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Hip Hop History


“Born in the Bronx and raised across the American West and South, hip-hop is one of the most influential genres of music in the modern era,” said Kevin Young, the Andrew W. Mellon Director of NMAAHC. “Through beats, dynamic rhymes, and pointed lyricism, hip-hop has provided a platform for communities and generations to voice their ongoing struggles and has changed society and culture around the world.”

In hip-hop’s early years, some critics refused to acknowledge the art form as music, dismissing it instead as unoriginal and uncreative. As a result, hip-hop spent its first decade of growth as a niche genre that much of the music industry assumed would burn out in a short time. As hip-hop nears its 50th anniversary, it is the most popular musical genre in the U.S., with notable influence and impact in all aspects of American culture. Arguably one of the last music countercultures, hip-hop is instrumental in shaping and narrating the stories of America’s inner cities.

-The National Museum of African American History and Culture, 2021


All Rap is Local

Credit: Jackie Lay & Connie Hanzhang Jin/NPR

As it celebrates its 50th birthday, hip-hop is a global phenomenon. But to map the music's true impact, you have to look closer. Here's a guide to rap history, charted across more than a dozen cities.