Tupac And Other Influential Hip Hop Figures
Hip-hop was a type of art movement that started in the city of the Bronx located in New York city. The underprivileged youth in New York city had a great impact on hip-hop and has helped it evolve into what it is today. Many different artists have also had a large impact on hip-hop and have shaped it into many different types of forms. Many people would be surprised to learn hip-hop originated not even fifty years ago and has already had a great impact worldwide. According to an article “ It came to life precisely on this day in 1973, at a birthday party in the recreation room of an apartment building in the west Bronx, New York City. The location of that birthplace was 1520 Sedgwick Avenue” (History.com Editors, 2009, p.1). The person who actually is said to have started hip-hop on this very day and place was Clive Campbell, also known as DJ Kool Herc. His impact on hip-hop has been so strong that he is referred to as “the founding father of hip-hop.”
DJ Kool Herc was born in Kingston, Jamaica, and lived there until he moved to the Bronx in 1967, when he was just thirteen years old. When he was just a teenager in the early 1970’s DJ Kool Herc began playing beats whenever he got a chance. Since his father was in a band he would take the opportunity and DJ whenever his father’s band was on a performance break. Something the audience really enjoyed about Herc’s performance was how he would talk to the crowd on the microphone, which in a certain way helped the audience feel a close relation to him. DJ Kool Herc really had a way with the crowd because he gave them what they wanted. He often would look at the reaction of the crowd with certain beats he would play in order to understand what they wanted to hear. Herc once stated “I was noticing people used to wait for particular parts of the record to dance, maybe to do their specialty move” (History.com Editors, 2009, p.1).
DJ Kool Herc made his name in hip-hop because of the diversity and changes he brought to the music. He would often utilize two turn-tables in order to switch back and forth in between beats, which he called “Merry Go Round”. Even though today the “Merry Go Round” is called “Break Beat”, many people give the credit of this idea to DJ Kool Herc. Herc started to grow a love for the break section of certain songs/beats and liked the idea of capturing certain moments of a song for a longer time. Even though sometimes it took a lot of time, Herc would spend hours searching in crates and look everywhere possible in order to find the perfect break beats for his parties.
Herc also known as “Hercules”, started hip-hop six years before hip-hop started to have a name worldwide. The first professional job DJ Kool Herc received was in a location called The Twilight Zone in the year of 1973. With time Herc started to be known for the amp of his music, and people started to grow admiration for his style of music. In the year 1975, Herc got his big break and started to work at a place he had been trying to get a gig at for a long time called Hevalo. When he started working in Hevalo other competing DJ’s tried to get beat ideas from Herc. According to my research, “As competing DJ’s looked to cut in on the action, Herc would soak the labels off his records so no one could steal his beats” (JohnG, 2011).
DJ Kool Herc’s career began to fall in the late 1970’s after being stabbed at a party he was playing in. Even though he thankfully survived, his career never fully recovered after being stabbed. According to DJ Kool Herc, “I was getting ready to play. I just changed my clothes, walked in the door and walked into a discrepancy, and I got stabbed” (Broughton, 2018). Herc had a powerful impact on hip-hop, and many people believe it wouldn’t have been the same without him. He enjoyed the reactions the crowd would have while he would play his beats, the crowds reaction is what would bring him the motivation he needed.
Another artist I believe has influenced hip-hop was Tupac Shakur. Tupac was born in East Harlem in New York City in the year of 1971. In the beginning of his career he worked for a hip-hop group named Digital Underground. Tupac worked with this hip-hop group as a backup dancer and would help the group set up and maintain their musical equipment. His first solo album release was on November 12, 1991 and was called 2Pacalypse Now, which gained recognition quickly. 2Pacs music gained both popularity and controversy due to the violence he would often rap about. His talents went beyond just music, as a teenager he studied theatre at the Baltimore School of Performing Arts and debuted in a few films throughout his musical career.
One of Tupac’s inspirations was Shakespeare, due to the reality and rawness of his stories. Shakur was known for being a story teller because of how detailed his songs were. People believed his music was inspired by real life stories that they themselves can relate to, according to an article, “Tupac’s ability to communicate what was going on around him was second to none. It wasn’t necessarily about telling a story in the most intricate and detailed of ways, it was about making you feel like you were there seeing what he was seeing.” (Gollan,2017). Tupac lived his life wanting to inspire people to be better, and was inspired himself by powerful speakers like Martin Luther King and Malcom X.
Tupac would often stack vocals to his songs, which would add a certain type of rawness to his music. When he would rap people would listen to what he had to say because his beats were made in a particular way for his voice to always be heard while he was rapping. An example of a song he does this in was in his track Dear Mama, where he stacks his vocals so well and is able to get his message across throughout the entire song. Even though stacking/layering sounds is difficult to do, Tupac was a mastermind when it came to this technique and mastered it throughout his entire career. He had huge control of his rhythms, so much that the layering of his vocals would always flow with his music.
Tupac has sold over 75 million records worldwide, many which were sold after his death. Even though Shakur died in the year 1996, he still has a huge impact on hip-hop today. Many people still listen to his music and he is known not only in the United States but worldwide. According to my research, Tupac would often say ‘We don’t have time, we don’t have the luxury to spend all of this time doing one song’ (Gollan, 2017). The reason Tupac’s music is still so well-known today was because his main purpose was to get his point across to listeners, he wanted everyone to be able to listen to his messages through his music and didn’t want to waste any time doing it.
Tupac’s albums All Eyes On Me debuted in 1996 and changed the world of hip-hop forever. The album ended up becoming platinum and consisted of some of his best work. Six months after the album dropped 2Pac was gunned down in Las Vegas. Even though his killing remains unsolved, many people believe it had to do with the violence he would rap about in his music. A few months after Tupac was gunned down, Notorious B.I.G was also fatally shot. The shootings of these two iconic rappers brought gangsta rap to a pause.
Over the past decade many other rappers have influenced the world of hip-hop. Rappers like Lil Wayne, Gucci Mane, Jay-Z, Drake, Kendrick Lamar, and many more have influenced many listeners and brought great beats into the hip-hop world. Many rappers like Kanye West have actually changed the rap game by brining many innovations into their music. According to Brown, “Heartbreak, which elevated him from being not just a dope rapper and producer, but a visionary. In the decade since the album’s release, Kanye has continued to break new ground with albums like My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy and Yeezus becoming instant statement pieces” (Brown, 2019). Many artists like Kanye West continue to inspire the world of hip-hop with their style of music, fashion, and free-spirited mind.
Today, many people believe hip-hop isn’t as inspirational as it used to be. Often people have controversial thoughts about hip-hops music videos or the bad words in certain songs, but I believe this controversy has always been present in hip-hop. Controversy existed with rappers like 2Pac, B.I.G, and even when DJ Kool Herc started out the style of Hip-Hop. I think today hip-hop has evolved when it comes to the rhythm and the beats of the songs, but many rappers remain inspirational. Many of today’s famous rappers have come from poverty and have found hip-hop as a way to express themselves through their music just like rappers from over 20 years ago.
Over the years hip-hop has become well-known world-wide. It has created a way for many people to express themselves and be creative. “Hip-hop has become a global phenomenon due to the influence it has had on millions of people around the world. Its five elements MCing, b-boying/b-girling, DJing, graffiti, and knowledge allow people to express themselves and engage with others creatively” (Robinson, 2019). Hip-hop has paved the way for many people to express their creative thoughts whether it be with graffiti, different styles of music, and different styles of dance. Hip-hop has also brought many people together from different cultures, which has actually influenced its change throughout the world.
Overall, Hip-hop will keep bringing people around the world together with its continuous diversity world-wide. Many different people from different countries continue to express themselves through the power of hip-hop and will continue to do so. I believe even though hip-hop will always have its controversy, it will continue to grow with its innovation. People from all over the world will continue to use hip-hop as a way of coping with problems in their life and will see it as a safe place.
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