The Birth of Hip Hop: Turntablism

What is Hip Hop?

Hip-hop originated in New York City in the 1970s. Since its creation, Hip-hop has opened doors for African Americans to express themselves freely and create with no limitations. Hip hop is more than a musical genre, it’s a cultural movement for the Black community. From the streets of New York to the world stage, Hip hop has become the world’s most prominent musical genre. With the contributions of three men, Hip hop has blown up to be the genre it is today.

What is Turntablism?

Turntablism is the art of manipulating sounds and creating new music, sound effects, mixes and other creative sounds and beats, typically by using two or more turntables  humble turntable has put music in a spin over the last 50 years – giving rise to a whole new genre of sound, artistic skill and culture. The turntable has been used as a musical instrument since the 1940s and 1950s when experimental composers began sampling and creating music entirely produced by the turntable.For many hip hop connoisseurs, DJs Kool Herc, Grandmaster Flash and Afrika Bambaataa are turntablism’s forefathers. Through practice they developed extremely high levels of hand eye co-ordination and an uncanny ability to find precise points in a song by dropping the needle on a record.

The Birth of A New Era

Hip hop is more than music. The elements of Hip Hop came together in New York City. During the early 1970s, times were hard for poorer communities. The development of Hip hop is reflective of the negative effects of economic and political distress. Many people were influential in creating hip hop. However, the most notable pioneers are DJ Kool Herc, Afrika Bambaataa, and Grandmaster Flash. These three innovators are known as the “Holy Trinity” of Hip hop. 

Influential Figures


DJ Kool Herc began spinning records at parties in the Bronx in the early 1970s. Herc was inspired by James Brown and the strong drum and bass elements heard in Jamaican music. Often times, Herc experimented with records in his bedroom. He constantly focused on the hype parts of a song because it was the portion of the song that got dancers most excited. Herc had the gift of isolating heavy bass and percussion snippets, and using turntables. 

Grandmaster Flash pioneered the art of deejaying in the 1970s. Flash helped to pioneer Hip hop by using turntables as a musical instrument. He had the ability to create breakbeats, which is the the backbone of any Hip Hop song. He was a part the group named The Furious Five. Flash reached the peak in his career in 1982, with the release of his Rap hit, “The Message”, 

In the late 1970s, Afrika Bambaataa began hosting parties as a way to derail the community from engaging in street activity and gang violence. He reached this goal by establishing the Universal Zulu Nation. The group was comprised of dancers, artists, and his DJ peers. By the 1980s, the Universal Zulu Nation was performing and Afrika Bambaataa began recording music. 


Due to the contributions of Dj Kool Herc, Afrika Bambaataa and Grandmaster Flash, Hip hop has flourished into the genre that it is today. Hip hop was created to be more than a music genre. It was created to be a lifestyle and outlet for those who were affected by the political and economic unrest happening in the 1970s. The 1990s saw an increase in the invention of new, more sophisticated turntable techniques. DJs began to push the boundaries of what they could achieve and a range of new scratches were created. From the basement of house parties to the Grammy’s stage, Hip hop has taken over the music world. Turntablism continues to evolve, with artists innovating to be the fastest, most creative players of their instrument. 

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