An unusual way of life, an atmospheric culture characterized by music, fashion, language, dance, entertainment, and politics. It may bear an unfamiliar reputation to those not accustomed to its influence or it might garner critical consensus about the nature of its origins but whether for better or worse one does not deny its power over people of all cultures from all walks of the world. Hip-hop or rap music began as an intercultural mixture of funk and disco infused with Jamaican culture which eventually added elements of street life and spoken word under the guise of the Bronx, New York, in the early to mid-70s.

Although music was always made of lyrics, rhythm and words, no genre was as impactful as hip-hop in the way it delved deep into any topic, with an average running time of just 3 minutes or less per song. That’s partly what catapulted it to the mainstream and made it so intoxicating. Its relentless use of language means it taps into a basic human function. Mixed with poetry, and often a thumping baseline, it’s not that difficult to understand the impact it has had on people across the world who either identify as hip-hop heads or not, a term colloquially used for someone who is an avid hip-hop listener.

The cultural behemoth that began to take shape in the coolness of the early 70s transformed the evolving state of American life in the early 80s and beyond, marked by the crack epidemic, hip-hop became the fundamental bases for which people drew their stories from, the inequalities that became more and more evident due to social and geo-political matters found their voice in backdoor alleyways, Project parks and underground turntables.

From the backdrop of a New York City that was less than desirable, the playful but distinct free rhyming griots became the facets that eventually fueled and defined Hip-Hop. Pioneers like DJ Kool Herc, Afrika Bambaataa, and Grandmaster Flash brought the genre to life by beat-breaking funk and soul records, in-between these ‘breaks’ the live instrumentation of a song was what made people move to the dancefloor and release their bodies to the beat of the music in the most literal way possible. Because of this cultural intuition hip-hop spread from inner city lifestyles to underground parties, to the global phenomenon it has become.

Each genre of music is known for its specific theme and topics which it tackles and while some artists occasionally weave from one topic to another, there is a set respect for the main component of that genres’ theme, to an all-encompassing effect on the lyrical, rhythmic, and compositional level, these themes ultimately define the sound. The fact that most genres utilize vocals as the cornerstone in creating songs means they can only manipulate their sound and ultimately the number of words they use to a certain extent.

While in hip hop the use of poetic rhythm is the thematic point of the genre, which means they can manipulate the lyrical content to fit with a song how they want to. It is this fundamental structure that has allowed it to penetrate every culture that it has ever touched.

The mid to late 80s saw the genre transform from the simple rap styles of early hip hop to revolutionary chants that saw the damage the crack era was having on the communities where most rappers came from, stylized by violence about home turfs for drugs with rival gangs, most rappers split between creating conscious rap, focused on the damage the influx of drugs into minority clad communities had. Lyrics touching on thought provoking subject matter that aroused controversy, the most prominent members of this way of rap include Public Enemy, Eric B. and Rakim, RUN-DMC from these more subtle lyricists’ other rappers were more concerned with showing the other side of the era the violence, the drugs and N.W.A, Ice T, Ice Cube.

The 90s often considered the golden age of hip-hop was the point hip hop became a commercialized commodity, guided by power which brought the mafioso rap style New York emcees like The Notorious B.I..G, Jay-Z, Kool G Rap, AZ, Tupac Shakur and more used. This rhyming style had an instance for braggadocios rhyme schemes about eliminating other rappers to be the best and possess more control within the industry, like real life kingpins, and mobsters’ rappers also lived the stories they sold in songs.

Money became a fundamental aspect of hip-hop particularly in the mid to late 90s when more and more rappers started making millions from their ability to rap introducing the bling-bling era where rappers were prone to wear as much jewelry as possible to show how much they’ve made. As it grew into a popular movement, it became obvious to those heavily entrenched in it that there was something more to this influence that could yield far reaching capitalization.

The 2000s saw hip hop mature from trying to show off; rather some rappers became business magnets, moguls striking deals worth millions, building empires in fashion, record companies, entertainment, and hospitality, with each venture and each endorsement its influence grew looking for generational wealth in more ways than just music. More rappers added singing into their songs creating rhymes that were driven heavily by melody like Nelly, Ja Rule and this was the point hip hop became a globalized genre and had variations that were more radio friendly.

By the 2010s hip hop was darting like a possessed matador, from conscious New York rap to L.A. gangster rap to Atlanta trap, with fusions of U.K drill, South African vernacular rap and so many other offshoots that tell stories about the world rappers live by, celebrity culture is something that artists in this era often use to increase their popularity, emo rap became a transitional form of life as rappers dived into their personal life more and more using it a sense of inspiration, further cementing the relationship between artist and fan.

In the 50 years since its inception its spread into every part of life imaginable becoming the soundtrack to people’s lives. Forming bonds that have lasted for generations, transforming how people see life, teaching others about other cultures through music and bridging the gap between people by being the standard which people use to connect. Its future is still boundless and bountiful no matter where it goes next.