On Monday, August 2, 2021, the United States Senate unanimously passed a bill officially designating August 11th as “Hip-Hop Celebration Day,” while marking the month of November as “Hip-Hop History Month.” The resolution states that hip-hop is a musical genre that “transcends many different ages, ethnicities, religions, locations, political affiliations, and socioeconomic statuses, which demonstrates the melting-pot quality of Hip-Hop art and culture.” Although there are several states that have been celebrating Hip-Hop History Month in November for many years, this marks the first time that hip-hop as a genre has been federally recognized (although it’s worth nothing that rappers including DMX, Travis Scott, and Pharrell have been individually honored).
While the terms hip-hop and rap are often used interchangeably, hip-hop more accurately reflects an entire cultural movement that includes not only rapping but also turntablism, break dancing, beatboxing, graffiti writing, and so much more. As the great KRS One said, “Rap is something you do; hip-hop is something you live.”
Hip-Hop was developed during the 1970’s as New York City block parties increased in popularity, particularly among the African American community residing in the Bronx. Since that time, Hip-Hop has seen its grown into an internationally embraced cultural force, despite its rampant commercialization by corporate America. Over the years, Hip-Hop has continued to evolve, inspire, and influence broader society wherever it manifests. Hip-Hop has consistently served as an outlet for individualism, community empowerment, and social change in the face of injustice and oppression.
To honor Hip-Hop History Month, we encourage everybody to actively explore this influential musical culture by reading about Hip-Hop history and supporting local Hip-Hop artists. Hold discussions about Hip-Hop as a form of modern literature. Engage your students in conversation about how the music impacts them, and what they believe the meaning of each song may be. Discuss the effect Hip Hip has had on modern society, and how the medium has changed over time.
Sampling (or reusing a portion of a sound recording from another song) is a foundation of Hip-Hop music. This emerged in the 1980’s with producers predominantly sampling funk and soul records — in particular the drum breaks. That means discussions about Hip-Hop are also an excellent way to introduce younger musicians to older records and recordings. Play some hip-hop songs that students will immediately recognize, and then play them the song the artist sampled. Looking for a good place to start? Kanye West has sampled artists like Otis Redding, James Brown, Tears for Fears, Aretha Franklin, Steely Dan, Curtis Mayfield, Ray Charles, Nina Simone, Chaka Khan and the Jackson 5.
For decades, hip-hop been a place for artists to challenge the status-quo, whether in fighting for racial equality or expressing rage at the many socioeconomic conditions that have disproportionately affected the black community. That’s why it’s so important to understand the history of Hip Hop, it’s ever-growing influence and popularity, and how the themes from the past continue to exist and evolve in the present day.
This blog post is part of a series linked to our Music Celebrations Around the World calendar. Download the calendar for access to information about musical celebrations and holidays with strong musical components to share in your music classroom or with your ensemble members! Music + Travel = Encore Tours.