How Hip-Hop Emerged


By: Pete DJ Jones

petedjjones.jpg (18457 bytes)


How Hip-Hop emerged.  If you noticed, I did not say founded, invented, discovered or created.  There is a strange similarity in Hip-Hop and Blues.  They both express poverty and oppression.  Now let’s go back as far as I can recollect.  Back in the 40’s, during the Prohibition Era and right after WWII, The Blues prevailed.


There is a strange contrast in   Hop-Hop and the blues.  Rap and Hip-Hop artists are young, the Blues artists were older, yet the message was the same.  I remember back in the 40’s, when my father, grandfather or uncle would have a day off, come home from work, after supper or the weekends, they would grab a guitar and start strumming the Blues about hard times or his woman done left him.  Most early Blues artist would strum their guitar a few chords and sing, talk or rap a few lines.


Later in the 40’s hard times started easing a bit because I remember getting a new pair of shoes and some new jeans.   By the time, Black musicians started creating bands or groups musicians added beats to their music by using a fork and a scrub board.  Scrub boards were used by mothers to wash clothes.  The scrub board served as a drum.  The bass was added by using sticks tied tightly with strings to a tin tub.  Tin tubs were used to wash clothes or to take a tub bath.  This combination of items would create a beat people could dance to.  People were probably dancing because of prosperity.  This type of music was called Jump ‘N Jive or Boogie-Woogie, which probably later emerged into R&B.


With prosperity, there were many inventions.  The record player was a record machine many called the talking machine.  The record player in the 40’s was a piece of furniture about 5 feet tall.   The record player was not electrical, thus it had to be wound up.  The needle or stylus for this machine looked like nails or tacks. The needle would be sharpened if it was twisted into a wall or piece of wood.   The records were 78 RPM.  The records were heavy and if dropped, would shatter like glass.


On Friday and Saturday nights, I would go with my parents to my grandmother’s home.  My uncles, aunts and their friends gathered at my grandmother’s and listened to the music machine my grandmother had.  Few had such a machine in those days.  I was fascinated by my grandmother’s collection of records.


I remember hearing her play Louis Jordan, The Chicken Shack and Saturday Night Fish Fry.  These records had a Hip-Hop beat.  I would play music all night long and everyone danced to the music I was playing.


In the 50’s, I was particularly interested in Louis Jordan, Cab Calloway’s Minnie the Moocher (The Hi De Ho Song), Nat King Coles’s Straighten Up and Fly Right, Amos Milburn’s Drinking Wine Sporty Odie and Rockin’ the Boogie, Lavern Baker’s Jim DandyDo the Rescue and Coco Taylor’s Wang Dang Doodle.


R&B took another twist in the 50’s. Jump ‘N Jive was then what we called ‘Gut Bucket’ party/dance music in the 60’s and 70’s.  People could ‘act the fool’ or dance similar to Break dancing today.  During this time, the only music you could hear were records you heard at a friend’s house or records your parents had around the house.  Black music was not often played on the radio in the early 50’s.  There were dead spots that were spots when few were listening to the radio that Black music was played.   You could hear Jump ‘N Jive music only early in the morning or late at night.  I remember staying up many nights until 1:00 o’clock in the morning to listen to Randy’s Record Mart in Tennessee.  The Tennessee station played Blues and R&B for about thirty minutes.


Some of the black jocks, disc jockeys or radio DJs who stood out in my mind in the early 50’s were Jack Gibson known as Jack the Rapper; Jimmy Bird, known as Dr. Jive; Ray Henderson who was Jocko and Ike Goode who was Prince Ike.  They all came on with a rap or skit before their show started.  These tactics impressed me about rapping.


In the 50’s, I was tall, awkward, inhibited and growing rapidly.  I am now 6’8”.  When I would go to a party or gathering, I would take interest in the record playing or music department.   That way, I would not have to worry about dancing.  I would always remember the records people preferred for dancing.  This was the beginning of my interest in DJing.


In the late 50’s, I went to New York to live with my brother.  I noticed more radio stations playing black music than in North Carolina.  I began to listen to Jocks like Jocko, Allen Freed, Dick Clark, Symphony Sid, Eddie O’Jay, Garry Bird, Jerry Bledsoe and later Frankie Crocker and Ken “Spider Man” Webb.


I became really interested in music and recordings.  I brought a stereo radio, added a turntable, haphazardly hooked up a microphone, bought a reel-to-reel tape recorder and began listening to certain types of music and recording it.


I was more interested in music that had Hip-Hop overtones like James Brown, Bobby Byrd, The Ray Gees, Lynn Collins and others.   Each payday, I would buy two or three records and when my brother gave parties on Fridays and Saturdays, I would be the DJ man.   I would pay 7” 45s and talk on my little microphone and try to inspire the crowd because everyone was expecting me to get the party jumping.


Since I could only afford limited copies of records, I would take several of the few hits and take out certain parts of the records and play them over and over again. I noticed crowd and record reaction since childhood, I was not a dancer, I was a wallflower, and I always hung around the records and turntable, I knew what would make people move.  I would start playing records over and over again or certain areas of a record I would play over and over again to make the people react and party.


There was no such thing as a cueing system at the time, so I developed a knack that I could look at a record and see the different changes of the grooves in a record that I could use.  It got to the point that I could almost put it right on the spot that I wanted the record to play on.  By the 60’s I was able to keep the party jumping without there being a break in the music.   There was always a little break in a song like the chorus in a song, where it seems to inspire people to dance and party harder.   I would recognize the groove in the record and play the few hits that I had and work them into frenzy.  Many times, James Brown saved my day, because that was the first record that I remember having Part I and Part II.


Eventually, in the late 60’s, the 12-inch Disco version came out and they had a longer chorus, break part of beat part in the record and I could play it even longer.  I had more time to get my grooves right for the next record.


Almost every decade, R&B took a twist or added on a branch of music that was called ‘Gut Bucket’ type of music.   ‘Gut Bucket’ type music is known as the lower class type R&B that the higher echelon would frown upon or look down on.


In the 40’s you had the Jump ‘N Jive which was like a ‘Gut Bucket’ type of music.  In the 50’s and early 60’s you had James Brown, Bobby Byrd and the JayBees.  In the 70’s you had James Brown, The Ohio Players, Dennis Coffee, Fat Back Band, Willie Hutch, Curtis Mayfield and The Isley Brothers and so on.


In the 70’s another branch was added to the tree of R&B.  A dance known as the Hustle which was started by Blacks and later adopted by Latinos and Whites.  Later in the 70’s Blacks chose to stay with the regular R&B as the Latinos and Whites continued with the Hustle.  The R&B artists who are known for their Hustle style music were Vann McCoy, Gloria Gaynor, Donna Summers, The Sound of Philadelphia and others.


During the radio boom of the 60’s, when recorded music got a lot of air play, especially in New York City, the general public was exposed to a lot of music with different ethnic backgrounds such as Reggae, Calypso, Latin and African music which otherwise they may not have heard.  Eventually, R&B, Reggae, Caribbean and Latin music became closer together.  These artist borrowed a little from each other and created a unique sound that has a lot to do with the Hip-Hop type music today.  This music always featured a lot of bongos and drumbeats, which go back to the African sound.


We should keep in mind that Hip-Hop music is recorded music that was recorded by real live artist, in the studio who work their butts off for this music.  I sincerely believe these artist should get some credit or mention.  Hip-Hop music was not created or discovered by DJs nor did DJs invent Hip-Hop.   DJs probably took Hip-Hop music to another level.  Hip-Hop music is recorded music.


However, I think the Sugar Hill Gang and Kurtis Blow  made major contributions by being the first to expose Hip-Hop, as we know it today, to the world.


�2001 Pete Jones No part may be copied without authors consent