How Hip-Hop Became Popular Culture

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This paper will be examining Hip-Hop/Rap music up close in the context of how it moved from a very edgy genre of music with a small target audience to a dominating genre which can be consumed as Pop Culture. This phenomenon will be examined using Adorno’s On Popular Music to explain how Hip-Hop/Rap has become standardized to be safe an appeal to the general population. In complementary form to this theory, the Relations of productions portion of Stuart Hall’s Encoding/Decoding model will be used to detail how the genre contradicts itself in its production to only reinforce it becoming pop culture.

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I will be using two examples from the genre to examine, Logic, and Lil Pump. Logic has moved from a hungry performer in the genre to an artist who distributes music now on a much more safe agenda. Lil Pump is one artist of a very saturated area of the genre which manufactures similar music all packaged with a similar looking artist. This paper will argue that Hip-Hop/Rap has become pop culture and has lost some of its authenticity that made it so unique in its earlier life.

Keywords: Hip-Hop, Rap, Adorno, Hall, Pop Culture

From the Notorious B.I.G., Common, Wu-Tang Clan, to Kanye West, J. Cole, Logic, and Lil Pump hip-hop has an expansive array of sounds. Now a days hip-hop makes up the majority of the top rotation on spotify in the country. The genre was not always like this however, it used to have a much smaller audience. How has Hip-Hop become popular culture?

To understand this one must first understand Hip-Hops beginnings. Its exact roots are debatable. The widely-accepted belief is that during a party DJ Kool Herc scratched the record in order to extend the length of the song. This allowed people to dance longer to the music. This caught on quickly and people began to create their own turntables and create their own mixes. MC’s or rappers then began to rap over the mixes. Once the Mc’s added their lyrics, it officially became Hip-Hop

The content of original Hip-Hop represented much of what life was like in Harlem and the South Bronx in the 70’s. The lyrics contained testimonials of violence, poverty, police brutality, failing economies and government corruption. The streets of Upper Manhattan and Lower Bronx were harsh and the music allowed the people of these communities to vent and spread their thoughts.

So how does a genre that started out of the streets of Harlem move into being one of the largest genres in the United States? Is it because of the simplicity of the music’s sound, or better musical equipment or maybe even better MC’s? According to Adorno, it comes down to standardization.

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