Rap vs. Hip-Hop

What's the difference between hip-hop and rap? This is one of the most often asked questions concerning hip-hop culture. Much of the drama has to do with hip-hop's deep-seated division between the East and West Coasts. For a long while the general consensus has seemed to be that East Coast artists are the only ones "true" to hip-hop culture. There are so-called experts who have asserted that the gangsta rap originating from the West Coast is not "hip-hop" at all. Some of these people scorn artists like SNOOP DOGG, E-40, and ICE CUBE, who've sold millions of records and have achieved financial success. They'll listen to West Coast groups rap about guns, gats, drive-bys, playas, and bitches and claim it's not hip-hop. They say it's a perversion of the music and culture; that it doesn't promote the positive attitudes hip- hop is supposed to be about. Well, let's put all this in context. To start, hip-hop has always been defined as the culture from which rap emerged. Within hip-hop there were four main areas that shaped the culture: graffiti art, break dancing, deejaying, and rapping. One did not have to be a rap star to be a part of hip-hop. In fact, rap was the last element to really emerge within the hip-hop community. Because break dancing and graffiti art aren't in the mainstream as much as rap, people often use the terms hip-hop and rap interchangeably. A point of information on the historical tip shows that the term hip-hop was coined by DJ HOLLYWOOD, who used to scat when rhyming. The word hip-hop was taken from him saying rhymes like "hip-hop she bop-a-dop hip hip-hop and ya don't stop." The term rap, on the other hand, has been around in the African American community for generations. During hip-hop's infancy in the mid-1970s, the term rap was used to describe the arguments used by a young man trying to seduce a young woman. That, of course, derived from the love raps made famous by R&B artists like BARRY WHITE and MILLIE JACKSON. The initial word to describe the act of rhyming to the beat of music was emceeing. The word rap began to replace this term after the release of the SUGARHILL GANG's 1980 record Rapper's Delight. With regard to hip-hop culture, one has to closely examine the political, social, and economic conditions of New York City in the 1970s and the effects they were having on young African American and Puerto Rican males who eventually laid down the foundation for hip-hop. The institutions of black radio that were once mainstays in the lives of New York's black and brown population were no longer relevant to a generation of young blacks. AFRIKA BAMBAATAA often speaks about how during this time period NYC lost its "funk." White rock artists from ELTON JOHN to MICK JAGGER boomed on black airwaves, and JOHN TRAVOLTA in Saturday Night Fever became the new toast of the town. Hip-hop was a rebellion against all of this. Obtaining money was never an issue for the earlier hip-hop artists because the possibilities of making money for rhyming or break dancing was unthinkable at that time. Today, the so-called experts scoff at rap artists who make calculated marketing moves to net money, while not realizing that hip-hop's pioneers like GRANDMASTER FLASH, Bambaataa, and GRAND WIZARD THEODORE made calculated marketing moves to get props and draw crowds at their functions. Hence, today's artists who rap about gats and guns are no different from pioneers like GM Flash, who wore fancy colorful leather outfits, executed synchronized dance routines, and harmonized their raps. It's just that in '95 the payment is dead presidents, not pats on the back.

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