25 Things Influenced By Hip-Hop Culture
Hip-Hop, a culture that has influenced everything from music to marketing, celebrates 49 years in 2022.
August 10, 2022 at 1:21 pm
Hip-Hop was born in The Bronx, New York, and given the exact birthplace of 1520 Sedgwick Ave., also known as the home of DJ Kool Herc. Herc famously held one of hip-hop’s first house parties on August 11, 1973, at that address. The date has since been designated as the birthday of a culture that traditionally includes rapping, breakdancing, graffiti and deejaying. Over time, its influence spread throughout other industries creating subcultures of itself in everything from free speech to theater and all things in between.
In honor of hip-hop’s 49th birthday, here are 25 things influenced by hip-hop culture.
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One of the most obvious impacts hip-hop has made is in fashion. From changing major fashion house brands to streetwear to creating actual hip-hop-inspired clothing, rappers and other culture-bearers alike have altered the way generations of people dress. Fashion trends in hip-hop are believed to have been started by Run DMC, who in the mid-1980s ditched the suit and tie most emcees were known for wearing at the time for Adidas tracksuits, sneakers, rope chains and felt hats. Christopher “Play” Martin of Kid ‘N Play is credited as the first rapper to launch a clothing line, IV Plai, in 1992. Since then, many rappers are either clothing brand ambassadors or own clothing lines.
After Run DMC encouraged their listeners to rock Adidas, a brand partnership was sparked, and so began hip-hop’s influence on marketing tactics. Rap and other elements have been widely used to attract urban audiences ever since. In a popular and ongoing campaign, Sprite heavily utilized rappers clad in colorful attire to promote its brand, like the 1990 commercial featuring Heavy D, which introduced the slogan “I like the Sprite in you.” Sprite’s “Obey Your Thirst” campaign was introduced by Pete Rock, CL Smooth, Large Professor and Grand Puba in 1994, followed by the “Image Is Nothing” campaign by A Tribe Called Quest that same year.
In 1989, DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince (Will Smith) famously won hip-hop’s first Grammy Award, during a boycott of the ceremony by rappers, including the duo, who were offended that the new category would not be televised. Since then, hip-hop has come through snatching everything from Oscars to the Pulitzer Prize. In 2007, Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five became the first rappers inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as barriers continue to be removed for hip-hop accolades.
4. Music Videos
Up until Black music started shaking up the video world, music video channels were largely dedicated to rock and roll. But that all changed in 1979 when a music video for The Sugarhill Gang’s “Rappers Delight” was released. MTV did not play its first rap video until Blondie’s “Rapture” in 1981, which features member Debbie Harry rapping, complete with a shout-out to early rap influencer Fab Five Freddy, who later became the first host of Yo! MTV Raps. Before MTV embedded itself in the culture, however, rappers could find a home for their videos on Video Music Box, the first music video show dedicated to hip-hop, which began in early 1984.
5. Free Speech
Ice-T was the first rapper to ever have an explicit lyrics sticker on his album. But Uncle Luke of 2 Live Crew created a movement and a trend when he became the first rapper to have a parental advisory sticker on an album. In 1990, Luke was involved in a Supreme Court battle to protect free speech in rap music. The case and the subsequent decision to create the parental advisory sticker came after one of 2 Live Crew’s songs was deemed obscene by the United States. After being banned from performing it, the group was arrested for doing so anyway. While N.W.A were the first rappers to get in trouble with the FBI for their lyrics, Luke altered the course of rappers’ rights, paving the way for all artists to speak their minds.
Diddy‘s Vote or Die campaign encouraged a new generation of voters, many of whom were pivotal in the election of the nation’s first Black president. Beyond that widespread campaign, politicians have sought out rappers for endorsements, used their songs as walk-in music and have even gotten songs created for their campaigns, like Hillary Clinton‘s “Vote for Hillary” song by the queen of bounce, Big Freedia. Eazy E was the first rapper to meet a U.S. president when he went to the White House in 1991 to attend the Republicans Inner Circle Dinner and meet George H.W. Bush. Now rappers like Cardi B intermingle with politicians often, and it’s not unlikely to see Killer Mike advocate on behalf of social justice causes to impact policy change on networks like CNN.
From the hairstyles to the Allen Iverson-influenced courtside fashions, sports have gained a lot from hip-hop. Basketball, in particular, began to neatly blend itself in with hip-hop culture as the game became younger and more urban in the ’90s. Basketball players dressed like rappers with some of them even becoming rappers on the side like Shaquille O’Neal or current ballers like Dame Lillard.
Even basketball movies include hip-hop like Above the Rim, Love and Basketball and Like Mike. In a reverse influence move, Jay-Z, who once had a legion of fans wearing throwback jerseys for a number of years, caused a stir when he transitioned to the grown and sexy era. This caused then-NBA commissioner David Stern to say that he wished Jay-Z would change clothes again after his song “Change Clothes” allegedly led to a decline in jersey sales.
8. Video Games
Of course, with the way the NBA took to hip-hop, it’s no surprise that basketball video games are full of rap music. There are even games dedicated to rap like Super Nintendo’s Rap Jam: Volume One, which combined basketball and rap. The video game industry also gave rappers like RZA of the Wu-Tang Clan a new outlet to produce music for.
Hip-hop has changed the landscape of media as we know it. It’s responsible for the creation of several media outlets like The Source and XXL. It paved the way for new styles of reporting and even caused mainstream outlets to take heed and do stories about the culture. Tone Loc was the first rapper ever to appear on the cover of a major U.S. magazine when he was in Newsweek in 1990. The first national news story about hip-hop aired in July 1981, when 20/20 did a segment about the eighth anniversary of DJ Kool Herc’s infamous house party. During the segment, reporter Steve Fox said that rap was set to become a cultural force.
“It lets ordinary people express ideas they care about, in language they can relate to, put to music they can dance to. Not everyone can sing, but everyone can rap,” Fox said.
Before the culture took over airwaves, music radio lacked rap or the kind of R&B that stars like Mary J. Blige became known for. As it rose beyond the clubs and onto radio stations, a shift began to occur. In 1979, Mr. Magic’s Disco Showcase became the first radio show to play hip-hop on a regular basis. He later launched Rap Attack. The first hip-hop radio station was KDAY 93.5 FM in Los Angeles, which debuted in 1983. Soon after, more networks were being dedicated to rap like the now-famous Hot-97.
11. TV and Film
Clearly, rappers have shown that they have the chops to take over TV and film. But, there are also whole rap-influenced series like Empire and movies about rap like Krush Groove, and even movies about breakdancing like Breakin’. Wild Style was the first hip-hop-influenced movie in 1983. Since then, hip-hop continues to leave an indelible mark on screens big and small.
12. The Dozens
The Dozens, an African American tradition of teasing one another with witty jokes, grew by leaps and bounds via rap music. This time-treasured tradition inspired what’s known as rap beef and encouraged battle rapping. The first rap beef is believed to have been between Kool Moe Dee and Busy Bee in 1981. The most well-known rap battle is likely the one between KRS-One and MC Shan, which Sprite revitalized for a commercial in 1996. Roxanne Shante recorded “Roxanne’s Revenge,” the first rap diss record, in 1984, in response to UTFO’s “Roxanne, Roxanne,” which was not directed at her. In later years, an alleged beef fueled what was dubbed the East Coast vs West Coast beef that is believed to have caused the deaths of 2Pac and the Notorious B.I.G. The concept of the dozens and battle rap still comes together for shows like Nick Cannon Presents: Wild ‘n Out.
Salt-N-Pepa weren’t trying to create any trends when they started rocking their asymmetrical ‘dos. As legend has it, it was a relaxer accident that burned Pep’s hair in a very noticeable way, so Salt also cut her hair. Guys had high-top fades in various versions called the box and the Gumby. Box braids and cornrows took center stage, and in later years, 24-inch weaves and Boosie fades were top-notch choices. These days you’d be hard pressed to get a hairstyle that is not culture-influenced, like Lemonade braids.
It should come as absolutely no surprise to anyone that hip-hop is embedded in protesting. With rap being a form of protest music, it has provided the soundtrack for movements across the world, including widespread protests in Los Angeles leading up to the L.A. Riots, rallies in Ferguson, Mo. and all parts in between. A popular song for current protests has been Kendrick Lamar‘s “Alright.”
Rappers changed the face of wealth as well as the landscape of American businesses. And they brought the whole culture with them. These days you have rappers running other industries and building immense success, like Rick Ross, Jay-Z and 50 Cent, among others. Hip-hop stars like Rihanna have taken over beauty and fashion. Industry legends like Queen Latifah, who was one of the first rappers to own a production company, are making waves in cosmetics and Hollywood. One of the industry’s earliest influences in business just might have been MC Hammer, who dominated the early ’90s.
One word: Hamilton. Lin-Manuel Miranda‘s Tony-award-winning production is labeled as a hip-hop opera. The long-running show is among the most celebrated Broadway musicals ever. Of course, it’s not the first theater production to use rap or other cultural influences, but it is the most highly lauded to do so.
Art just got funkier as hip-hop permeated the world. One of the earliest examples of cultural colliding is the work of Jean-Michel Basquiat, a Haitian and Puerto Rican artist from Brooklyn. Long after his untimely death, Basquiat became synonymous with hip-hop culture. Of course, before fine art started to take influence, there was graffiti, a key element of hip-hop culture.
You couldn’t twerk your waist off if there was never twerking. Fitness has long used music to get people pumped up and ready to work out, but as hip-hop dances took over, fitness programs far and wide began to build upon the craze. From Tae Bo to line dance workouts, hip-hop has changed the frontier of fitness.
19. Women's History
Black women have long found ways to be history makers, but hip-hop culture has ushered in a whole new wave of what it means to be a part of history. In 1976, MC Sha-Rock of Funky 4 + 1 was the first female rapper to record a song. She now teaches hip-hop studies at Bowie State University. Salt-N-Pepa was the first female group to have a gold and platinum album. The first album ever released by a solo female rapper was MC Lyte’s Lyte as a Rock. Lyte was also the first woman to rap at the White House.
Da Brat holds the honor of having the first platinum album by a solo female rapper with 1994’s Funkafied. Lauryn Hill‘s The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill was the first rap album to win the Album of the Year Grammy. Cardi B became the first female rapper to win the ASCAP award for Songwriter of the Year and the first female rapper to be named Woman of the Year at the Billboard Women in Music Awards.
As rap music was still in its developmental phases, DJs experimented with ways to keep the party going. A thing now known as the breakbeat is an essential element of rap discovered by DJ Kool Herc. The concept of isolating the breakbeat was made into science by Grandmaster Flash, who coined the term the “get down.” He would mark his records with a white crayon so he could visibly see where the breakbeat or the get down was on the album. These techniques influenced music technology. These days, hip-hop artists successfully dabble in a variety of areas in tech-related fields.
While dance may be an element of hip-hop, the entire artform has been influenced beyond breakdancing. Hip-hop is literally a style of dance students can learn at nearly any dance studio across the world. Hip-hop dance is classified as a range of various street styles performed to hip-hop songs.
From teachers who greet their students with a cool handshake or dap them off at the door to educators who use little rhymes as pneumonic devices, hip-hop culture lives in the classroom. In some classrooms, rappers are teachers, like Saweetie, who is a guest lecturer at USC’s Marshall School of Business.
From titles and themes to subjects and authors, the literary world is as hip-hop infused as everything else. Several rappers have written their memoirs, while others center completely around their careers, like Raekwon’s From Staircase to Stage: The Story of Raekwon and the Wu-Tang Clan.
Even though hip-hop includes its own genre of music, no one can deny the influence it has had on nearly every other genre. From R&B to pop, you can find tougher bass lines, heavy use of sampling or a little rhyme here and there. Some songs even fuse genres by adding rappers. Although an early example of this was the other way around when Run DMC rapped the lyrics of Aerosmith’s “Walk This Way” in 1986, which is credited as rock and rap’s first crossover song.
Hip-hop culture has infused itself in every pocket of the world, creating a lasting legacy that has stood the test of time. As the culture matures, artists are still finding ways to breed new success. Rap pioneers Chuck D, Doug E. Fresh and Kurtis Blow recently announced the creation of hip-hop’s first union, The Hip-Hop Alliance, a nonprofit set to “fight for fair wages, fair royalties and strong health and retirement benefits for artists in the Hip Hop and R&B community,” according to its website. With a new union in place and many more accolades to achieve, it’s only up from here.