top of page

Hip Hop is the New Rock & Roll - Here's Why

Whether you’re a fan of Kanye West or not, you have to agree that his statement 
“Hip Hop is the new Rock ‘n’ Roll” is extremely right. So what does that say about Rock ‘n’ Roll and its effect on the world? Rock ‘n’ Roll music emerged in the 40’s and became popular in the 50’s. It was much more essential and alive than any music that was heard before, it needed a new category. Rock ‘n’ Roll was much more than new music to the world. Everyone was obsessed with it and it became an actual way of life.

By Michal Efrati


mos def.jpg

Mos Def - "I'm Hip-Hop, I'm Rock 'n Roll"

(Photography credits unknown - please contact us for credits)

Three of the main things that affected Rock ‘n’ Roll music were politics, social movements and technology. The funny thing is the same three things are the reasons for the rise of Hip-Hop music, the sole difference is the fact that Rock ‘n’ Roll was first to dominate the popular music culture. But it didn’t last forever. According to Nielsen (American leading information, data and market measurement firm) in January 2018 for the first time in history, Hip-Hop has surpassed Rock ‘n’ Roll to become the most popular music genre in the world. Eighth of the top ten most popular artists came from the Hip-Hop/R&B genre, with Drake and Kendrick Lamar respectively taking the first and second positions.
So what exactly was it that made hip hop so popular? Similarly to Rock ‘n’ Roll music in the 60’s, Hip-Hop plays the same role in current times. Rock music in the 60’s represented a new generation that built everything from scratch. Anti-war, political and social movements began to grow into the 60’s decade as an answer to the cold war, Vietnam war, rising tide of conservatism (despite Woodstock) and of course lots of racism acts. As for the cherry on top of the ice cream - “the Beatles” - the pioneers of rock music. But something more important happened, the 60s were a turning point regarding civil rights in America and therefore a turning point for the black community. So how is all this related to Hip-Hop? Rock music was founded on the spirit of the revolutionaries. People in a postwar world were rebelling against the conservative state of mind of the 40’s and 50’s. That was a decade that tested all boundaries of sex, drugs and Rock ‘n’ Roll! In accordance with Rock, Hip-Hop was revolutionary by nature because it was built on the roots of the black community. by adding MC rap to DJ beats they invented Hip-Hop music which is the new culture of storytelling through music. Although the golden age of hip hop started with catchy melodic hooks only, it very quickly became political when groups like Public Enemy began demanding political change and an end to racism. If in the 60’s “revolution” by “The Beatles” was the soundtrack of life, the late 80’s soundtrack was most  definitely “Fight the Power” by “Public Enemy”.

The 90’s were the rise of the Hardcore Hip-Hop, Gangsta Rap, and G-Funk. These styles affected the whole musical culture. Rappers from tough and poor districts started rapping about gangster lifestyle, and about the injustice and police violence in their neighbourhoods. NWA rappers were from Compton, one of LA's poorest and most violent districts, and since then Compton is marked as one of the most important places where hip hop pioneers came from. Despite the political wave of Hip-Hop, there was also a wave of G-funk style, which emphasizes on other stuff like sex, drugs and partying, more than violence, crime and guns.

It can be said that the 90's era of hip hop was angry, loaded with rage and included a lot of explicit language which made albums reach the top of the charts because of their savage and “break the rules” spirit. Since then, we are present to the division between different sub-genres of Hip-Hop. Some are very political and touching and some are pretty “shallow”, focusing on the production more than the choice of words. But when it comes to Hip-Hop it’s much more complicated since it’s the artists’ choice to say what they want to say and no one could prevent them from expressing their background, life story, and culture. Especially when it comes to black culture. J. Cole put it out perfectly in his song “1985” - “I must say, by your songs I'm unimpressed, hey, But I love to see a Black man get paid”. Well it is true, The civil rights act was a major moment in American legislative history, but it didn’t make the United States an actual place of equality. To this day, the American society is still a long way from achieving that goal.

Generally speaking, the 21st century is identified with a lot of changes. The 60’s were just the buds for the whole revolution we are experiencing now, not to mention the digital revolution! As Hip-Hop was becoming one the most popular music genres, it kept on spreading to new areas and people. If in the 80’s-90's, the majority of Hip-Hop artists came from New York or California, around the late 90’ and early 2000’s, Southern artists started getting recognition and local hip hop scenes started developing in many other states and places around the United States. As Hip-Hop spread and developed, new artists from different areas started playing different sounds and addressed a variety of different subjects rather than just gangster culture. A well known example could be Kanye West (Chicago), who changed the direction of Hip-Hop with his alternative and electronic sounds & projects. He made futuristic hip hop music that is both relevant and critical for this time. Artists such as Kanye have proved that not all rappers had to be gangsters in order to make high quality and relatable Hip-Hop, which helped the culture spread even more and became attractive to many different kinds of people.

So how exactly does all of this prove that Hip-Hop is the new Rock ‘n’ Roll?
Hip-Hop music is very diverse, it changes all the time, and still stands as a representation of black freedom, a voice of rebellion and motivational music during hard times. It is actually “Bigger than Hip-Hop” as legendary Dead Prez said before. It’s the music, the fashion and the whole culture built around the African American community. The Hip-Hop genre & culture exist to tell the history and the stories by celebrating black culture without any boundaries. Hip-Hop had a huge rise in the age of the first ever black American president - Barack Obama, but police brutality and other racist acts against black people serve as daily reminders that there are still changes that need to be made. Like Rock ‘n’ Roll in the 60s’-90s’of the 20th century, Hip-Hop is here to serve as the voice of the oppressed, the misunderstood, and the left out people and communities. It raises awareness, and it’s spread is positively influencing and impacting young minds to understand that we are all equal. Hip-Hop is the current musical voice of peace. 

Perfectly said by Mos Def - “What’s gonna happen to Hip-Hop is whatever’s happening with us”.

bottom of page