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About Hip-Hop
OverviewTimelineGlossary
As with any genre of music or culture, a whole new vocabulary came into being with the birth of hip-hop—and it's ever-expanding.
An image of a needle on a record juxtaposed with a crowd of people dancingAn image of a needle on a record juxtaposed with a crowd of people dancingAn image of a needle on a record juxtaposed with a crowd of people dancingAn image of a needle on a record juxtaposed with a crowd of people dancingAn image of a needle on a record juxtaposed with a crowd of people dancingAn image of a needle on a record juxtaposed with a crowd of people dancingAn image of a needle on a record juxtaposed with a crowd of people dancing

Alternative hip-hop
Also known as “underground rap,” a subgenre of rap that encompasses art forms such as sampling, breakdancing, spoken word, freestyling, beatboxing, turntablism and more. Alternative hip-hop often includes artists on independent record labels and features socially conscious and politically oriented lyrics.

B-boying
A dance style stemming from the early 1970s hip-hop scene, evolving from such diverse sources as jazz, martial arts, capoeira and tap dancing. Break boys and girls, who later became known as b-boys and b-girls, first started dancing during DJ breaks at Bronx hip-hop parties. B-boying soon became a skilled and competitive art form. The term “breakdancing” was later created by mainstream media in the 1980s.

Battling
A competition, often between DJs or rappers, judged often on originality and skill

Beats
The basis of hip-hop—the instrumental music itself

Beatboxing
Creating sounds using one’s mouth that replicate rhythmic patterns and percussion. Noted beatboxers include Doug E. Fresh, Darren Robinson (a.k.a. The Human Beatbox) of the Fat Boys and Rhazel of the Roots.

Crunk
A style of Southern hip-hop featuring heavy bass and aggressively chanted lyrics

DJ
In hip-hop, DJing originally encompassed the art of mixing and scratching music to create new music

Dirty South
A term used to describe the Deep South region of the United States, including the states Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina and Texas. Rappers from the Dirty South began to dominate hip-hop in the early 2000s.

Dub
Hip-hop’s roots emerged from dub, a form of ska and reggae music out of 1960s Jamaica characterized by an MC singing or rapping over a mostly instrumental “dub” version of an existing song.

Flow
A lyricist’s rhythm or cadence, his or her ability to combine words with the music

Freestyle
The art of vocal improvising

Gangsta rap
Originally popularized by West Coast rappers in the 1980s, often containing “hardcore” rap lyrics related to gangs, gang members and their lifestyle

MC
A hip-hop performer or rhymer. Also stands for “mic controller” or “master or ceremonies.”

Old school
Early hip-hop style, usually spanning the 1970s to the mid-to-late 1980s

Sampling
The process of using sound segments from one musical piece to form sounds in another musical piece

Scratching
Moving a record manually under a needle to create new musical sounds

Turntablism
Playing the record turntable as if it were an instrument. Techniques might include scratching or mixing in order to create rhythms and manipulate sounds.

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