Since its inception at a housing project in the South Bronx around 35 years ago, hip hop has grown to become not just a musical genre but a part of popular American life. Last summer I worked on an mSchool course on the history and influence of hip hop music on popular culture. An upcoming movie, The Art of Rap, focuses on the artistic side of hip hop such as storytelling and its commentary on social issues in inner city neighborhoods, where hip hop originated. As the movie and early hip hop records such as Grandmaster Flash’s “The Message” and Public Enemy’s “Don’t Believe the Hype” clearly indicates, hip hop and music as a whole became a platform for artists to voice their concerns and thoughts on that time’s key social issues such as AIDS, poverty, rampant drug use, and teenage pregnancy, among others.
I know the EdLab is working on the Rock N Roll project. As the aim of the project is to teach American history through rock and roll music, I think the mSchool course and the aforementioned movie will both be great resources for the project. Though rock and roll music encompasses practically every musical genre, hip-hop is one of the few music genres that have its roots in other genres, especially R&B and soul. Most contemporary hip-hop songs are entirely or partially sampled from old R&B and soul songs, notably Kanye West & Jay-Z’s hit song “Otis”, which is taken from Otis Redding’s 1966 hit “Try a Little Tenderness”. Combine the music with hip hop’s overall influence on pop culture, e.g clothing, language and lifestyle, and one can argue that hip hop has been the most influential musical genre for the past half century.