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Hip hop: from live performance to mediated narrative

  • Greg Dimitriadis


Hip hop culture originated during the mid-1970s as an integrated series of live community-based practices. It remained a function of live practice and congregation for a number of years, exclusive to those who gathered together along NYC blocks, in parks, and in select clubs such as the now famous Harlem World or T-Connection. Early MCs (or ‘rappers’) and DJs, graffiti artists and breakdancers, forged a ‘scene’ entirely dependent upon face-to-face social contact and interaction. Indeed, the event itself, as an amalgam of dance, dress, art and music, was intrinsic to hip hop culture during these years. As one might expect, the art's earliest years went largely unrecorded and undocumented. However, in 1979, Sugarhill Records, a small label in New Jersey, released a single entitled ‘Rapper's Delight’. It was an unexpected event for many of hip hop's original proponents, those pioneers immersed in the art's early live scene. Grandmaster Flash comments:

I was approached in '77. A gentleman walked up to me and said, ‘We can put what you're doing on record.’ I would have to admit that I was blind. I didn't think that somebody else would want to hear a record re-recorded onto another record with talking on it. I didn't think it would reach the masses like that. I didn't see it. I knew of all the crews that had any sort of juice and power, or that was drawing crowds. So here it is two years later, and I hear ‘To the hip-hop, to the bang to the boogie’, and it's not Bam, Herc, Breakout, AJ. Who is this? (quoted in George 1993, p. 49)



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Hip hop: from live performance to mediated narrative

  • Greg Dimitriadis


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