Explore Hip Hop History and Culture
Celebrating 50 Years of Hip Hop
Starting February 2023, LA County Library is celebrating Hip Hop’s 50th anniversary with Queens Public Library and nearly 40 other organizations as part of an epic year-long celebration funded by the Institution of Museum and Library Services.
LA County Library will host a variety of programs exploring the cultural impact hip hop has had on the world.
How and when did hip hop start?
Hip hop music is perhaps the most popular musical form in the world, but it had very humble origins. Born in the South Bronx in New York City during the late 1970s (specifically an apartment building on 1520 Sedgwick Avenue), hip hop consists of rhythmic grooves accompanied by rapping, which is a vocal style that complements the underlying rhythm with clever lyrics that rhyme.
During the early years of hip hop, DJs and MCs would perform at apartment and block parties. There was also a participatory element in that party goers would breakdance and write graffiti pieces while the music played. Hip hop, therefore, became an all-encompassing culture and not just a specific musical style.
In the 1980s, hip hop began to spread to other urban areas of the US, and regional variations began to emerge as the genre developed more complex and innovative styles. The 1990s saw the emergence of “gansta” rap in Los Angeles, which became a viable competitor to New York-based hip hop. By the 2000s, hip hop coming out of Atlanta and other southern US cities came to dominate the genre. Today, rappers and hip hop artists have become a mainstream cultural force with many artists winning Grammy, Oscar and Pulitzer Prize awards for their work and contribution to American culture.
Hip hop music is everywhere, so you can be sure that you’ve heard it at some point recently!
So what’s the difference between “hip hop” and “rap”?
“Hip hop” and “rap” are terms often used interchangeably, but there is a subtle difference between them. “Hip hop” is a term that generally encompasses the entire culture (music, art, fashion, photography) around the music while “rap” refers more specifically to the music itself (and even more specifically to the person “rapping” the lyrics).
This all said, many people do often refer to hip hop culture as rap culture, so there is a lot of overlap, and there’s really no wrong way to use these terms.
How can I learn more about hip hop at LA County Library?
LA County Library has a comprehensive collection of books, videos, and music devoted to hip hop culture accessible via our catalog. Join us for a series of programs available at Compton Library.
Upcoming Programs & Events
Wednesday, March 29, 4-5 pm
Women in Hip-Hop & Social Media
In-person and virtual program
Join us as we explore the legacy and impact of women in hip-hop with a live discussion led by SenYon Kelly and Medusa the Gangsta Goddess. Ages: 16+
Wednesday, April 5, 4-5 pm
Celebrate National Poetry Month by learning to create blackout poetry using pages from damaged books and markers. For ages 13 – 17.
Recorded Programs & Activities
Music on Freegal
This project was made possible in part by the Institute of Museum and Library Services.