Hip-hop at 50: Up from the ashes of urban decay, a creative defiance

Before it was a global movement, it was simply an expression of life and struggle: a culture that was synonymous with hardship and suffering, but also grit, resilience, and creativity.

Hip-hop rose from the ashes of a borough ablaze with poverty, urban decay, and gang violence. It was music that “had the sound of a city in collapse, but also had an air of defiance,” said Mark Naison, a history professor at Fordham University in the Bronx. Block parties and the various elements of hip-hop served as an outlet for creativity and an escape from the hardships of daily life.

The four foundational elements of hip-hop – DJing or turntablism, MCing or rapping, B-boying or break dancing, and graffiti “writing” – emerged from the Bronx as a “cultural response to a community that was institutionally abandoned,” said Rodrigo Venegas, also known as “Rodstarz” of the hip-hop duo Rebel Diaz, made up of two Chilean brothers in the Bronx.