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hip hop basics

The Four Original Elements

The four original elements of hip-hop, breaking, DJ-ing, MC-ing, and graffiti tell the story of growing up in the urban underclass of 70’s New York, and exemplify the pursuit of creative expression within the community.

hip hop basics


MC-ing is characterised by its content, flow, and delivery, and is typically performed over a beat or other musical accompaniment. The term MC-ing originated from party announcements made by Masters of Ceremonies and eventually became rap as we know it today. And just as the MC’s of old designed the atmosphere for block parties, MCs active in street dance participate to energise the atmosphere of these battles.

hip hop basics


At the turn of the 80’s, members of different crews began tagging their names onto walls and subway cars, one of who was cultural mogul and pioneer graffiti artist Fab 5 Freddy. He went on to produce the first hip-hop film Wild Style, which featured notable artists within the New York graffiti scene and linked it back to the wider culture, cementing graffiti’s position as the visual element of hip-hop.

hip hop basics


‘Breaking’ is derived from the term ‘breakbeat’, referring to the section of songs DJs loop to create a rhythmic ‘break’. Breaking borrows influences from acrobatics and Kung Fu, as is visible in its dramatic flares and tricks. Today, it remains one of the most recognisable street dance styles and is a defining element of hip-hop.

hip hop basics


DJ-ing shares many key figures with hip-hop, such as Grand Wizzard Theodore, who invented the record scratch, and DJ Kool Herc, the “father of hip-hop”, who invented the break beat and developed turntablism. The different beats and breaks of DJ-ing provided a platform upon which hip-hop grew, earning the craft a spot as one of its four original elements.

street culture | dance

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