From the streets of the South Bronx to the skylines of L.A. hip-hop music has made an impact on American pop-culture craving out its own place in  history. With hip-hop being one of the most popular of the modern day it, most forget where it came from and its interesting past. Hip-hop culture has grown over the past decades establishing its presences not only in the U.S. but across the globe as a popular genre of music. The following is a series of pictures and text beginning in the early 1970’s and ending in the early 2000’s show casing the history of Hip-Hop.  The following discusses major topics, artists, events, and moments featured in the Trenton Makes Music Podcast “The Modern Music of Trenton”, giving background information on fundamental hip-hop history. Throughout the series  below iconic elements, moments, and musicians are given a spotlight for their tremendous impact on the culture.

The Beginning of The Genre


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Hip-hop, commonly associated with rap music, began in the U.S. on the east coast during the early 1970’s. The South Bronx in New York City is often credited with being the birthplace of hip-hop where the music style was born and first gained traction with the youth at block parties. During this period hip-hop formed a complex culture primarily comprised of deejaying, MCing or rapping, graffiti painting, and B-boying. B-boying would become very closely associated with hip-hop as many audience members would dance at shows and throughout the streets of New York and eventually all over the world. The popularity of b-boying would only grow with the introduction of the boom box, which would later become commonly associated with hip-hop music. These elements of the culture would go on to define hip-hop, and act as iconic corner stones of the culture. Each defining element of hip-hop has mature and grew over time creating new genres that very heavily influenced by hip-hop, new technology, and new talent.

A Real Deejay


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The father or creator of hip-hop is often credited to DJ Kool Herc.  The deejay moved from Jamaica to the West Bronx in 1967. By 1973 he had a following and was playing shows in NYC, using the two turntables side by side to preform, drawing large crowds. DJ Kool Herc was the first person do this and create a following. During this early stages of deejaying DJ Kool Herc was making it up as he went, creating news beats, working with other upcoming artists, and eventually establishing a name for himself while defining what a deejay was. In New York along with Grandmaster Flash, the two were pioneers of deejaying, using turntables differently while  incorporating b-boying into shows and creating beats the had never been heard before. This style quickly gained traction and a following making both DJ Kool Herc and Grandmaster Flash very influential figurers in the early years of hip-hop. Some of their most iconic songs include: Let Me Clear My Throat, B-Boy, I Got Da Feelin’, The Message, and White Lines and are still played to this very day at sporting event or over radio.

The First Hip-Hop Single


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The famous Sylvia Robinson, a record label owner assembled the Sugar Hill Gang in 1979. The Sugar Hill Gang would go on that year to record the first commercial rap recording, “Rapper’s Delight.” The song was such a huge success it is still being played today on the radio and helped popularize and expose the genre to huge audiences during the late 1970’s, exposing many Americans to hip-hop for the very first time. The spreading of the hip-hop genre on the radio with the first ever hip-hop single “Rappers Delight” helped get the genre traction all across the country, paving the way for other hip-hop artists to follow. The song was originally written by Grandmaster Caz and featured samples from popular disco of the era. “Rapper’s Delight” would go on to become a iconic song for hip-hop music, helping define the culture. Currently the record has sold over 14 million copies, being one of the best selling hip-hop album of all time, making its mark in hip-hop history.

The Very First International Hip-Hop Tour

First International Hip-Hop Tour

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During the early 1980’s hip-hop was still growing and defines its self as a culture. During this era the very first international hip-hop concert tour takes place in 1982, taking the genre to places it had never been heard before.  The tour would feature Afrika Bambaataa, Fab 5 Freddy, and the Double Dutch Girls, some on the east coasts most iconic hip-hop figures of the time. Traveling throughout Europe the groups spread the hip-hop genre outside of the U.S. establishing a global presence for the very first time. The spreading of the hip-hop culture outside the U.S. in the early 1980’s influenced many genres outside the U.S., especially throughout Europe in countries like Germany and France. This tours success proves that the world wanted hip-hop. Later in the mid 1980’s with the rise of west coast secne,  and major artists like Ice-T, hip-hop would continue to gain an international presence with more hip-hop scenes being established in the U.S. and distributed world wide. Around the same time hip-hop began to get more mainstream exposure with coverage in the news and documentaries being released, giving the genre some major attention.

Birth of Def Jam Records

Russell Simmons and Rick Rubin

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In 1984 one of the most iconic hip-hop record labels is formed by Russell Simmons and Rick Rubin, they decide to call their label “Def Jam Records.” Originally started in a dorm room by Rubin and Simmons, the record label was focused on real artist with edge news sounds on would early on find major success. Releasing LL Cool J’s “I Need a Beat” and the Beastie Boys’ “Rock Hard” the same year, Def Jam established itself early as a major hip-hop label. Thelabel would continue to release music for musicians such as Run D.M.C. and Public Enemy over the following year, which were received very well by fans, shooting Def Jam and their artist into the spotlight. The music label would continue to grow over the years becoming one of the largest music labels, and one of the most respected hip-hop record labels that is still around today. Simmons would go on later in the 2000’s to create more record labels focused on different music, shifting away from Rick Rubin.

The Emerging West Coast

NWA Album

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In 1988 one of hip-hops most iconic albums was released. The west cost group N.W.A. released, Straight Outta Compton. This was the first album the L.A group released. The album was a huge success establishing West Coast hip-hop and rap by telling stories about life on the streets. The album also had huge singles that that include the controversial track “Fuck tha Police”. The album is still today considered one of hip-hops most iconic albums, as it has sold over three million copies to this day. Hip-hop was transformed in the late 1980’s with new advancements in technology, including the iconic beat box which was heavily used by groups I this time such as N.W.A. The group was also popularized with the introduction of MTV and use of music videos, as the album originally did not sell to well but was popularized with the promotion from the new edge network, MTV.

Birth of Death Row Records

Deathrow Records

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In 1991 Dr. Dre and Suge Knight form Death Row Records, creating the first major west coast rap and hip-hop label. The label had major west coast artists such as Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, Tupac Shakur, MC Hammer, and the Outlawz. Death Row Records found major success with the major talent that they signed early in stages of the label, allowing it to reap the success and continue to grow over the years. Throughout the 1990’s the label was making around 100 million a year and established itself the west coast icon of rap and hip-hop. However in the late 1990’s when most artists began to leave and Tupac’s death the label began to degrade and closed in 2006. Although the label closed in 2006, it was a important part of hip-hop history. The label represented the west coast hip-hop and rap culture of the 1990’s and had formed an international following.

Death of a Legend: Life After Death 

The Notorious B-I-G

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In 1997 the East coast versus West Coast feud reached it peak in March when Notorious B.I.G. was shot and killed in a drive-by shooting after leaving a party for an awards show in L.A. The Notorious B.I.G. was considered one the most influential and iconic rappers of the 90’s and is today considered one of the best rappers of all time. Releasing “Ready to Die” to in 1994, Biggie, aka the Notorious B.I.G. established himself as a major east coast rapper and hip-hop super star. After his death his second album “Life After Death” was released 16 days later. The album made it all the way up the No. 1 on the U.S. album chart and became certified as Diamond in 2000 selling more then ten million records. The popularity of the album made Notorious B.I.G. one of a handful of hip-hop artists who achieved diamond record status marking his mark on hip-hop history.

Breaking Hip-Hop Sale Records

The Marshall Mathers LP

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In 2000 Eminem released his second album “The Marshall Mathers”. The album would become an international hit and spreading hip-hop music to places the gerne had never been heard before. The white rapper had made a mark in hip-hop history by selling more then two million copies with in the first week of the albums debut. The album was one of the fastest selling albums in the U.S. out selling other previous record setters such as Snoop Dog’s “Doggystyle” and Britney Spears “Baby One More Time”. With major singles on the album such as “My name is” and “Way I am” the album got airtime in countries all over the world and helped establish Eminem as a hip-hop icon.

The Money


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An iconic element of the hip-hop culture that has developed over time  has been the amount of wealth the hip-hop and rap stars gain over time due to their success. This has become a iconic symbol of many hip-hop and rap stars, proving they  are talented enough to make No. one hits and lots of money along with them. Major hip-hop and rap stars in the genre produce popular songs and major alubums that sell millions of copies, making them lots of money along the way.  Modern hip-hop artists such as Eminem, Usher, and Robin Thicke have made songs that are able to stay at No. 1 on the charts for over three months at a time, showing the current popularity of the hip-hop genre. While other artists like Dr. Dre, Diddy, and Jay Z are worth over half a billion dollars, and serve as living examples of hip-hop icons that gained wealth through their success in music. Other hip-hop artists such as Drake, Kanye, and Diddy are able to have songs consistently at the top of the charts, proving how popular their songs are through air time and record sales.