Old School Hip-Hop by Morgan Fannin


Hello everyone! My name is Morgan Fannin and today I will be talking about Old School Hiphop, which is a subgenre of hip hop that is commonly associated with the 80s and 90s. 

Old school of hiphop first originated in 1970s New York when the emergence of street poetry, known today as rapping, became popular for artists to perform over an instrumental influenced by neighboring genres such as funk, disco, R&B, soul, and several others. These instrumentals all have similar sounds: an iconic bass line, either a snare drum or rim for percussion, hi-hats or cymbals to complement the percussive line using syncopated rhythms, and other elements that deepen the texture of an otherwise simple backing track. Lyrically, old school hip hop was characteristic of simpler lines and rhythms, a cohesive story line or monologue, and a chorus that often has a catchy melody or hook that is iconic to that specific song.

These lyrics were derived from the ongoing civil rights movements happening around the United States at the time, and black and brown artists spoke about their struggle of living in racist America through this outlet, which is why this is such an important genre for black and brown culture today. Musically and socially, this culture introduced the arts of breakdancing, DJing, and sampling previous artists’ works or sounds common in popular media at the time. Old school fashion also emerged with the rise of the genre, which included brightly colored streetwear, oversized tops with denim bottoms (often with graphic designs that mimicked graffiti), large boots, baseball caps, durags, jackets, jerseys, or denim overalls.

As far as old school hiphop goes, many iconic tracks come to people’s minds and one of them would undoubtedly be “I Ain’t Mad at Cha” by Tupac, featuring Danny Boy. Sampling Debarge’s “A Dream”, Tupac talks about how losing touch with old connections because of betrayal and abandonment does not have to precede living a life of revenge and resentment. In his case specifically, he reminisced on how his friends did not show up for him after he was shot, and conveys that he holds forgiveness for those people rather than giving them power over how he lives his life. Surely, this track was liberating not only for him but for the black community who may feel betrayed by certain people’s actions, especially for cases such as hate crimes against people of color.

The next song is “Spottieottiedopalicious” by OutKast, which details an ironic, almost humorous take on the night life in Atlanta. They explain how the party scene may seem fulfillling on paper, OutKast emphasizes that throwing your life away for a few nights of fun can only lead to difficult situations. Through engaging storytelling, they liken the party mentality to both an addiction that is used as an escape from real-life problem and a means to an end for young men who do not have the responsibility or maturity to handle the consequences of their actions, namely, child support. The funky composition given by the band during the chorus, in OutKast fashion, almost distracts the listener from the underlying message. This song is loved by the older generation today for preaching values that affect our youth in a way that resonates with them as they grow older without being corny.

Lastly, many oldheads remember a Jay Z classic, Hard Knock Life (Ghetto Anthem). 

Jay Z stated in an interview that he felt a personal connection to the plot and message of the movie Annie, and sampled the soundtrack “It’s a Hard Knock Life” to detail how he left the ghetto to become the successful man he is today. This track became a relatable and comforting song for those who grew up in similarly underprivileged communities and living conditions, showing them that they are not alone in the fight to be successful black people in America, and that it was absolutely possible despite one’s background.

This was old-school hiphop, thanks for watching!

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