Hip-hop (subculture)

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Hip-Hop is a cultural movement that has its origins in the Afro-American ghettos of New York City in the 1970s and has meanwhile developed into a global subculture of urban youth ( youth culture ). Because of its origins, hip-hop sees itself as street culture, a culture that is lived to a considerable extent on the street. The original, integral parts (the so-called four elements) of hip-hop culture are rap ( MCing ), DJing , B-boying (breakdancing) and graffiti writing.

This division into four elements, which was the result of a certain social constellation in New York in the 1970s and 1980s, is due to the development of hip-hop with increasing fixation on hip-hop music, the advancing commercialization of culture and through changed social, technical and cultural framework conditions have become problematic. Beatboxing , knowledge, street fashion or producing can now also be viewed as elements of hip-hop culture. In addition, the hip-hop scene has developed its own jargon (see hip-hop jargon ). Hip-hop culture is criticized from various quarters as violent , drug-glorifying and sexist .


The traditional hip-hop culture began its career in the early 1970s in the Bronx , an impoverished New York neighborhood. In the course of the 1960s and 1970s, this part of New York, which is predominantly inhabited by immigrants and Afro-Americans, was subject to increasing impoverishment and ghettoization . The black upper and middle classes with their intellectuals increasingly fled to the “white” suburbs, leaving behind, among other things, a socially isolated Afro-American proletariat . In addition, poor urban planning in the district intensified this effect, especially in the area of ​​social housing and the construction of a bypass road, which from then on cut off the Bronx from the rest of New York. Gang crime, impoverishment and neglect were the best known immediate consequences of this development into a vicious circle.

Isolated in this way from the majority culture of the rest of American society, specific forms of cultural organization developed, such as the legendary block parties . Many of the immigrants came from the Caribbean area around Jamaica and took the idea of ​​“ sound systems ” with them to their new home. Although these had been forbidden by the law enforcement authorities, they were still widely accepted by the local population. The parties were spontaneous at the beginning and took place in old factory buildings, in parking lots or in the open air in the parks and streets of the Bronx. Such parties are often seen as the beginning of the hip-hop movement, as this was where the market for the music played there first emerged, which spread and thus cultivated hip-hop.

These roots still play an essential role in the hip-hop myth today and are often exaggerated and glorified. Even today, hip-hop sees itself as street culture. The term ghetto in particular experiences a romanticizing shift in meaning.

The scene in Europe developed mainly after the spread of films like Wild Style , Beat Street and Style Wars (documentary) as well as the onset of the breakdance wave. Here, too, a hard core of b-boys, writers, DJs and MCs emerged in the 1980s.


At the beginning of this musical culture, only DJing played a role. The "singers", now known in the scene as MCs, were only present at the time as "supporters" of the DJs and had the task of heating up the celebrating crowd with simple sentences or words thrown in (for example, Put your hands up in the air ) to ensure a particularly good atmosphere. In the course of time this MCing (the spoken word) developed so much that the DJs moved more and more into the background. The resulting rap music developed many different facets: In addition to the established party raps, the wild battle raps came up in the ghettos, in which the MCs reported on the problems and pains of ghetto life, but also on their own person as a "hero". Initially, the rappers' lyrics were limited to the problems of the lower social class, which was not a minority in the ghettos. But with the spread of the culture to other parts of the city, rap also became attractive for “non-insiders” and thus more commercial variants of rap music that were less limited to certain social classes established themselves.

The members of the first Grammy- winning “rap formation” The Fresh Prince and DJ Jazzy Jeff grew up in better parts of Philadelphia . In their raps and songs they addressed the problems of medium-sized young people (lack of money, girls, parties, friendship). Other groups gave themselves an artificially constructed “gangster image” without ever having lived in typical “ghettos”.

The development, which was often criticized as the “commercialization of music”, led hip-hop and rap to develop into a global movement that soon swept across Europe and subsequently established itself in the charts.

The song "Ahmed Gündüz" by the group Fresh Familee is considered to be the cornerstone of German rap . This was followed by Die Fantastischen Vier and Torch's group Advanced Chemistry , which ultimately made German rap music popular. In addition to other artists, musicians such as Fünf Sterne deluxe , Fettes Brot , Dynamite Deluxe , Absolute Beginner , Freundeskreis , Sabrina Setlur , Moses Pelham with his Rödelheim Hartreim project and Kool Savas played a decisive role in establishing an independent German hip-hop culture.

Hip-hop only appeared later in Switzerland. Black Tiger is considered to be one of the first Swiss to produce rap using funk beats . He started out in 1987 as Switzerland's first dialect rapper. In Switzerland today, rappers / rap formations such as PVP , Greis , Wurzel 5 , Baze , Bligg , TAFS , Lügner , Kuchikäschtli and Luut & Tüütli are known.

Writing (graffiti)

Graffiti on a house wall

In the mid-1960s, some Philadelphia teenagers started putting their pseudonyms on walls. The works of art left behind, so-called “tags”, formed the cornerstone of the writing culture. Initially, it found only recognition within the scene and thus little acceptance among the general public. A widespread use of the tags gave the artists a great reputation within the scene without provoking gang wars. Rather, the writing served precisely to reduce tensions between rival gangs and to resolve conflicts between them in a non-violent artistic competition. In contrast, z. In Los Angeles, for example, tags are attached to specifically mark the territory of various gangs, with the lettering serving as a warning for other gangs or self-glorification. Although value is sometimes placed on a certain aesthetic, but not to the same extent as in style writing, this gang graffiti is not attributed to the peaceful writing culture due to its completely different origin and meaning.

In the late 1960s, the phenomenon of “writing” reached New York City , where graffiti was applied to walls in subway cars, subway stations and other places. In June 1971 the New York Times published a report on TAKI 183 . This made the hitherto largely anonymous messenger boy of Greek origin famous throughout New York City. This caused numerous imitators to tag as well . Due to the boom and the emerging abundance of graffiti writers, it was a necessity for the individual to constantly develop and perfect the style of his letters, as well as to develop new techniques in order to stand out from the crowd of writers. Increasingly larger markings were also made and more and more dangerous or particularly clearly visible areas were painted. SUPERKOOL 223 is attributed to 1971 as the first to have a subway wagon sprayed with a piece from the outside , as well as to have invented the fat cap . This resulted in a wide variety of styles, such as B. the bubble style of PHASE 2 . These and other innovations in technology and tools, such as different spray attachments that enable spray jets of different strengths, continued to develop the style. So in 1973 the 3D style was introduced. In 1972 the first anti-graffiti law was passed by the New York mayor because of the first top to bottom by SIR alias DICE 198 , as it was feared that the art of writing would otherwise flood the entire city area. But the writers were not deterred, and the underground culture continued to grow.

The sociology student Hugo Martinez recognized the importance of this subculture and founded the United Graffiti Artists (UGA) . This establishment was a major turning point in the history of graffiti writing. Works by the writers were subsequently exhibited in galleries and thus accepted as art.

B-Boying (Breakdance)

B-boys in Ljubljana , Slovenia

At the time of the first street parties, when DJs sequenced singeless, purely rhythmic parts on records, so-called breaks , and mixed them into new sound collages, B-Boying (also known as breakdance ) was born. B-boying is an important element of hip-hop culture, which has faded into the background even more than DJing. If rapping became a verbal confrontation with the environment, B-boying was more physical. Different groups of dancers, mostly structured according to street sections or the like, competed against each other in wild dancing battles. Violent confrontations were deliberately avoided. The winner was the group or person with the best body control and fitness, as the dance style and expression were crucial.

In the early 1980s, the east coast discovered the boogaloo , as well as poppin ' and locking . This dance style was developed on the west coast and came to New York via the south of the USA . There it was renamed Electric Boogie . Breakdance and electric boogie arrived in Europe in 1983. The clothing style of this time, which was shaped by the brands Adidas and Puma , which had to be adapted to the dance movements and was known as very loose or casual, was later copied by ravers , although they were not necessarily aware of it. The newest and very popular breakdance variant is the so-called " Krumping " or "Clowning".

MCing (rap)

The rap is in accordance with the tradition of the African oral tradition and was initially just a play on words by the MCs ( Master of Ceremony ). In short rhymes, with the help of various flows, they made fun of themselves, introduced the DJ or just told short stories about their neighborhood. Rap is occasionally accompanied by a human beatbox . The human beatbox is often used for freestyles without a running beat by a DJ.

The Sugarhill Gang , Kurtis Blow and Grandmaster Flash & the Furious Five were among the first to achieve a chart placement. MCs like Chief Rocker Busy Bee and the Cold Crush Brothers with Grandmaster Caz ruled the scene. Contrary to other sources, the first rap track does not come from the Sugarhill Gang, but from Fatback: King Tim III (Personality Jock) from 1979, appeared before Rapper's Delight . Subsequent rap formations turned more and more away from party rap and wrote more socially critical texts.

The Zulu Nation and its founder Afrika Bambaataa propagated their philosophy of "Peace, Unity, Love And Having Fun". On the other hand, gangsta rap developed on the west coast of the late 1980s as a form of rap that critics criticize for contradicting actual hip-hop culture. He was characterized by funky beats and a very explicit language.


Beatboxing is often equated with vocal percussion, but only describes a special form of this developed in hip-hop. As an extension to the original four hip-hop disciplines DJing , MCing , breaking and writing , beatboxing is sometimes referred to as the “fifth pillar” or the “fifth element” of hip-hop culture and is therefore one of its essential characteristics.


Fashion marketed by rappers: Kool Savas
The cult shoe Nike Air Force 1

As in other youth cultures, there is a special fashion in the hip hop subculture. Hip-hop and its fashion are, like many other youth cultures, male-dominated. The actual hip-hop fashion is aimed more at men, but is also worn by women in the hip-hop scene or female hip-hoppers use individual elements of this dress code.

Hip-hop fashion lives from extremely wide cuts in trousers and tops. The entire appearance is lush, with lots of massive emblems and eye-catching details. In addition to jeans, a large number of items of clothing borrowed from the sports sector are worn. In stark contrast to other youth cultures, the widely used dress code includes:

  • very wide, low-slung pants ( baggy pants )
  • Basketball jerseys and hoodies (hoodies)
  • oversized sports suits (tracksuits) in sizes such as 2XL
  • Eye-catching logos and emblems from sports leagues like the NBA
  • Streetwear brands such as: A Bathing Ape , Alpha Industries , Avirex , Carhartt , Dada , Ecko , Enyce , Fubu , k1x , Karl Kani , LRG , Pelle Pelle , Phat Farm , Picaldi , Rocawear , Sean John , Shady Ltd. , Sir Benni Miles, Southpole , Wu Wear etc.
  • Sports brands: z. B. Nike , Reebok , Adidas
  • Luxury brands: e.g. B. Gucci , Lacoste , Ralph Lauren , Fendi , Iceberg; their logos are often displayed demonstratively ( pimping )
  • Headgear: baseball caps z. B. from New Era Cap , woolen hats, bandanas , durags
  • Hairstyle: box cut
  • Sneakers , basketball shoes or leather boots from Timberland or the then trendy Puma Suede and the Adidas Superstar which was worn by the band RUN DMC.
  • Accessories (see also bling-bling ): Chains (mostly made of gold, silver or platinum or an imitation of these materials) with eye-catching pendants such as dog tags, dollar signs or name imprints from successful hip-hop artists.
  • Namebelt (German name belt). Belt buckles are meant. In most cases, your own name, stage name or pseudonym is displayed. Buzzwords such as “porn” or “bitch” are also widespread. The most widespread belt buckle consists of two frames that can be screwed into one another, between which letters, numbers or characters can be fixed. The different frame sizes only allow a certain number of letters etc. Frames such as letters etc. are made of different materials and colors, e.g. B. gold (brass), chrome but also with cut glass stones ( bling-bling ). There are also belt buckles in which programmable LED light strips are used. “Real” gemstones and precious metals are rather uncommon for “normal” hip-hoppers. Of course, there are also custom-made belt buckles.

Overall, an impressive, "cool" appearance is aimed for, which is underlined by an emphatically relaxed, casual demeanor. On the other hand, there is a counter-movement within the scene that does not submit to brand pressure and consciously dresses alternatively.

Hip-hop in the GDR

Hip-hop came to the GDR as a youth culture from West Germany through radio and television. The film Beat Street was shown in GDR cinemas in 1985. The state tried to involve hip-hoppers and justified this with the fact that the young people expressed their solidarity with the oppressed blacks. Breakdancers were referred to as “acrobatic folk dancers” in official parlance, and graffiti as “rap script”. Anyone who wanted to appear professionally in public had to apply for a “license for professional activity in the field of entertainment art” and be checked by a state commission. However, appearances by break dancers on streets and squares were prevented. At events for the 750th anniversary of Berlin , breakdancers took part in the festival march in East Berlin, rappers performed in the Palast der Republik .

The English-language hip-hop group Electric Beat Crew , founded in 1987, released the GDR's first and only hip-hop record in 1989 and was best known for the piece Here we come .

In summer 1988 and on 28/29 In July 1989 there were rap contests in what was then the "Tonhalle" in Radebeul near Dresden , each with around 2500 visitors. In addition, in January 1989 a hip-hop workshop took place in Schloss Nickern near Dresden, in which over 30 people took part.

In 2006 the 90-minute documentary Here we come - Breakdance in the GDR by Nico Raschick was released. The 2014 feature film Dessau Dancers accompanies a fictional breakdance group from the beginning to state-organized show dance performances.


Hip-hop critics see a strong deviation from its original form in today's hip-hop scene: While the original hip-hop still thematized the social injustices in which the colored population lived in the ghettos of New York, it is more modern However, hip-hop is often reactionary , glorifies violence , misogynist , homophobic , sexist and thus promotes juvenile delinquency, aggressiveness, passivity and a general willingness to use violence. Instead of improving the social situation of their own community , according to the critics, the current hip-hop artist in the music sector strives for no more goals than a full bank account and placement in charts, as well as an image that is as "gangster" as possible (clothing, Appearance, statements). It is also criticized that the use of drugs is glorified in the hip-hop scene and its videos . The artists are also accused of not paying attention to their role model function and therefore blinding the young people with reality.

The writer scene is criticized for the fact that spraying various surfaces is almost always illegal and without the permission of the owner. This has been happening in this form since the beginning of the writing movement.

Major events

  • Battle of the Year ( B-Boying / Breakdance , international) - At the “Battle Of The Year International” many different breakdancers from all over the world perform and dance in a kind of competition. In the backstage of this peaceful competition, contacts are made and trained together. Everywhere in the public area there are marked circles in which people dance almost continuously. Numerous MCs and DJs can also be found there every year.
  • Splash (Festival) (one of the largest hip-hop and dancehall festivals in Europe in Ferropolis / Germany)
  • Openair Frauenfeld (the largest hip-hop festival in Europe)
  • Write 4 Gold (largest writing battle in various cities around the world)
  • Hip-Hop Kemp (one of the largest hip-hop festivals in Europe in Königgrätz / Czech Republic)
  • HipHop Open (well-known Hip-Hop-OpenAir in Stuttgart)
  • ITF / IDA Championships ( DJ / Turntablism , international)

See also


  • Martha Cooper: Hip-Hop Files. 3. Edition. Cologne 2004, ISBN 3-937946-03-9 .
  • Niels Robitzky: From Swipe to Storm. Breakdance in Germany , ISBN 3-00-005526-6 . (Autobiography of one of the most important breakers worldwide. He describes his experiences and the German / European hip-hop scene)
  • 20 years of hip hop in Germany. Hannibal Verlag, 2000, ISBN 3-85445-184-9 .
  • Hannes Loh , Murat Güngör : Fear Of A Kanak Planet - Hiphop between world culture and Nazi rap. Hannibal Verlag, 2002, ISBN 3-85445-210-1 .
  • The new hip hop dictionary. Schwarzkopf & Schwarzkopf Verlag, 2003, ISBN 3-89602-467-1 .
  • Hip hop. Transcript, 2003, ISBN 3-89942-114-0 . (Contributions from cultural studies, ethnology, sociolinguistics, education and other disciplines are combined with essays by scene authors)
  • We can do a lot. Schwarzkopf & Schwarzkopf Verlag, 2000, ISBN 3-89602-329-2 . (Collection of interviews and texts by and with hip-hoppers from all parts of Germany)
  • Nelson George: 3 decades of hip-hop. 2002, ISBN 3-936086-03-6 .
  • Gabriele Klein, Malte Friedrich: Is this real? - The culture of hip hop. edition suhrkamp, ​​2003, ISBN 3-518-12315-7 .
  • Stefanie Menrath: represent what… - performativity of identities in hip-hop. Argument-Verlag, 2001, ISBN 3-88619-282-2 .
  • Odem - On The Run . Schwarzkopf & Schwarzkopf Verlag. (Autobiography of a Berlin writer)
  • Maik Sadzio: The group "Bancada Revolucionário ao Gospel" (BRG - Hip-Hop). In: Kulturwende - transcultural and transreligious identities. 2010, ISBN 978-3-8391-5006-1 , pp. 159-217.
  • Leonard Schmieding: This is our party. HipHop in the GDR. Stuttgart 2014, ISBN 978-3-515-10663-4 .
  • David Toop : Rap Attack. African rap to global hip hop. Hannibal Verlag, 1991, ISBN 1-85242-243-2 .
  • David Toop: Rap Attack # 3. African jive to global hip-hop. Hannibal, 1999/2000, ISBN 3-85445-076-1 .
  • Sascha Verlan (Ed.): Working texts for the classroom: Rap texts. Reclam Universal Library, 2000, ISBN 3-15-015050-7 .
  • Mike Wagner: Rap is in the house. HipHop in the GDR. In: Ronald Galenza, Heinz Havemeister (Ed.): We always want to be good. Punk, New Wave, HipHop, independent scene in the GDR 1980–1990. Berlin 2013, ISBN 978-3-86265-230-3 , pp. 601ff.
  • Ralph Geisenhanslüke: Rap yourself rich. In: Die Zeit , No. 41/2006 (longitudinal section)

Web links

  • HipHop in the GDR on jugendopposition.de; with examples, picture and sound material and further information

Individual evidence

  1. Mathias Hamann: 19-year-old oral acrobat: someone beatboxes his way up. In: Spiegel online. November 20, 2008, accessed July 25, 2010.
  2. Very young pioneers: Hip-Hop in the GDR. at: tagesspiegel.de , September 29, 2016, accessed on May 7, 2011.
  3. Mike Wagner: Rap is in the house. 2013, p. 602f.
  4. Matthias Wyssuwa: State-certified rapper. In: Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung . November 7, 2009, p. 9.
  5. Mike Wagner: Rap is in the house. 2013, pp. 602–610.
  6. ^ Nico Raschick: Here we come - Breakdance in the GDR . 2006, 90 min.