to fire up crowds, and rap.  Two types of break-dancing, rapping, and graffiti conjoined to form the Black/Hispanic subculture identified as Hip-Hop. This term ultimately dates to Africa but its proximate ancestor is said to have come from a rap song by Afrika Bambaataa (Shaw, Black Popular Music p294).

Supposedly, in Bronx, New York Ghetto Music developed into Musical Poetic Rap from the orchestration of its basic components by the Jamaican immigrant, Clive Campbell. Under the name D.J. Kool Herc, he hosted ghetto block parties using music of Black Americans heard over a booming sound-system.

As an alternative to both the violent gang culture of the Bronx and the nascent popularity of “Disco” in the 1970s, at his first dance party in New York City (1973) he borrowed the idea of the Bronx mobile DJs. This included the mixing of hard funk records of the sort typified by James Brown, Sly Stone and similar performers – and added “Jamaican toasting” (speaking with humor and syncopation over remixed instrumental versions of records). Syncopation is a shift of accent in a passage that occurs when a normally weak beat is stressed. In response to the reactions of his dancers, Campbell began to isolate the instrumental portion of the record which emphasized the drum beat—the “Break”—and switch from one break to another to yet another. Using the two turntable setup of the disco DJs, Campbell’s style led to the use of two copies of the same record to elongate the break. He and others put together danceable eclectics (varieties) containing “Break Beats”—the rhythmic figures that gave rise to Break dancing. This “Break-beat” DJing—using hard funk, rock, and records with Latin percussion—formed the basis of Hip-Hop music. Grandmaster Flash invented “back spinning” (playing one record while turning a second one backward), repeating phrases and beats in a stuttering, rhythmic manner.

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