The Cultural Diffusion of Hip Hop



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The Cultural Diffusion of Hip Hop

Hip-Hop is currently the fastest growing music style in the world; but Hip-Hop is more than just music. It is a cultural outlet that has rapidly diffused across the entire globe. It has gone from being a simple expression of dissatisfaction to a multi-million dollar industry. All of Hip-Hop culture can be traced back to a few men in a big city.

The mid 1970’s, the Bronx, New York City—this is where Hip-Hop can trace its roots to. It is here that the key players came together. Since Hip-Hop is not a tangible object, a lot of people had to come together to make it. The notable founders include Clive “DJ Kool Herc” Campbell, Afrika Bambaata, and various artists including Grandmaster Flash. Together, collaborators came up with the five pillars of Hip-Hop, which are MCing, DJing, Breaking, Graffiti and Knowledge. After establishing a foundation, the idea rapidly spread.



In the 21st century, Hip-Hop is known worldwide. However, its spread was gradual. Starting in the 1970’s, Hip-Hop began to permeate the South Bronx. It was originally seen around the city in parks and basketball courts, usually in the form of music and breaking. From the Bronx it was diffused contagiously throughout greater New York City. From 1970 to 1984, a time known as the “Old School days”, Hip-Hop culture spread across America. During this time Hip-Hop was primarily hierarchically diffused. It would generally spread from major urban centers onto other urban areas. From there it would spread outward into suburbs. 1985 to 1993 is known as “the Golden Age of Hip-Hop”, it is during this era that Hip-Hop had its major spread.  The first international move for Hip-Hop was to Latin America. This is because it is nearest to America, and also because Latinos made up a large number of the population in some American cities. After 1985 major Hip-Hop groups such as Public Enemy began touring more heavily. Once these groups got overseas, the globalization of Hip-Hop began. The first to adopt Hip-Hop overseas were the urban centers of Europe and Asia. In the current era of Hip-Hop, the globalization has become more concrete as more and more of the culture is adopted internationally.

However, Hip-Hop was not always accepted with open arms. Hip-Hop’s original audience was not mainstream (white) America, and this can be seen by its pattern of diffusion. Hip-Hop was created and adopted by African Americans, Puerto Ricans, and other people of color first, and the most heavily concentrated populations of this audience were in urban areas. Thus Hip-Hop was not diffused only contagiously because its audience wasn’t everywhere. Another speed bump for Hip-Hop came from globalization. When it was first created, Europeans and Asians didn’t have anything relatable to Hip-Hop. That is why it took over a decade for Hip-Hop to jump overseas, and that was only done when American MCs and DJs went over and brought the style with them. Now international in nature, Hip-Hop has undergone substantial changes. Each culture that adopts it adapts it with their own style, thus creating distinctive worldwide hybrids.

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