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Decoding the Evolution of Hip-Hop From the 1970s to Today

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Written by
Gregory Reyes
  • Icon Calendar 18 May 2024
  • Icon Page 639 words
  • Icon Clock 4 min read
English (United States)
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Hip-hop music mainly started as an anti-drug and anti-violence genre. It originated from the funk and soul kinds of music by stretching the length of the breaks. Through the years, the music style has changed its form, making it one of the favorite music in the world. The evolution has been in three main stages: the old-school era, marked by creative experimentation and the establishment of foundational techniques; the golden age, characterized by artistic excellence and stylistic diversity; and the 21st-century era, defined by innovation, diversity, and global connectivity.

The Old-School

The old-school era, lasting from the 1970s to the 1980s, was filled with creativity and laid the foundation for hip-hop’s prominence. The popularity of block parties, which occurred in the Bronx in the early seventies, led to the rise of hip-hop after gaining influence from African Americans and Puerto Ricans (Reese, 2020, p. 48). The rise of hip-hop was due to African-American disk jockeys (DJs) like Kool Herc, who were creative enough to experiment with beats, rhymes, and self-expression. The old-school era experienced DJing, emceeing, graffiti, and break dancing, forming the four main hip-hop pillars. In addition, techniques, such as scratching, matching, and beat juggling, were introduced (Reese, 2020, p. 49). These techniques were crucial to the rise of hip-hop since they made DJs not just selectors of music but also artists. Apart from introducing these techniques, the DJs could chant out phrases, allowing the performers to get ready, which ensured a perfect delivery. Thus, the old-school era entailed creativity, where the artists and DJs introduced techniques that saw hip-hop rise to the next stage, the golden age.

Decoding the Evolution of Hip-Hop From the 1970s to Today

The Golden Age

The golden age, lasting from the 1980s to the 1990s, was the second hip-hop evolution stage, filled with artistic excellence. During this period, hip-hop relied on artistic experimentation to generate a thriving stylistic diversity (Duinker, 2021, p. 93). Artists, such as Tupac and the Notorious B.I.G., went beyond the genre’s limit by sampling different sounds, styles, and lyrical themes, leading to numerous styles and influences within hip-hop music. Components, such as hook sections, underwent refining, enhancing hip-hop songs’ structure and commercial appeal. Therefore, the golden age saw artists try new styles while perfecting those established during the old-school stage, making hip-hop mature as a genre.

The 21st Century

The current hip-hop stage, the 21st century, began in the 2000s and is characterized by innovation, diversity, and global connectivity. For instance, hip-hop education in our learning systems emphasizes the vitality of innovative, interdisciplinary approaches (Wells, 2019, p. 4). In this case, while teaching about hip-hop in schools encourages diversity by providing a platform for diverse voices, it also enhances innovation by boosting creative thinking while taking part in collaborative projects and discussions. Additionally, shooting hip-hop music videos in different countries and the interaction of artists globally has contributed to hip-hop’s growth, ensuring global connectivity. Hence, the 21st century era has witnessed hip-hop being introduced in schools, promoting cultural creativity, critical thinking, and connectivity.


Over the years, hip-hop has grown in three main stages: the old-school era, the golden era, and the 21st century, respectively. The old-school age, being the pioneer, was marked by creativity, where new techniques were founded and experimented with. Further on, the second stage is the golden age, characterized by artists’ use of various styles, resulting in artistic excellence. Finally, the current stage is the 21st-century era, defined by modernization and globalization. Overall, the three stages have seen hip-hop to its current state as a globally influential cultural force shaped by modern technology.


Duinker, B. (2021). Song form and the mainstreaming of hip-hop music. Current Musicology, 107, 93–135. https://doi.org/10.52214/cm.v107i.7177

Reese, E. (2020). The history of hip hop collection. Eric Reese.

Wells, E. B. (2019). Hip‐hop education. The International Encyclopedia of Media Literacy, 1–9. https://doi.org/10.1002/9781118978238.ieml0082

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