Hip-Hop: The Four Elements


Since the beginning of the United States in 1776, New York has been a central place for innovation and creativity. From Broadway to Ellis Island, it has contributed many things to American society and the world. However, recently, New York has been the birthplace of another arguably important movement – hip-hop. The culture of hip-hop has been a way for people to express themselves in a manner that very much fits the lifestyle they’ve lived on the streets of New York – hard and without mercy. With the culture of hip-hop came four elements, all equally important in developing the way hip-hop is today.

One of the four elements in hip-hop is emceeing, otherwise knowing as rapping. Emceeing is delivering rhymes to a rhythm, often with background music or even a capella. Raps can either be pre-written or freestyled. A group of emcees often gather together to “cypher,” or show off their skills to one another. Additionally, emcees can test their skills against other emcees by “battling.” The content of the rhymes are very important and rappers often integrate wordplay and rhetoric to make their rhymes as complex as possible.

Graffiti "Hip Hop" in Eugene, Oregon.

DJing often accompanies emcees by providing the background music for rappers. One of the major aspects of DJing is sampling, which is grabbing a small part of another song in order to make a beat. Additionally, a famous DJ by the name of Kool DJ Herc created the breakbeat, which is the part of the song that is solely the beat, often the drums, which contributed much to DJing. Scratching is also another part of DJing. With scratching, DJs move their vinyl disc back and forth along with manipulating the crossfader to make a peculiar sound that is now one of the most popular aspects of DJing or even hip-hop itself.

Graffiti is also another element of the hip-hop culture, and often one of the more controversial elements. Graffiti involves artists spray painting complex writings or images onto various pieces of property. Many times graffiti falls under vandalism and as a result, is illegal in many places. Graffiti artists, like the other elements of hip-hop, use graffiti as a means of self-expression and oftentimes used as a political message. Graffiti can range from a simple tag of the artist’s name to a more complex, “wild style” of art that can appear to be incomprehensible.

© Helio Duarte

The last element of hip-hop culture is known as b-boying, or more popularly known as breakdancing. B-boying, which has been known to stand for Bronx Boy, Beat Boy, or Break Boy, came from the “breaks” that Kool DJ Herc invented in DJing. B-boys dance to the break of the songs, and express themselves in four different types of moves – toprock, downrock, freezes, and powermoves. B-boys participate in cyphers and battles much like emcees do. The musicality of a b-boy is very important – that is, the ability to take apart the song and dance to every single aspect of the song. While often lumped in with other dances such as popping, locking, or other styles of dance, b-boying is a different style that evolved separately from those dances.

There are certainly more elements of hip-hop such as beatboxing, knowledge, or even fashion, however, these four elements are widely agreed upon as the main pillars to hip-hop culture. Each different element contributes a significant portion to contemporary hip-hop and society as a whole.

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One thought on “Hip-Hop: The Four Elements

  1. Pingback: French Graffiti Artist Busted | 4UMF = 4UrMediaFix (Media Source)

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