From The Bronx to the world, a glance into hip-hop history

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By Alexa Martínez

It was during the 70s that hip-hop emerged as an artistic and cultural movement in a New York City neighborhood. Mixing jazz steps, breakdance, some disco influences, afro rhythms, and focusing mostly on The Bronx, this movement ended up being a worldwide influence.

This movement became mostly popular between the Afro-American and Latin-American communities in New York. Hip-hop proposes a way of self-expression, reflection, to challenge the circumstances in which the people lived and to proclaim alternatives, a revelation against the inequalities that day-by-day these boroughs lived.

Difference between hip-hop and rap:

Hip-hop is a movement by itself and includes the musical aspect. Rap refers exclusively to the music and being able to rhyme fast and with great creativity. Apart from rap, hip-hop has many more elements such as; breakdance, graffiti, and the famous turntablism. Here, DJs manipulate sounds and create music, new sound effects, creative beats using one or more turntables, and crossfader-equipped DJ mixers.

Ghetto Brothers: the founders of hip-hop

Founded by Benjamin Melendez, the Ghetto Brothers were a gang and a musical group from New York City, founded in the late 60s by sons of Puerto Rican migrants. This group is considered to be a turning point in the way the other gangs used to live, being one of the most politicized and least vengeful. 

 The Ghetto Brothers made a huge difference and were worthy to admire. Although they maintained contact with other gangs like the Black Panthers, they were as well involved with the Puerto Rican Socialist Party. They always gave the same treatment to the Ghetto Sisters, pushed out drug sellers, gave clothes to poor kids, and offered hot chocolate to sex workers. Melendez remembered that day when he sent his friend ‘Black Benji’ to prevent a fight between gangs, which didn’t end up well, but instead of seeking revenge for his friend, he asked for a truce between the gangs. The Ghetto Brother made the music his new way of competing without violence, where each Friday they fought with rhythms, adding others and Melendez brother said, “This is something new, this is hip-hop”.

1980, the hip-hop decade

The 80s is considered to be the decade in which hip-hop diversified as a genre and developed different styles. The rhythm composer turned into an ideal instrument for this genre and ended up being characteristic and essential in many songs and discographic productions. Suddenly, the technology of the samplers became easier than the rhythm composer technology and ended up facilitating the job to the DJs.

As for the lyrics, this genre had its evolution when songs started to be more metaphoric and complex and tried to tell the harsh reality that these people lived, unemployment, exclusion, and racism.

2PAC and Biggie, the two legends

It was 1971 when in Harlem, New York, Tupac Shakur, son of members from the Black Panther Party was born. With an absent father and an absent mother due to addiction, Tupac ended up being raised in California. He started writing poetry and studied ballet, a turning point in his life. As a dancer, he got to know rap and started to gain attention showing his talent in rhymes. Tupac used to tell personal experiences and harsh situations that people like him lived.

On the other hand, Christopher Wallace was born a year after Tupac, 1972 in Brooklyn. Better known as The Notorious B.I.G, Biggie Smalls, or just Biggie, he wanted to gain popularity and used to think that 2PAC could help him with that. He was nine months in a reformatory and when he finally got the support from 2PAC and his teacher went to New York, something that left him with a bad taste after being assaulted in a studio and blamed Biggie thinking it was a trick, ending the relationship of the two.

They started to send overwhelming messages in some songs, like ‘Who Shot Ya?’ by Notorious which reveals that between these two was a rivalry.

Finally in September 1996, while 2PAC was leaving a Mike Tyson fight in Las Vegas and headed to a club in his BMW, his real enemies met him in the street, marking the end of this legend. Just a year later, another legend would leave this world; Christopher Wallace was this time in California and met the same ending as Tupac Shakur. Both artists ended up being victims of misunderstandings between them and the reality that they expressed in their songs hit them.