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Rap and Hip Hop Resources: Introduction

A guide to finding resources for rap and hip hop research

Purpose of this Guide



photo credit:  "Banksy Hip Hop Rat" by Tim Fuller


The terms "rap" and "hip-hop" are often used synonymously. Hip hop, however, is a multi-faceted culture that includes rap music as well as DJs, dance, parties, fashion, and graffiti among other elements.

Hip hop began, as many popular music genres do, as "the dominant rebel yell of youth culture in New York City" (Cepeda xvi). Today there are many sub-genres and distinct styles resulting from geography (New York, LA, the south, Detroit, etc.), recording labels, and personalities. In the '70s, however, rap began as party music in New York City (specifically in the African American neighborhoods in the South Bronx), providing soundtracks to illicit club and street parties. DJs used their surroundings to produce entertainment, resourcefully using power sources to fuel their turntables and borrowing/sampling from old records to isolate and manipulate beats. Early rap in New York was influenced by disco culture and recordings. DJs and MCs borrowed heavily from influential albums, paying homage to other artists all the while creating a new sound with old material.

Old-School rap artists/MCs/DJs such as Grandmaster Flash, Afrika Bambaataa, Kool Herc, and Coke La Rock created a foundation for hip hop, coalescing with the emergence of Run-D.M.C. The success and innovations of Run-D.M.C in the '80s changed the aesthetics of rap music and hip-hop culture. A definitive history of hip hop is impossible as each author/artists/record label has a different interpretation. No one, however, argues that the Sugarhill Gang’s single “Rapper’s Delight” was rap’s first emergence into the mainstream market. “Rapper’s Delight” was released in October 1979 and made it to Billboard’s Top 40, at number 36.

The '80s were rap’s golden age; record labels were commercializing street sounds and marketing it to the public. Aside from New York rap styles, the culture also grew in Los Angeles’s South Central neighborhoods, and in areas in the south such as Atlanta. Sub-genres that spun out of the initial stages of rap include: acid rap, crunk, electro-hop, freestyle, gansta rap, nerd-core, and rap-core, among others.

Hip hop's hold on culture continues to unfold after almost forty years. This research guide divides rap and hip hop materials into styles, artists, record labels, histories/criticisms, and the actual music. Click on the tabs, and pull down menus to find a variety of information. Enjoy!


This guide was created by Morgan Rich, former Music Library Student and Circulation Supervisor.


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