Close this search box.


Table of contents

What is hip-hop?

Hip-hop is a style of music that has its origins and history in the ghettos of the USA and is closely linked to African-American funk and soul music. Rap, sampling and scratching are characteristic. The term hip-hop also refers to the hip-hop subculture, which consists of rap, DJing, breakdancing, graffiti writing and beatboxing.

Rap, also known as chanting, developed from the Jamaican tradition of toasting and is a central component of hip-hop. Sampling refers to taking excerpts from other songs and using them in your own productions. Scratching describes the rhythmic scratching on turntables and is an important part of the art of DJing.
In addition to the music genre, hip-hop is also a subculture that consists of various elements. These include rap, DJing, breakdancing, graffiti writing and beatboxing. The hip-hop subculture is characterized by the creativity and expressive will of the people who live it. It has spread around the world in recent decades and has become an important part of youth culture.

The 1970s

Hip-hop emerged in the 1970s and developed in various directions. Kool DJ Herc was the first DJ to start repeating just the beat of a funk, soul or disco track instead of playing the whole track and fitting two different beats together. At one of the “Block Parties” on August 11, 1973, he demonstrated the technique of playing an album on two turntables for the first time in order to extend the drum section. At his block parties, the first b-boys also appeared for the new breakdance.

Afrika Bambaataa

was inspired by

Kool DJ Herc

and organized his first party in 1976, where he called his crew of breakers Zulu-Kings and Zulu-Queens. This later gave rise to the Zulu nation.

Grandmaster Flash developed further new DJ techniques such as cutting, backspinning and phasing from 1976 onwards. The Grand Wizard Theodore, whom he discovered, concluded the period of inventions of elementary DJ techniques shortly afterwards with the invention of the best-known technique, scratching.

The rapping is not quite so easy to prove. The first album by the Last Poets, whose political rap was influenced by the language of Malcolm X and the poet Amiri Baraka, was released in 1970. The actual MCs, the Masters of Ceremony, developed rapping independently of this. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, they accompanied the DJs, introduced him and themselves, asked the audience to dance between songs or during the transitions and encouraged the crowd to party. The deejays of the Jamaican Sound Systems were the model for this.

The hip-hop of the earliest period is largely without sound documents, as it was the time of the DJs and records on which songs were played were considered to have no chance in the music industry. It was only later, after the consolidation of hip-hop as a separate style with its own techniques, that so-called mixtapes emerged. The first hip-hop record did not appear until 1979, when the disco band Fatback Band released the single King Tim III (Personality Jock). A week later, the Sugarhill Gang’s famous Rapper’s Delight was also released, which was a huge success, much to the surprise of everyone involved. The first big rap star, however, was Kurtis Blow, who was already successful worldwide with his first single Christmas Rappin’ and remained so with his subsequent albums until the mid-80s.

The 1980s

After the success of “Rapper’s Delight”, it was clear that money could be made with hip-hop, and the music industry’s interest turned to rap (the term “hip-hop” was still uncommon at the time). Another milestone was “Rapture” by Blondie, which became a No. 1 hit in the United States and is considered one of the first rap songs by a white male or female artist. The song contained a long rap sequence and helped to establish hip-hop in the music industry.

In the fall of 1981, the single “Der Kommissar” by the Austrian Falco was released and caused a sensation in the pop scene. It reached number 1 in almost all of Europe and an English-language cover version by the band After the Fire reached number 4 in the US charts in 1983. Falco is sometimes referred to as “the first white rapper” because he used an artistic language he developed and his chanting.

In particular, the Sugarhill label, which had already released “Rapper’s Delight”, quickly signed Grandmaster Flash, who had been working with the rap group The Furious Five since 1977. On the debut album “The Adventures Of The Wheels Of Steel” (1980), also the first hip-hop album ever, the DJ was the main focus. For the first time, this artistry could be heard outside of New York block parties, most notably in the eponymous title track, where Grandmaster Flash applied his DJ techniques.

In 1982 and 1983, the group The Furious Five released the singles “The Message” and “White Lines (Don’t Do It)” and opened up a new dimension for hip-hop in terms of content: instead of party and nonsense lyrics, the songs formulated socially critical content and reflected life in the ghetto for the first time. Shortly afterwards, the group fell out and the follow-up projects remained insignificant.

The second single by another DJ veteran of the block party era, “Planet Rock” by Afrika Bambaataa, was released in the same year as “The Message”. The international hit paraphrased Kraftwerk’s “Trans Europa Express” and was the first hip-hop song produced with synthesizers. The successor “Looking For The Perfect Beat” went one better technically and introduced sampling. As a result, hip-hop and rap were increasingly oriented towards a naturalistic sound aesthetic, not least because of the new possibilities offered by sampling. Bambaataa’s fast drum computer beats and mechanical synthesizer riffs and arpeggios, on the other hand, had a style-defining effect on the genre of electro funk, which gradually split off from hip-hop and experienced a revival in the techno sector in the late 1990s.

The 1980s saw a number of remarkable developments in hip-hop. In 1986, two bands from the same “stable” achieved top ten success with crossover songs: the Beastie Boys with “Fight For Your Right (To Party)” and Run-D.M.C. with “Walk This Way”, a collaboration with Aerosmith. A novelty was that rock music influences were integrated for the first time. Another special feature of the Beastie Boys was that they were an “all-white” band with Jewish roots.

In 1988, perhaps the most important hip-hop album ever produced was released: “It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back” by Public Enemy. The highly political lyrics and the incredibly hard production founded a new subgenre, conscious rap, and drew a drastic line under the previous definition of hip-hop, the old school was replaced by the new school.

Two years earlier, a young MC named Schoolly D began his career in Philadelphia. Although it was rather unspectacular overall, his rhymes earned him the reputation of being the originator of gangsta rap. In 1988, its most famous representatives, N.W.A, the Niggaz Wit Attitudes from Los Angeles, defined exactly what gangsta rap is. The rhymes on her album “Straight Outta Compton” depicted crime and violence seemingly impassively and without moral positioning. Critics accused them of glorifying violence instead of taking constructive action against it. Those attacked usually defended themselves with the argument that they depicted the conditions in the ghettos, and those who did not like them should change them.

The 1990s

In the 1990s, the term hip-hop became increasingly popular and gradually replaced the previous term rap. With the introduction of bands like N.W.A and Public Enemy, not only did the gangsta rap era begin, but other West Coast artists like Dr. Dre, Snoop Doggy Dogg and 2Pac came onto the scene, making New York no longer the center of hip-hop. The most successful acts on the East Coast were intellectual formations such as the Native Tongues Posse with De La Soul, A Tribe Called Quest, Black Sheep, the Jungle Brothers, the Fu-Schnickens and political acts such as Public Enemy and KRS-One. These sometimes experimental or political tones were well received by critics, but not so much on the street.

In the 1990s, groundbreaking albums such as Nas Illmatic, Mobb Deep with The Infamous or the Wu-Tang Clan with Enter the Wu-Tang (36 Chambers) were released, which shaped the East Coast sound. But gangsta rap on the West Coast had taken over and the next few years were characterized by the feud between East and West Coast. This conflict was intensified by the commercial success of hip-hop in the 1990s.

In the mid-1990s, the conflict focused on a proxy war between 2Pac (West Coast) and The Notorious B.I.G. (East Coast). After both rappers were shot, the “war” broke down and rappers from both coasts declared the confrontation over. Before his death, 2Pac was able to release the double CD All Eyez on Me, which included the globally successful rap single California Love (RMX) (Tupac Shakur feat. Dr. Dre).

Musically, there were significant innovations in the second half of the 1990s. The beats became more complex and influences from styles such as reggae and dancehall (raggamuffin hip hop), old school hip hop and 1980s electro funk could be heard. In addition, hip-hop merged more and more with soul and R&B, whereby the influence also reached the “normal” pop music of the 2000s. Major albums that embraced this new aesthetic came from Wyclef Jean (The Carnival, 1997) and Lauryn Hill (The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, 1998).

The 2000s

In the 2000s, it became clear that neither the political Conscious Rap nor the intellectual Native Tongues Posse school from the East could establish themselves on the record market, although officially neither coast had won. Instead, West Coast gangstar rappers and their disciples dominated the hip-hop market. But since the turn of the millennium, the dominance of West Coast rappers has declined sharply and the East Coast and Down South have taken over.

The Detroit scene in particular stood out, especially thanks to its best-known representative Eminem, who was instrumental in driving the careers of other artists such as D12, G-Unit, Obie Trice, Stat Quo and 50 Cent. Eminem himself, however, was a discovery of Dr. Dre, who also runs a branch of his label Aftermath Records in New York.

In 2003, the song “Where Is the Love?” by the Black Eyed Peas reached number one in numerous countries and embodied a mixture of rap and pop music with socially critical and socio-critical lyrics. There were also similarities to R&B and soul music. One of the most successful songs of this kind was “Yeah” by Usher, Ludacris and Lil Jon.

When Eminem took a creative break in 2005, the dominance of the Detroit scene declined rapidly. Instead, crossover musicians such as Kanye West and Gnarls Barkley enjoyed great success. The race for sales figures in the fall of 2007 between West’s album “Graduation” and 50 Cents’ “Curtis” is particularly noteworthy. In the end, “Graduation” won the race and proved that innovative rap music can be just as commercially successful as gangsta rap. This was confirmed in the following years by the chart positions of artists such as K’naan, Kid Cudi,


or Nicki Minaj.

From 2010

Over the course of the 2010s, the West Coast gained renewed popularity in hip-hop. Artists such as Kid Ink, Tyga and Kendrick Lamar achieved worldwide success. Snoop Dogg also returned to the limelight with the song “Sweat”. This song is based on elements of electro house music and other pieces followed this pattern in the following years. Examples include “Open Wide” by Calvin Harris and Big Sean, “Delirious” by

Steve Aoki

and Kid Ink or “Get Up” by the Bingo Players and Far East Movement.

In the early 2010s, commercially oriented albums by rappers such as Flo Rida and Pitbull became firmly established on airplay. Both reached the top 10 in numerous countries. In the middle of the decade, Latin American music had a major influence on the hip-hop scene. Female rappers were also less and less regarded as outsiders. Names like Nicki Minaj, Elliphant and Iggy Azalea became permanent fixtures in the scene.

On August 11, 2017, Google Inc. the 44th birthday of hip-hop music with a doodle on the search engine page. The logo of the US company could be seen in graffiti style on a brick wall. The date was chosen because, according to Google, the first hip-hop party took place in New York City on August 11, 1973.

Elements of hip hop

Hip-hop is not just a music genre, but also a subculture with various elements. Four of the best-known elements are rap, DJing, breakdancing and graffiti. Each of these elements helps to shape and define hip-hop culture.

Rap or MCing is speaking lyrics to the rhythm of the music. Social and political themes are often taken up and incorporated into the lyrics. The rappers attach great importance to the expressiveness of their lyrics and the authenticity of their music.

DJing is the art of playing music on a turntable and mixing different tracks. DJs are often also producers of hip-hop beats. They are responsible for the sound and groove of the music and thus make a significant contribution to the creation and development of hip-hop.

Breakdancing is a dance form that originated in the ghettos of New York in the late 1970s. Typical movements include spins, headspins and freezes. The dance is closely associated with hip-hop culture and is often performed in connection with battles and competitions.

Graffiti writing is a type of urban art in which walls, trains and other public surfaces are painted with spray paint. The art form is often politically and socially critical and serves as a means of expression for hip-hop culture.

Instruments in hip-hop

These technologies and instruments have greatly changed the way music is produced over time. Nowadays, they are indispensable for the production of hip-hop music and many other genres. A

drum machine

is an electronic machine that produces various drum sounds and rhythms and serves as the basis for the beat. A sampler is a device that allows the producer to take audio clips from various sources (e.g. other songs, films or TV shows) and integrate them into the beat. A synthesizer is an electronic instrument that can produce various sounds and effects that can be integrated into the beat. The DJ can scratch, mix and manipulate records to create new sounds and rhythms. A keyboard is an instrument that allows the producer to create different sounds and melodies and integrate them into the beat. A bass guitar or keyboard can amplify the beat with a deep bass.

Wind instruments







can be used in some hip-hop songs to create additional melodies and harmonies.

All in all, these instruments and technologies offer producers a wide range of possibilities for creating unique and innovative beats and sounds. The combination of these technologies and instruments enables producers and DJs to create hip-hop beats that are different from other music genres. As these technologies continue to develop, it will be exciting to see how music production will evolve in the future.

music production

will continue to develop.

List of hip-hop artists

  • 50 cents
  • 2Pac
  • A Tribe Called Quest
  • Africa Bombaataa
  • Beastie Boys
  • Beginner
  • Big Daddy Kane
  • Biggie Smalls
  • Bushido
  • Busta Rhymes
  • Common
  • Cypress Hill
  • De La Soul
  • The Fantastic Four
  • Dikka
  • DMX
  • Dr. Dre
  • Drake
  • Eminem
  • Eric B. & Rakim
  • Fugees
  • Gang Starr
  • Grandmaster Flash and the
  • Furious Five
  • Ice Cube
  • J. Cole
  • Jay-Z
  • Joey Bada$$
  • Kanye West
  • Katja Krasavice
  • Kendrick Lamar
  • Kool Dj Herc
  • KRS-One
  • Lil Wayne
  • LL Cool J
  • Loredana
  • Magnifying glass Fiasco
  • Missy Elliott
  • Mobb Deep
  • Mos Def
  • Nas
  • N.W.A.
  • Outkast
  • Public Enemy
  • Queen Latifah
  • Rakim
  • Run-DMC
  • Salt-N-Pepa
  • Samra
  • Samy Deluxe
  • Scarface
  • Shirin David
  • Sido
  • Snoop Dogg
  • Tech N9ne
  • The Game
  • The Notorious B.I.G.
  • The Roots
  • The Wu-Tang Clan
  • Tupac Shakur
  • Tyler, The Creator
  • UGK
  • Wu-Tang Clan
  • Xzibit
  • Yasiin Bey (Mos Def)
  • Young Thug



Hip-hop artists