New school Hip-Hop

The new school of hip-hop was a movement in hip-hop music starting 1983-1984 with the early records of Run-D.M.C. and LL Cool J. Hip-hop came predominately from New York City. The new school was initially characterized in form by drum machines led by minimalism, often tinged with elements of rock. It was notable for taunts and boasts about rapping, and socio-political commentary. Both delivered in an aggressive, self-assertive style. These elements contrasted sharply with the funk and disco influenced outfits, novelty hits, live bands, synthesizers and party rhymes of artists prevalent in 1984, and rendered them old school. New school artists made shorter songs that could more easily gain radio play and more cohesive LPs than their old school counterparts. By 1986 their releases began to establish the hip-hop album as a fixture of the mainstream.


Hip-hop production became denser, rhymes and beats faster, as the drum machine was augmented with the sampler technology. Rakim took lyrics about the art of rapping to new heights, while KRS-One and Chuck D pushed “message rap” towards black activism. With the eventual commercial dominance of West Coast gangsta rap, particularly the emergence of the relaxed sounds of G-funk by the early nineties, the East Coast new school/golden age can be said to have ended, with hardcore rappers such as the Wu-Tang Clan and gangsta rappers such as Nas and The Notorious B.I.G. coming to dominate the East Coast scene.

The terms “old school” and “new school” have fallen more and more into the common vernacular as synonyms for “old” and “new” and are often applied in this conversational way to hip-hop, to the confusion and occasional exasperation of writers who use the terms historically.

Elements of new school commercially successful had existed in some form in the culture since hip-hop’s birth. The first MCs rapped over DJs swapping back and forth between two copies of the same record playing the same drum break or playing instrumental portions or versions of a broad range of records. Kool DJ Herc initiated this part of the culture in 1972, using breaks from James Brown, The Incredible Bongo Band and English rock group Babe Ruth in his block parties. Brown’s music—“extensive vamps” in which his voice was “a percussive instrument with frequent rhythmic grunts” and “with rhythm-section patterns…[resembling] West African polyrhythms”—was a keynote of hip-hop’s early days.

Cepeda, Raquel (ed.) And It Don’t Stop!, New York: Faber and Faber, Inc., 2004. ISBN 978-0-571-21159-3

Coleman, Brian. Check The Technique, 2nd. ed., New York: Villard, 2007. ISBN 978-0-8129-7775-2

Cross, Brian. It’s Not About a Salary…, New York: Verso, 1993. ISBN 978-0-86091-620-8

Shapiro, Peter. Rough Guide to Hip Hop, 2nd. ed., London: Rough Guides, 2005. ISBN 978-1-84353-263-7

Toop, David. Rap Attack, 3rd. ed., London: Serpent’s Tail, 2000. ISBN 978-1-85242-627-9


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