Hip-Hop Myths: Here Are 5 Common Misbeliefs That Will Surprise You
During its nascent period, Hip-Hop was dismissed by many as simply a passing fad, much like Disco. As
we all can see now, those critics were drastically mistaken, and it has not only grown, but has
become the most influential cultural presence in fashion, dance, language, art, and of course music.
The indelible staying power of Hip-Hop has resulted in a vast library of books on the topic, many of
which aim to share the history and components of the movement, including Paul Edwards’ latest, The Concise Guide to Hip-Hop Music: A Fresh Look at the Art of Hip-Hop, From Old-School Beats to Freestyle Rap. Strewn throughout the book are contributions from well-known participants in the art form like
Eminem, RZA, and Rakim as well as lesser-known but equally important figures like Percee P, DJ Disco
Wiz, and Reggie Reg. While much of the material in the book is common knowledge to Heads, the
book also includes some refreshing information not commonly known:
1) There is universal agreement that graffiti is one of Hop-Hop’s four elements
According to the book, many significant figures think graffiti should not be one of Hop-Hop’s four elements. Artists like Grandmaster Caz and R.A. The Rugged Man feel strongly that graffiti is an integral form of the culture. However, Grandmaster Flash and graf artists like Lady Pink and Phase 2 are adamant the two have nothing to do with each other. “Fact…there is no way in the world that aerosol culture was spawned by hip-hop…it was going on years before that,” says Phase 2. (p.16)
2) Difficult social conditions were the driving force behind the rise of Hip-Hop
While life in the inner cities was far from glamorous, many Hip-Hop artists claim their socio-economic troubles played a much smaller role in the creation of a new kind of music than most believe to be true. For example, Rev Run shares “No way was I brainwashed or hurt by being black. It’s not like I never had any money. I always had money.” (p. 49) In fact, contributors in this part of the book argue that the innovation arose simply because it was something to do, and it sounded good.
3) The invention of “sampling” was purposeful
The art of sampling is so ubiquitous in Hip-Hop production today that it’s hard for some Heads to fathom a time when it didn’t exist. Similarly, it’s so commonplace that it’s easy to assume that the process was part of a natural progression of beatmaking; simply just the next step in a formula. However, as Marley Marl illuminates, “I made a mistake at Unique Recording Studios…sampled a snare inside a sampler by mistake when I was trying to get a voice off the record. (p. 99) That mistake revolutionized the sound of Hip-Hop.
4) Snoop Dogg popularized the phrase “fo’ shizzle”
E-40 was the first to popularize “fo’ shizzle” as a slang term in Hip-Hop. As most Heads know, the Bay Area of California has had a significant influence in the sound and style of Rap music. Included in that influence is the lingo. “Fo’ shizzle” is a phrase most commonly associated with Snoop Dogg, but according to 40 Water, he is responsible for making it a common colloquialism thanks to his 1996 song “Rappers Ball.” (p. 31)
5) The term “freestyle rap” means an “off the top” unwritten verse
Today, the common consensus on the definition of a freestyle rap is that it is created extemporaneously. However, the “freestyle” originally applied to the topic, not the creation of lyrics. A “freestyle rap” described a written verse on any given topic. As Big Daddy Kane shares, “That term…is like a new term, because in the ’80s when we said we wrote a freestyle rap, that meant that it was a rhyme that you wrote that was free of style.” (p. 57)
For more insider tidbits on the origins of Hip-Hop and a wealth of information on the culture, generally, pick up a copy of The Concise Guide to Hip-Hop Music: A Fresh Look at the Art of Hip-Hop, From Old-School Beats to Freestyle Rap here.
Amanda Mester is a writer and editor living in Brooklyn, New York. Follow her on Twitter @CanEye_KickIt