When hip hop music first developed in the late 1970s, not many people knew about it. It was created in the poorest districts of New York City by African American and Latino teenagers as part of a hip hop scene that also produced breakdancingand graffiti art. Many of these young people were unemployed, but some found work as DJs in discos where they learned deejaying techniques like how to use two turntables and a DJ mixer to play records non-stop. Sometimes they'd also deejay at free block parties in their neighbourhoods where they'd play funk and disco tracks non-stop and ask a friend to act as their MC. The MC would introduce the DJ and encourageeveryone to dance and have a good time. Some MCs tried to be more entertaining by talking in time to the beat of the music and using rhymes, and by doing this they invented rapping.
As rapping became more popular, more DJ and MC duos formed. As the competition grew, DJs began improving their beats by using techniques like sampling short drum breaks and scratching. MCs also began improving their raps by using more complex rhymes and by developing flow, or the ability to rap with a good sense of rhythm and a natural flowing style. Hip hop music was only performed live at first, but in 1979 a hip hop single called Rapper's Delight by The Sugarhill Gang was released, and to everyone's surprise it became a top-ten hit worldwide.
After the success of Rapper's Delight, many other hip hop records were released like Kurtis Blow's The Breaks and Afrika Bambaataa's Planet Rock. Most of these songs were about having fun, but in 1982 Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five released The Message, an early example of socially-conscious hip hop. It had a slow funk groove with melodic synthesizer riffs and the raps were about social issues like poverty, crime and the stress of living in a dangerous city.
In the mid-80s, rappers like LL Cool J began creating hip hop singles with catchy melodic hooks. New York duo Run DMC also used hooks in their songs but added hard-rock guitar to create a popular style called rap rock, and their 1986 album Raising Hell became hip hop's first top-ten album. When punk rock group Beastie Boys began shouting raps instead of singing, their style also became very popular and their debut album Licensed To Ill became hip hop's first number-one album.
By the late 80s, many hip hop beats were being made in a studio with drum machines, synthesizers and samples from old funk and disco records. In 1987, New York duo Eric B. & Rakim released Paid In Full, one of hip hop's finest albums on which Rakim raps over Eric's sample-heavy beats. In the late 80s, a new style of political hip hop developed when groups like Public Enemy began demanding political change and an end to injustice and racism.
In the early 90s, producers began using audio editing software and digital effects to create new styles of alternative hip hop such as jazz rap in which groups like De La Soul and A Tribe Called Quest added jazz and R&B samples to their beats. The Fugees used elements of reggae and soul to create their own new style, and all-girl group Salt-N-Pepa created a fun new style of hip hop pop. Later in the 90s, rappers like Common, Mos Def and Talib Kweli created a new style of socially-conscious hip hop when they began rapping about political and social issues over breakbeat grooves played by jazz and funk musicians. Common's album Like Water for Chocolate and Mos and Talib's album Black Star are fine examples of this style.