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Hip-hop music, also known as rap music, is a musical genre of popular music developed in the United States by African Americans and Hispanics living in poor areas of the Bronx in New York in the 1970s. Hip-hop music consists of stylized rhythmic music, which is usually accompanied by rap, rhythmic and rhymed speech, which is chanted. Hip-hop music has evolved as part of hip-hop culture, a subculture defined by four key stylistic elements: MCing / raping, DJing / scratching with turntables, break dancing, and graffiti painting. Other elements include sampling beats or bass lines from recordings (or synthesized beats and sounds) and rhythmic beatboxing. Although the term "hip-hop" is often used solely to refer to the performance of rap, it more accurately refers to the practice of the entire subculture. The term "hip-hop music" is sometimes used synonymously with the term "rap music", although rap is not a required component of hip-hop music; the genre can also include other elements of hip-hop culture, including DJing, turntablism, scratching, beatboxing, and instrumental tracks.
Hip hop as a genre of music and culture took shape in the 1970s when neighborhood parties became increasingly popular in New York City, especially among African American youth living in the Bronx. At neighborhood parties, DJs played breaks (drum solos) of popular songs using two turntables and a DJ mixer to be able to play breaks from two copies of the same recording, alternating one after the other and increasing the break. The early development of hip-hop came as sampling technology and drum machines became widely available and affordable. Along with breaks, turntablism techniques such as scratching and beatmatching were developed, and Jamaican chants were used over the beats. Rap performance has evolved as a vocal style in which the artist speaks or chanted words rhythmically using an instrumental or synthesized beat.
Hip-hop music was not officially recorded for radio or television playback until 1979, largely due to poverty during the genre's inception and lack of acceptance outside the ghetto areas. Old school hip hop was the first mainstream wave in the genre, marked by disco influences and party-oriented lyrics. The 1980s saw the diversification of hip-hop as the genre developed more sophisticated styles and spread throughout the world. Newschool hip-hop was the second wave of this genre marked by electro sound and led to the golden era of hip-hop, an innovative period between the mid-1980s and mid-1990s. During this time, the gangsta rap subgenre gained popularity, focusing on the violent lifestyles and impoverished living conditions of African American youth in poor neighborhoods of the city. In the early to mid-1990s, West Coast hip-hop was dominated by gi-funk, while East Coast hip-hop was dominated by jazz rap, alternative hip-hop, and hardcore rap. During this time, hip hop continued to diversify with the emergence of other regional styles such as southern rap and Atlanta hip hop. Hip hop became the top-selling genre in the mid-1990s and the top-selling music genre by 1999.
The popularity of hip-hop music continued until the late 1990s and mid-2000s, during the so-called “era of jewelry,” and hip-hop influenced other genres of popular music such as neosoul, nu metal and R&B. The United States also saw the success of regional styles such as crank, a southern genre that emphasized beats and music more than lyrics, and alternative hip-hop that began to take hold in the mainstream, thanks in part to the crossover success of its performers. In the late 2000s and early 2010s, in the so-called "blogging era," rappers were able to gain popularity through online ways of distributing music such as social media and blogging, and mainstream hip-hop took on a more melodic, sensitive direction after commercial demise of gangsta rap. The trap and mumble rap subgenres became the most popular form of hip-hop in the mid to late 2010s and early 2020s. In 2017, rock music gave way to hip-hop as the most popular genre in the United States.