What is the origin of the term "Hip Hop"?
December 20, 2005 12:58 PM   Subscribe

What is the origin of the term "Hip Hop"?
posted by Edible Energy to Society & Culture (12 answers total)
First line of the Sugar Hill Gang's "Rapper's Delight".
posted by jmgorman at 1:00 PM on December 20, 2005

From what I know, it was a term made up by Afrika Bambaataa and the Zulu Nation in the late 70's to describe the block parties they were throwing in the South Bronx.
posted by SweetJesus at 1:05 PM on December 20, 2005

Wikipedia suggests it predates the Sugar Hill Gang, as do other resources, but it doesn't appear that there's a consensus on where it originally came from.

The origin of the term "hip hop" itself is unclear; however, over time, the term has taken on a life of its own. The cultural movement that later became known as hip hop began in large part with the work of DJ Kool Herc in the early 1970s, while competing DJ Afrika Bambaataa is often credited with having invented the term "hip hop" to describe the culture. A variety of mythical etymologies and complex meanings have been attached to the term and continue to propagate within the hip hop community.
posted by loquax at 1:10 PM on December 20, 2005

It, for sure, pre-dates Rappers Delight.
posted by SweetJesus at 1:12 PM on December 20, 2005

Some years back there was a coffee table style book about hip hop, I asked one of the featured artsists (Tom Tom Club) where did the word come from, or even what does it mean, she said: "I honestly have no idea."
posted by StickyCarpet at 1:23 PM on December 20, 2005

Yeah, I saw that article in Wikipedia. I'd love to hear the "mythical etymologies" they mention though.
posted by Edible Energy at 1:24 PM on December 20, 2005

This boring explanation is probably right - "hip" + "hop"

With "hip" in the sense of: hip (adj.) "informed," 1904, apparently originally in black slang, probably a variant of hep, with which it is identical in sense, though it is recorded four years earlier. Hip-hop music style first recorded 1982.

and "hop" in the sense of: hop (v.) Slang noun sense of "informal dancing party" is from 1731 (defined by Johnson as "a place where meaner people dance").

No eytmology would be complete without an association with anti-semitism though; from the straight dope: Now we get to the bizarre part. Antisemitic rioters in Europe in the 19th century often shouted "Hep! Hep!" while on the prowl for Jews. Mob harrassment of Jews in Hamburg, Frankfurt, and other German cities in 1819, in fact, became known as the "Hep! Hep!" riots.
posted by loquax at 1:57 PM on December 20, 2005

The OED says it's from hip, "reduplicated with alteration of vowel as a jingling refrain."
posted by danb at 2:14 PM on December 20, 2005

Africa Bambaata is credited in Rap and Street Consciousness, the best book I've seen tracing the evolution of hip hop. Further, KRS-One credits him, and you can't argue with the teacher.
posted by klangklangston at 2:22 PM on December 20, 2005

I took a course called "Music and Popular Culture in the 20th century" in university, the following comes from my notes:

Hip hop draws from a range of influences, ranging from West African Griots to Toasts (such as "Stackolee" performed by Frank in 1965 in Ramsey State Prison, Texas in 1965), to Radio DJ's to Jamacian Sound System Culture (reggae, ska, rocksteady).

Hip hop was a distinct culture in 1970s in the South Bronx, NYC, but in 1973 hip hop culture crystallized for a variety of reasons I won't go into here. If you want to know more on this, feel free to ask. :)

The term "Hip hop" is not interchangeable with the term "rap music". Hip hop is an umbrella term which branched out into the following areas:
1) Rap/MC-ing
2) DJ ing
3) Grafitti/graph/tagging
4) B boy/b girl culture (breakdancing, dress)
A fifth possible category is beatboxing, although there is some dispute in the hip-hop community wheather it should be included. I think it should be, but I digress.

As others have noted, there is no definitive origin for the term "hip hop", but here are a few key players that helped its development:

1) Kool DJ Herc: He was an influential DJ who played funk music at house parties in the Bronx. He was one of the first DJs to add MCs to the performances, whose job was to hype the DJ. In 1976, Grandmaster Melly Mel began giving longer raps to pump the DJs, which soon began the formation of "rap". Sadly, DJ Herc never formally released a record, so he's often forgotten as having an influence in hip hop.

2) Afrika Bambaataa: Very influential in the creation of hip hop. Once he began DJing, he began to become a community activist, and help solidify hip hop through founding Zulu Nation, as an alternative to gang violence. The idea wasthat instead of knife violence, people would battle against one another in music competitions for bragging rights. Some of his best songs include "Plant Rock" and "Looking for the Perfect Beat" "Planet Rock" was especially noteable because it was one of the first recordings to use a drum beat in a song. (He was influenced by Kraftwerk)

3) Grandmaster Flash: futhered the art of DJing through the use of quick cutting through records. An example of this was "The adventures of Grandmaster Flash on the Wheels of Steel" produced in 1981.

4) Grandwizard Theodore: Invented the record scratch accidentally.

As many others mentioned, in October 1979 the first commercial rap recording was made by the Sugarhill Gang "Rapper's Delight". Incidentially, it was not done in Bronx, but by teens in Sugar Hill in Harlem. I could go on about the issues surrounding this recording, but I've derailed this thread enough.

So, in summary: Lots of things lead to the development of hip hop, but there is no one origin or definitive term for hip hop. I could go on and on...

On Preview: I write too much.
posted by carabiner at 4:35 PM on December 20, 2005 [5 favorites]

I should use spellcheck and read over answers before hitting submit.
posted by carabiner at 4:42 PM on December 20, 2005

First line of the Sugar Hill Gang's "Rapper's Delight".

The people who think the term originates with the Sugar Hill Gang are the same people who think "Rapper's Delight" was the first rap record. They are immensely wrong on both counts, and betray their ignorance to massive degrees. Never again repeat this to anyone who knows anything about rap, unless they are very slow to anger.
posted by ChasFile at 9:14 PM on December 20, 2005

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