Personal Research Reflection

For my final project, I am researching about the history of hip-hop, the evolution of the different technologies used throughout the history, and the message it sends out to the world. Growing up my mom would listen to various hip-hop artists from her time period, and my father being from Jamaica would listen to a lot of reggae music. So hip-hop has been apart of my life for a long time. A reason why I have chosen to research hip-hop has to do with one of the classes I am taking this semester at Ohio State. I needed to take this class to fulfill a GEC for visual and performing arts, not knowing that it was about hip-hop and feminism. From this class, I have learned so much about the history of hip-hop, including the origin of hip-hop, the different elements of hip-hop, and the influences of hip-hop. It has also been interesting to learn about the different artists that have contributed and made hip-hop what it is today. It has opened my eyes to the messages and images it sometimes portrays, such as violent lyrics, and degrading women, but hip-hop is also a story telling genre. Growing up, I believed hip-hop to be a male dominant genre, but through this class I have learned that the female hip-hop artists have made a huge contribution as well.


As I mentioned before, my father is Jamaican. So growing up in a multi-cultural home, I was exposed to all different types of music. I remember listening to reggae legends, Bob Marley, Desmond Dekker, Peter Tosh, and Buju Banton. My mom is from Cleveland, Ohio so she listened to a lot of Slick Rick, Dana Dane, Whodini, Doug E. Fresh, and many more artists from the 1970s and 1980s. As I grew up and developed my own taste in music, I always had an interest in hip-hop music and the history of it. I was so surprised and excited to learn that my class was going to cover the history of hip-hop. Another interesting part of the class is we learned that reggae had a huge impact and influence of hip-hop. This was a very interesting topic for me to learn about with my background of being half-Jamaican. I learned that through hip-hop music and dancehall music, the people of inner city America and Jamaica were able to be heard and tell their stories. Hip-hop and dancehall lyrics are often about the violence and struggles that the artists have gone through or seen in their communities. The dancing of dancehall music also influenced one of the elements of hip-hop, breakdancing. Both are competitive type of dance styles. Break-dancers battled each other by locking and popping using their arms, legs, and torso in robotic movements. In dancehall, however, the flexibility of your body is key in competition. In early hip-hop, street parties also used and were influenced by the technology being used in Jamaica such as amplifiers, turntables, and mixers. When hip-hop was first created, no one thought that it would last but hip-hop has been around for more than forty years now. Learning about the history of hip-hop has given me a new appreciation for the music. With new artists and technologies emerging, I believe hip-hop will continue to expand.

Hip Hop Technology Key Terms

A few key analytic terms in the hip-hop culture, that I will be using in my paper and need clarification are turntablism, the three categories of women in hip-hop, Queen Mother, Fly Girl, and Sista with Attitude.

1.The first term I will define is turntablism. The turntable has been used a musical instrument since the 1940s and 1950s. The DJ’s of that time created a new sound, a certain skill, and culture. The DJ’s began to experiment by sampling, and creating new music using the turntables. But it wasn’t until the 1990s, that the term “turntablism” was created. The role of the DJ was primarily to play music on the turntable and mix the track after the next track. The DJ’s were becoming more skilled, and they were now being called “turntablists”. These turntablists were artists that moved the records and played on the turntable to create new sounds. Along with being the forefathers of hip-hop, DJ Kool Herc, Grandmaster Flash, and Afrika Bambaataa are also the forefathers of turntablism. These three men practiced and mastered the turntables. They established an art of hand eye coordination, and the skill to find certain points in a song by dropping the needle on a record. DJ Kool Herc is known for creating the break beat technique. This technique involves extending the break, the climax of the song. The method he uses is playing two copies of the same record on the turntable, the mixer then switches between them, and it creates a rhythmic beat by looping the breaks (“Feature”). This technique blew the audience away because it was something never done before. The break was often the audience’s favorite part of the song. Afrika Bambaataa was inspired by DJ Kool Herc and brought the break beat technique to street parties.

2. The next terms, I will define are three categories of women in hip-hip: Queen Mother, Fly Girl, and a Sista with Attitude.

The first term is Queen Mother this woman is an African- centered icon. She calls herself a “Nubian queen” or an “intelligent black women” in her lyrics. Female artists in this category usually wear royal or Kente cloth strips, braided styles, and gold jewelry. Their lyrics emphasize female empowerment, and identify themselves as an African queen and warrior. Examples of these female artists would be Queen Latifah and Yo-Yo. (Keyes)

The second term is Fly Girl. This artist is known for her chic clothing, hairstyles, jewelry, and make up. The female hip-hop group “Salt-N-Pepa” is the well-known fly girls of the 1980s. Salt-N-Pepa was known for their ripped jeans, glitter earrings, asymmetric hairstyles, and tight-fitting outfits. Although, they were known for their style, Salt-N-Pepa wanted the world to focus more on their rapping skills. (Keyes)

  1. The last term I will define is Sista with Attitude. A Sista with Attitude is known as being aggressive, arrogant, and defiant. But these women valued attitude as a means of women empowerment. Female artists known for this category are Lauryn Hill, MC Lyte, and Roxanne Shante. Through their lyrics and rapping skills, these women earned respect among their peers, and refused to be second best. (Keyes)


Keyes, Cheryl. “Empowering Self, Making Choices, Creating Spaces: Black Female Identity via Rap Music Performance.” That’s the Joint! 2nd ed. Eds. Murray Forman & Mark Anthony Neal.  New York: Routledge, 2012. 400-409. Print.

“Feature The Art Of Turntablism.” PBS. PBS, n.d. Web. 8 Apr. 2015.


Hip Hop and Technology: From Turntables to Computers

Introduction: Hip Hop and Technology. What forms of technology are used in hip-hop music? How have these technologies evolved? Is there a need for DJ’s since most of them now use computers, and do not use turntables or records anymore?

  1. History of Hip Hop:

What did music sound like before hip-hop?

Race music: Billie Holiday “Strange Fruit”

1960 events: free love, Civil Rights, Vietnam, drug culture, Baby Boomers

Where did hip-hop originate?

-The Bronx

1970s: Hip Hop begins to spread beyond the Bronx, but disco still dominates the radio and club scene

Was hip-hop limited to one area?

The Dirty South



The East coast


LL Cool J

Public Enemy

The West coast

Ice T


Tupac Shakur

How did other countries influence hip -hop, such as Jamaica, Latin America, and Africa?

Who are the founding fathers of hip-hop?

DJ Kool Herc, Afrika Bambaataa, Grandmaster Flash

What are the four main elements of hip-hop, such as the MC, the Deejay, break dancing (expressing the way the music sounds), and graffiti (the visual element)?

  1. Masculine Expressivity in Hip Hop:

How are men portrayed in hip-hop? “The Thug/Gangsta” and “The Player”

Acting tough, taking up space, talking about how bad you are, talking about your possessions

Respect, social identity, and street code

The authenticity aspect of the artists (did you actually live what you are rapping about)

The sincerity of the artists (the topic is not fiction, but fiction for the artists)

What affect does this have on young men and society?

Stereotypes of African-American men

  1. Women in Hip Hop:

How are women portrayed in hip-hop?

The Categories of Women in Hip Hop

  1. Queen Mother example Queen Latifah
  2. Fly Girl example Salt N Pepa
  3. Sista with Attitude example Lauryn Hill

Do women have a place in hip-hop?

Who are influential female rappers?

  1. The Art of Turntablism

The turntables have been around since the 1940s and 1950s

The term ‘turntablism’ was created in the 1990s

DJ’s began to scratch the records back and forth on the turntable creating a scratching noise

The role and evolution of the Disk Jockey or DJ (play records on the turntable, mixing in one track after the other)

  1. The Evolution of Technology of Hip Hop

Hip-hop music mainly consisted of recordings of block parties, but DJ Disco Wiz was the first hip-hop DJ to create a “mixed plate”

-The drumbeat is the backbone of hip-hop music

– With the use of electronic technology it evolves

– The use of layering sounds and beats

-The sound of hip-hop is distinct from other music genres

The technology that are known for producing hip-hop’s distinct sound:

-The turntable

-The synthesizer used for melody and basslines

-The drum machine offered a variety of drum sounds, and creating the bass sound in hip- hop

-The sampler (using an element of someone else’s song and making it in the artists own)

Recording in the studio (using a condenser microphone or dynamic microphone)

Cassette tapes, CDs, and Digital music (iTunes, Sound Cloud, Spotify, YouTube, and Pandora)