EastCoast Hip-Hop from 1980/1990

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EastCoast Hip-Hop from 1980/1990 Sample Essay


While reviewing hip-hop at a more elementary level, it is a post-civil rights era product of the American culture. It consists of various cultural forms practiced by the African American, the Latin-American youth and the Caribbean-American during the periods between 1980 and 1990. Hip-hop has had a history that is great and diverse. The research paper is going to give a summary of rap and hip-hop development since its commencement in the mid-1970s.

Brief History of the Hip Hop Culture and Rap Music

Hip-hopportrays itself as a by-product of a specific growing culture. Nelson George had a broader perspective of hip-hop. Itexists in different forms and they include the art of the culture, the value system, the verbal communication, the visual style, and the music. As he observed, the true meaning of hip-hop derived its lyrics from the state of the African Americans. Young culture was a component of the practiced culture, and hip-hop was an extended expression of the specific youth culture. The east coast hip-hopadvertently hit the market even with the white races purchasing majority of the records produced. In the 1980s, majority of the African American population lived in the borough of Bronx, which was a sectionof New York City located in an uptown area situated in the north of Manhattan. Majority of the people who lived in this region were unemployed, some were coming from single parent families. The people survived on low income, and the rate of criminal activity that was caused by the members of this region was high. The young population formed groups but lacked communal based activities to indulge in. In the early days, as recorded by Nelson George who grew up in New York, several peoplewere involved in the hip-hop culture. For example, the B-Boys group consisted of graffiti writers, dancers, and a young childwho walked around the streets of New York andenjoyedhip-hop. They reacted to funk, discos, and the chaotic 1970 world in New York. The B-Boys group consisted of girls and boys who were black and of Hispanic origin. The name given to them was post-soul first American kids.

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Hip hop as African American Subculture

The hip-hop generation implied a drift in culture for the black population that resided in the inner parts of the urban areas. It signified a different way of perception of the surrounding. The African American population was highly segregated by the Whites, and they lived in search for justice, freedom, and equality. They did not have opportunitiesto get correspondingeducation, majority of them were unemployed.Changesoccurred through the Civil Rights Movement, and vast doors and opportunities became availabletothis group of people.Concerninghip-hop being a musical genre, it represents a collection of numerous musical forms.Acquiringinfluences from the early 1980 genres, such as funk and disco, various other musical forms emerged including gospel, soul, and blues. The particular type of music was predominantly black. There was an incorporation of ethnic music, which originated from Jamaica, referred to as the “dub”. Hip-hopderived from new rhythmical sounds generated by DJs due to mixing dub sounds and pop-oriented disco rhythms. A mixer made it possible for the occurrence of the hip-hop beat.

Apart from the inception of the mixer, which was a device that enabled the disk jockey to shift between various rhythms while the vinyl records were played, the DJs began using microphones. Later, they started talking to or over the music. Rap was the style that resulted from this effect. The emergence of the expressive oral form contributed to the development of hip-hop. The voices were the components of the music.Majority of the themes in this particular type of music were always insulting, with specific references to the mothers. Most people who instigated this act were the male rappers. In the early periods of hip hop, there were several criterianecessary for making someone a full member of the hip-hop culture. It was marked with certain musical elements that people had to embrace to belong to the hip-hop culture.Hip-hopexisted in various forms and portrayed characteristics such as various gang-related formations. It was essential for an individual to belong to a particular group,such asgraffiti units and crews. The early hip-hopexisted due to the competition since there were several rap gangs, which aimed at out-doing each other in the musical industry. The early hip-hop days represented masculinity. It was a form of self-expression dominant amongmajority of the people engaged in hip hop. It was determined to exclude women from the culture. For this reason, individuals who were masculine in nature dominated majority of the songs in the early 1980s and 1990. The particular type of song needed someone who appeared to have confidence and courage to handle the various issues that pertained oppression of the black people.

Themes portrayed and various subcultural theories

There were various issues focused on in the east coast hip-hop music that dominated the period between 1980 and 1990. The various themes addressed varied from differentaspects of the economy, politics, culture, education, and sociological issues.The particular period was markedwith huge releases that made sales in the United States of America.  In the year 1980, Kurtis Blow released “The Breaks” while in 1982, Grandmaster Flash together with Furious Five released “The Message”. There was a notable change in the themes portrayed in the song. Moreover, there was a shift in the attitude of the rap and hip-hop. Both of these records focused on social injustice as a theme. “The message” particularly emphasized on the tribulations of the people who lived a ghetto life. Together with the album debut, “The Breaks”, the albums raised a voice that responded to the hopeless and chaotic situations that the African American population was facing. It also highlighted the plight of the other ethnic groups found in the inner areas of the city. They marked a major breakthrough in the old school rap while promoting various social awareness, customs, and values.

The hip-hop culture that existed in the period between 1980 highlighted various other aspectsconcerning women. The African American women at the time faced various problemsof sexuality, family life, and the predominant slavery that was present in various areas of the world. Gender roles,through insistence and communication in various songs,were released during this time.Apart from the definition of various gender roles, the black men also became a point of focus. The songs produced had an aim of bringing inspiration to the American population.However, the feminine population dominated the American world. The women propelled their characteristics in different forms spread in America. Various literary pieces originated and formed by the black African women of the United States of America conveyed stronger messages.However, there is a predominant notion about the immorality of the black women being prevailed in the United States. The various styles of hip-hop praised andcondemned the nature of women’scharacter. A mixed subject required proper understanding. The white population did not promote the type of sexuality previewed in the hip-hop culture. The black African American woman became a representation of female population who grew without morals instilled in them. They appeared in various sexual scenes. Some of them were seen smoking while others were seen consuming liquor. The various moral reasons which derived from these songs had an impact on the lives of the people. The portrayal of the old school of hip-hop did not preserve this particular moral lesson or value.

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The paper focuses on the famous sounds produced in the 1980s. The songs featured are “The Breaks”and “The Message”. The lyrics consist of the struggles that the black population faces, which arebeing narrated by the rapper. The Civil Rights Movement ensured that the black population walked freely in the streets of the United States without segregation. The black population expressed themselves and used the opportunity to proclaim their rights. A resultant language developed due to thehip-hop music. The language, named slang, was popular among the teenagers in various ghettos in the United States. The language was adversely used in the majority of the songs. The hip-hop genre therefore segregated its listeners based on the way the words are pronounced.

The research paper is accompanied by the two famous songs produced in 1980, “The Breaks” and “The Message.”

Lyrics of Featured Songs

“The Breaks” by  The Black Keys

“Lean forward slightly, Look straight at
The speaker and listen with a sparkle
In your eye as though you might be thinking
‘gee this is the most wonderful thing
I’ve ever heard in all my life'” 

Back in the day, we were eye to eye
The thought of you had me runnin’ wild
They say love lost will never grow
But hey, hey, hey I still love you so 

Oh when we met you know the sun did shine
From your eyes back into mine
Oh if the sun is shinin’ no more,
Hey, hey, I still love you so 

I’ll beg the moon and the stars above,
Bring me back my, that gal I love
I know you’re gone, you’re gone for sure,
But hey, hey, hey, I still love you so

“The Message” by Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five

It’s like a jungle sometimes
It makes me wonder how I keep from goin’ under

Broken glass everywhere
People pissin’ on the stairs, you know they just don’t care
I can’t take the smell, can’t take the noise
Got no money to move out, I guess I got no choice
Rats in the front room, roaches in the back
Junkies in the alley with the baseball bat
I tried to get away but I couldn’t get far
Cause a man with a tow truck repossessed my car

Don’t push me cause I’m close to the edge
I’m trying not to lose my head
It’s like a jungle sometimes
It makes me wonder how I keep from goin’ under

Standin’ on the front stoop hangin’ out the window
Watchin’ all the cars go by, roarin’ as the breezes blow
Crazy lady, livin’ in a bag
Eatin’ outta garbage pails, used to be a fag hag
Said she’ll dance the tango, skip the light fandango
A Zircon princess seemed to lost her senses
Down at the peep show watchin’ all the creeps
So she can tell her stories to the girls back home
She went to the city and got social security
She had to get a pimp, she couldn’t make it on her own


It’s like a jungle sometimes
It makes me wonder how I keep from goin’ under

My brother’s doin’ bad, stole my mother’s TV
Says she watches too much, it’s just not healthy
All My Children in the daytime, Dallas at night
Can’t even see the game or the Sugar Ray fight
The bill collectors, they ring my phone
And scare my wife when I’m not home
Got a bum education, double-digit inflation
Can’t take the train to the job, there’s a strike at the station
Neon King Kong standin’ on my back
Can’t stop to turn around, broke my sacroiliac
A mid-range migraine, cancered membrane
Sometimes I think I’m goin’ insane
I swear I might hijack a plane!


It’s like a jungle sometimes
It makes me wonder how I keep from goin’ under

My son said, Daddy, I don’t wanna go to school
Cause the teacher’s a jerk, he must think I’m a fool
And all the kids smoke reefer, I think it’d be cheaper
If I just got a job, learned to be a street sweeper
Or dance to the beat, shuffle my feet
Wear a shirt and tie and run with the creeps
Cause it’s all about money, ain’t a damn thing funny
You got to have a con in this land of milk and honey
They pushed that girl in front of the train
Took her to the doctor, sewed her arm on again
Stabbed that man right in his heart
Gave him a transplant for a brand new start
I can’t walk through the park cause it’s crazy after dark
Keep my hand on my gun cause they got me on the run
I feel like a outlaw, broke my last glass jaw
Hear them say “You want some more?”
Livin’ on a see-saw


It’s like a jungle sometimes
It makes me wonder how I keep from goin’ under

A child is born with no state of mind
Blind to the ways of mankind
God is smilin’ on you but he’s frownin’ too
Because only God knows what you’ll go through
You’ll grow in the ghetto livin’ second-rate
And your eyes will sing a song called deep hate
The places you play and where you stay
Looks like one great big alleyway
You’ll admire all the number-book takers
Thugs, pimps and pushers and the big money-makers
Drivin’ big cars, spendin’ twenties and tens
And you’ll wanna grow up to be just like them, huh
Smugglers, scramblers, burglars, gamblers
Pickpocket peddlers, even panhandlers
You say I’m cool, huh, I’m no fool
But then you wind up droppin’ outta high school
Now you’re unemployed, all non-void
Walkin’ round like you’re Pretty Boy Floyd
Turned stick-up kid, but look what you done did
Got sent up for a eight-year bid
Now your manhood is took and you’re a Maytag
Spend the next two years as a undercover fag
Bein’ used and abused to serve like hell
Til one day, you was found hung dead in the cell
It was plain to see that your life was lost
You was cold and your body swung back and forth
But now your eyes sing the sad, sad song
Of how you lived so fast and died so young so


It’s like a jungle sometimes
It makes me wonder how I keep from goin’ under