A Beginner’s Guide To Understanding Hip Hop Culture & Style

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While hip hop is often thought of as just a genre of music, there’s an entire culture and style that has developed around it since its origin. If you love hip hop music and you want a better understanding of the culture and style, you need to know how the genre came to be and master the basic elements of urban streetwear style. Here’s a comprehensive guide on all things hip hop, from how to wear a gold chain properly to the history behind the music.

A Brief History of Hip Hop

It all began in the Bronx during the 1970s when an underground movement began as people experimenting with MCing spoken lyrics over beats. Most people credit the birth of hip hop to the night of August 11th, 1973 when a man named Clive Campbell was MCing his sister’s birthday party under his nickname DJ Kool Herc. 

He learned his style from his Jamaican roots, as many Jamacian DJs were known to talk over the records they played––a technique known as “toasting.” On the night of his sister’s party, he was able to test out his skills in front of a large audience that responded well, and he continued to refine his style.

It wasn’t until almost the 80s when the phrase “hip hop” would become a well-known term, as more people continued to experiment with an emerging genre. The year 1979 was the first time a hip hop track landed on the top ten worldwide hits. The song was called “Rapper’s Delight” by Sugarhill Gang. The 1980s ushered in a new group of hip hop stars that would start to gain more fame and attention from a wider audience outside their own community, including Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, LL Cool J, Run DMC, and others. 

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Through the 90s, the genre continued to grow and change as more people used synthesizers and pre-recorded drum beats, over the original method of live DJing, to create a record. During this decade, even more stars were born, many of which are still relevant or performing today. 

A Tribe Called Quest produced their own unique sound by adding different types of music into their beats, and Salt-N-Pepa gained traction as a female duo hip hop group. Some of the most famous names that came out of this area were Wu-Tang Clan, Notorious B.I.G., Jay-Z, Tupac, and, of course, N.W.A. The most successful rappers were coming out of NYC and LA, bringing people music about their personal life experiences and struggles. 

Today, hip hop is one of the most popular genres in the world, with many of these stars still making music, like Dr. Dre of N.W.A., who now has expanded beyond his role of performing into producing, and who has his own  line of music products. In less than 50 years, hip hop was

born and exploded as a worldwide phenomenon, helping to foster a sense of unity, bringing people a new form of entertainment and creating a unique new culture.

The Four Elements of Hip Hop

In the beginning, hip hop encompassed four basic elements—DJing, MCing, graffiti, and breakdancing. These were the things that defined the genre and the culture surrounding it. DJing referred to the act of spinning the records, which early hip hop stars like DJ Kool Herc experimented with by mixing records together, slowing songs down, or speeding parts up. MCing, on the other hand, has to do with that Jamaican practice of “toasting” or talking over the music. This is what sparked the kind of rapping that we think about today, adding spoken word over a musical beat.

Graffiti and breakdancing didn’t necessarily have to do with the hip hop music itself, but these two practices were closely linked to the genre. Breakdancing was often practiced at those original house parties in the Bronx where early artists were experimenting with hip hop. This style of dance is closely linked to hip hop and incorporates unique movements specific to the genre of hip hop. Graffiti or street art also began to be associated with the culture that surrounded hip hop as underground supporters and musicians found another way to express their creativity.

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  • Wearing Gold Chains

 

Men’s gold chains are one of the basic elements of hip hop fashion. In the 1980s, as more hip hop artists were gaining attention and money, these artists began investing in and wearing expensive gold chains. Run RMC popularized the rope chain look, while Biggie Small is credited with inventing the Jesus piece less than a decade later. As these stars continued to gain fame and success, the gold chains became bigger and flashier. The iced-out look refers to a gold chain that has been encrusted with diamonds and is the ultimate symbol of status and success in the hip hop world. 

 

  • Keep Your Clothing Simple

 

When it comes to urban streetwear fashion, simple is better. This look is very laid-back, making use of comfortable tees in plain colors and looser-fitting jeans. You can layer up with a camo-patterned hoodie or jacket made from corduroy or denim. Let your own tastes shine through while still following the basic elements of style. This low-key look helps your bling to stand out. If you’re going to the office or a big event, a sharp-looking suit in dark colors or a flashy velvet blazer will do the trick.

Hip Hop Style: Simple But Flashy

Now that you have a better understanding of how hip hop came to be, you can begin learning more about the culture. To master the style, keep in mind the notion of comfortable, laid-back, and simple clothing. A solid color tee with jeans or a sharp suit for a big event will do when it comes to clothing, but the jewelry is where you let yourself shine. Men’s gold chains come in a variety of styles, and you can mix and match yours to fit your own specific tastes. If you ever need inspiration, just look to the people who pioneered the genre.

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Guest Author

Mark Broadly

 

 

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