Hip-hop dancers from Rennie Harris Puremovement, Photo by Bob Emmott Dancers from Rennie Harris Puremovement, demonstrating the spectacular acrobatic moves that have emerged in the evolution of hip-hop dance ("breaking" or "b-boying") into a performing art popular around the world. (Photograph courtesy of Bob Emmott.)


Hip-Hop emerged as a South Bronx block-party entertainment in the 1970s, spread worldwide through innovative music videos during the 1980s, and maintained high-decibel impact in the 1990s as both an art form and marketing force. Collaging elements of music, poetry, dance, and visual design, hip-hop draws on a range of styles from the African diaspora: rhythm-and-blues, disco, salsa, reggae, capoeira, and call-and-response, among others. The vivid evolutionary hybrid was assembled initially by such D.J.s as Grandmaster Flash, Mr. Bambaataa, and Kool D.J. Herc, who used double turntables to cut and sample from existing songs, while speaking a rhymed message. Audible vinyl scratches in musical transitions are characteristic, as are rapping or M.C.-ing that verbally personalize the performance. Acrobatic extensions like break-dancing evolved as high-risk hip-hop elements, along with raw, forceful lyrics, perceived by some to be obscene. Among major contributors are musicians Public Enemy, Ice-T, Arrested Development, Beastie Boys, and Salt-n-Pepa; graffiti artists Phase 2, Tracy 168, Lady Pink, and Toxic; as well as fashion designers Tommy Hilfiger and FUBU (For Us By Us).

Learn more in Hip Hop, an essay by Chrisopher A. Miller and Rebecca A. Ferrell.