Happy Birthday Hip-Hop: How The Evolution Of The Culture Birthed Musical Tech Innovations
Photo Credit: Steven Ferdman

Happy Birthday Hip-Hop: How The Evolution Of The Culture Birthed Musical Tech Innovations

Aug. 11, 1973 will forever go down in history as the day that Hip-Hop was born–and it all started with a “back to school jam” at 1520 Sedgwick Avenue in the Bronx. With nothing but a pair of speakers, two turntables and a crate of banging records, founding father Clive Campbell — better known as DJ Kool Herc — helped create a historical moment that singlehandedly produced the culture-shifting genre the world has grown to love today.

Credit: Public Domain

Every year Hip-Hop fans gather round, both on and offline, to revel the genre’s history and teach kids today about where it all started. Even Google commemorated Hip-Hop’s holiday back in 2017 with a drawing that explained its origin story. The first-of-its-kind Doodle also featured a custom design by graffiti artist Cey Adams, plus interactive turntables for users to mix samples from some of Hip Hop’s most legendary tracks. They even had industry icon Fab 5 Freddy narrate the whole experience which you can view below.

Hip-Hop has gotten so much love over the years, the U.S. Senate even passed a bill to officially recognize Hip-Hop’s birthday as “Hip Hop Celebration Day.” August and November also earned their own celebratory titles as “Hip Hop Recognition Month” and “Hip Hop History Month” respectively, according to the Senate Periodical Press Gallery. The history-making move was a milestone for the genre that, even to this day, received a bad reputation for its lyrics and influence on young people back in the 80s and 90s.

Now 48 years after its conception, Hip-Hop is still in its prime paving the way for its music, fashion, language and lifestyle to thrive. More than that, the genre has also found a way to incorporate tech into its cultural DNA — creating avenues like DJ techniques, streaming platforms, apps and more — for what originally started as a grassroots musical revolution.

From Turntables To Music Movements

In more recent years, technology has quickly become the savior for the music business, especially Hip-Hop, which has taken the game by the horns to create opportunities for the culture, by the culture. Just look at how much Verzuz has grown over the last year-plus from side-by-side Instagram Lives to full-blown sponsored productions taking place in arenas. Hip-Hop set the foundation, and now its innovators are stepping to the forefront to keep its legacy alive and well.

In other cases, Hip-Hop at its core was largely centered around DJs and their techniques that received much praise at any and every party. The art of turntablism began with pioneers like Grandmaster Flash and DJ Kool Herc who created their own signature styles on turntables. From the “merry go round” to the “break-beat” to scratching records, these legends devoted themselves as kings of their craft who made way for others down the line to continue the deejaying tradition in new forms.

Late Houston icon DJ Screw invented the chopped and screwed technique, and now people like The Chopstars — a Houston-based collective of DJs — are working hard to preserve the Southern musical movement. DJ Slim K previously told AfroTech that chopping and screwing may be one of, if not, the only DJ technique [that exists today] where you still have to use turntable skills.”

The Streaming Era

Even streaming has become the new dominant force in music that has managed to bypass the days of vinyl, CDs, iPods and cassette tapes. Platforms like Apple Music, Spotify, TIDAL, YouTube and more have become the standard known as digital service providers (DSPs) that all major and up-and-coming artists need a presence on in order to remain relevant today. So much so that older acts like De La Soul from decades ago are getting their music added to streaming so new generations of music lovers can know Hip-Hop’s roots.

Hip-Hop And Tech Are Meant To Be

As music and technology continue to collide, Hip-Hop is finding more modern ways to reinvent itself and remain the genre that largely controls pop culture. In the last year alone, things like celebratory Clubhouse rooms for Hip-Hop icons and NFT collections have popped up to honor the youngest and biggest music genre in the world. A decade from now, who knows what else we’ll be talking about as far as Hip-Hop tech innovations go.

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