Is it still Hip-Hop? : How Hip-Hop went from the music of the Bronx to a globally exploited commercialized genre.

Dylan Smith

Hip Hop started in the Bronx as a way for the people in the neighborhoods to express their struggle with living in the terrible conditions of the ghetto. M.C’s and Dj’s like grandmaster flash and Kool Herc were among the first to gain popularity and earn claim their territory in the Bronx. However it wouldn’t be long before what they helped create became larger than anyone could imagine.

Hip Hop artists and groups such as Tupac, N.W.A to name some of the most famous, and well pretty much every other rapper had been from the Hood. They were all always certain to let you know exactly where they were from for example N.W.A’s song Straight out of Compton which is a notoriously bad place. This was a way for the group to earn respect. It was necessary for the artists to prove that they are “thugs” or generally just not a guy you want to mess with to make any progress or gain any respect what so ever. More than the cities specific cities were important one of the largest divides in Hip-Hop is the east coast / west coast divide. Each coast has its similarities of course but they put their own unique flare on their music. However due to its exponential growth and popularity Hip Hop has began to leave the streets and become a more main stream form of music. Hip Hop also went from being mostly to and about impoverished black people and or black communities to a genre other races and cultures also began to like. Some evidence of this can be seen by the rise of popular white Hip Hop artists such as Vanilla Ice. Eminem, and Mac Miller.

We had territories. It was like, Kool Herc had the west side. Bam had Bronx River. Dj Breakout had way uptown past Gun Hill. Myself, my area was like 138th street, Cyprus Avenue, up to Gun Hill, so that we all had our territories and we all had to respect each other. (Strode, 2008, p. 196)

The quote above is from Grandmaster flash, he is describing how territory was handled in the early days of Hip-Hop in the Bronx.

The image above shows that R&B/ Hip Hop accounts for twenty nine percent of music streamed in the United States in 2014. While this visual does not say who the twenty nine percent is I think it is a good representation of the growth of the genre. In less than a century this genre has already jumped to one the most popular in the country. The fact that hip hop has the highest percentages indicates that it is just not one group of people listening to this music any more.

This pie chart shows that seventeen percent of the overall consumption of music was R&B/hiphop. The reason I believe that the number dropped from twenty nine percent of music streamed to seventeen percent overall is because mainly younger people stream music, which means many young people are listening to Hip Hop. If younger people continue to listen to Hip Hop than its popularity will continue to rise meaning more people listen to it therefor leading to a more diverse group of listeners.

The spread of Hip Hop means that new groups of people are becoming fans. People from all walks of life are now listening to Hip Hop not just people from the hood. One of the reasons for this is that the artist now are not all from the hood like they used to be. Many huge artists today such as Drake , Wiz Khalifa and Rick Ross, may not have been raised in a rich affluent life style like they enjoy today, but they were raised in a far different world than what you would typically think of when you think of a rap artists beginnings . Sense many rappers now a days were not raised in the hood their music usually tends not to be about the hood, just like almost every musician they talk about what they know and their own personal struggles. This allows many people such as people in the suburbs, the country or where ever else to be able to connect with the music, because it isn’t about life on the streets its about things they have also experienced. Some of the popular themes and topics that are found in the music from this new breed of Hip Hop artists include things that everyone knows such as love, the desire for money, and partying.

This graph shows the incline of Hip Hop ,it is easy to se that from 1995 to 2005 there has been a drastic rise in popularity.

Hip Hop is not only spreading through social classes, it is traveling across the planet. Countries all over the world are seeing an appearance of there own artists and styles. Hip Hop has been in Europe since the 1980’s but was considered a small underground form of entertainment , it was not until the last decade until its popularity started to increase. Japan, has also seen a rise in the popularity of Rap music. Europe,Japan or any other region has yet to come up with a huge globally famous superstar hip hop artist. However one of todays most popular rappers Drake was raised primarily in Toronto, Canada.When not in Canada he was with his father in Memphis, Tennessee. Memphis is a very well known city for producing music, but it is the home of the blues a far cry from the music Drake is releasing.

One factor that I believe is contributing to the spread of Hip Hop is the internet and. Before the internet most people listened to music by radio and radio stations generally play what they know people will like to keep their ratings up, so they wouldn’t risk that by airing a whole new style of music. Now music is listened to on dozens of different devices and websites making it easier for anyone anywhere to find music from across the world and realize that they like it . As the graph earlier showed Rap/Hip-Hop does accounts for the largest portion of music that is streamed on the internet which is no surprise because of the large amounts of young people that use the internet as their main means of accessing music where as older generations of people tend to stick with what they are used to such as the Radio and CD’s.


Rappers have made it very clear through out the years that they love money, and they will try to make as much as possible so that they can live extremely extravagant lives. However to make more money it is essential to appeal to as many people as possible. To do this many rappers began to change their music so that they could broaden their fan base leading to more money. This is another huge contributing factor to the growth and spread of Hip Hop through social classes in America and also to its spread to other countries. Although this led to the growth of Hip Hop many saw this as the beginning of the end for what Hip Hop had been. Once rappers began to filter and alter their music to better suit the general public it lost what it was originally intended to do, which was be a form of expression for the oppressed.

Not only are famous rappers making their music to appeal to almost everyone and to earn more money ,but other people are using rap as a marketing tool because it is seen as such a popular way to communicate. Below is an example of this. The video is an add for a law firm that hired a rapper to perform the song for their commercial with hopes that it would draw the listeners attention

Also many artists are now being considered sell outs because they are using their fame earned from rapping to pursue other careers such as acting. N.W.A’s Ice cube has been in many movies and even released a movie about the group its self. Eminem has also made the movie 8 mile which is the story of how he made it from a trailer park in Detroit to one of the most infamous rappers of the day. Even though most people enjoyed these movies they still consider the artists sell outs because they only did it for money.

With all of these changes to Hip-Hop it is arguable whether todays music can really be considered Hip-Hop. Many fans especially older fans who were alive through what is considered raps golden age (1980’s–1990’s) would argue that it is not, and they have plenty of reasons to say that. On the other hand many younger fans love the new music that is coming out and see nothing wrong with what Hip-Hop has evolved into. Only one thing is certain and that is that the genre as a whole has changed and grew exponentially over the last century and became an iconic American music form.


I believe that this article would be a good addition to chapter five Mapping rap: east coast, west coast, third coast , and beyond. It would be a good addition because it goes over how rap has moved geographically across the U.S. and even out of the country. I talked about how rap became commercialized in the article as well, because I se that as a byproduct of its global expansion. Even though the change into a commercialized genre is not a physical move city to city I think that it is very relevant to the topic because of how significant of a move it was for Hip-Hop.

Work cited.

Flores, Lucien. “Hip-Hop Is for Everybody: Examining the Roots and Growth of Hip-Hop.” 2012. Web.


Web.Malvasi, Rosalia. “Is the “commercialization” of Hip Hop a Positive or Negative.” 15 Dec. 2013. Web.

Strode, Timothy Francis. The Hip Hop Reader. New York: Pearson Longman, 2008. Print.

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