Though Hip Hop was born in the 1970’s and came to prominence in the 1990’s, any historical analysis of Hip Hop must begin with the story of a group of Africans who were captured and enslaved some 500 hundred years ago. Between the 15th Century and the 19th Century, this group of Africans were stripped of their names, languages, history and cultural heritage.
They were forced to work from sun rise to sun down for free, and subjected to some of the most dreadful torture the world has witnessed. This group of slaves would provide the human resources necessary to build the western world. But though the story is often told otherwise, also amongst this group were people like Nat Turner, Paul Bogle and the Haitian revolutionaries who would refuse to be enslaved and lead rebellions against the British and French colonial masters. It is in the spirit of the above mentioned that you find the antecedents of a culture that would come to be known to the world as Hip Hop.
This spirit is found not only in their revolutionary acts, but in the words and campaigning of abolitionists like Frederick Douglas, civil rights activists like Martin Luther King, Black Nationalists like Malcolm X and Black Power theorists like Huey Newton. Hip Hop is the culmination of ‘Black’ thought. It is a culture that is rooted, even today, in rebellion and struggle. Like the movements before it, Hip Hop is maligned by the fact that not all of those that the culture aims to speak to want to be aligned with it, the media and the system attempt to discredit it and it is portrayed as aggressive.
Hip Hop as we know it began in the 1970’s in Bronx, New York, when Afrika Bambaataa founded the Zulu Nation. Bambaataa, a former gang member, influenced by the Afrocentric teachings of the 5 per centers and Dr Malachi Z York, decided to challenge inner city violence and gang culture and promote peace through music, rap, art, movement and street knowledge. The purpose was to provide an outlet for the frustration and anger that characterised life for youth of African descent in New York. The alienated youth of Bronx needed a sense of identity and something to believe in and Hip Hop would provide this. At first, Zulu Nation would hold block parties for peace. It later started to hold regular classes that taught youth about their heritage, the great achievements of their African ancestors and what would become the original 4 key artistic elements of Hip Hop, Rap, Breakdance, Turntablism and Graffiti.
From its humble beginnings in New York, the movement that would come to be known as Hip Hop has expanded into the five boroughs, across states and nations. The birth and growth of Hip Hop has produced millionaires and multinational companies. It is a cultural and musical phenomenon like no other and our gift from God.