Hip Hop Music and the Civil Rights Movement: A Comparison

1. Introduction:

The purpose of this essay is to study present-day forms of Hip Hop music, and to compare and contrast them to the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960's/70's. In order to do this, the essay will first provide a brief overview of the Civil Rights Movement and the role that music played in it. Following this, the essay will discuss the emergence of Hip Hop in the 1970's, including its roots and early influences. Finally, the essay will conclude by noting some of the ways in which Hip Hop has continued the tradition of using music as a tool for social and political protest.

2. 1960’s Civil Rights Era and Music:

The 1960's were a turbulent time in America, marked by racial tensions, social unrest, and political upheaval. At the center of this was the Civil Rights Movement, which fought for equality and opportunity for black Americans. Music played a vital role in this movement, both as a form of expression and as a tool for organizing and motivating people.

2. 1 Martin Luther King Jr. and the Civil Rights Movement:

One of the most important leaders of the Civil Rights Movement was Martin Luther King Jr., who used his platform as a Baptist minister to speak out against injustice and call for change. His speeches were often accompanied by music, which he saw as a way to bring people together and inspire them to action. For example, his 1963 "I Have A Dream" speech was famously set to the tune of "My Country, 'Tis of Thee" (later popularized by Whitney Houston), while his 1968 "Mountaintop" speech was set to "Precious Lord, Take My Hand" (later popularized by Mahalia Jackson). These songs served as anthems for the Civil Rights Movement, and helped to unite people behind King's vision for a more just society.

2. 2 Motown and the Sound of Young America:

Another important figure in the Civil Rights Movement was Motown founder Berry Gordy, who helped to break down racial barriers in the music industry. Gordy founded Motown Records in 1959, and over the next decade it would become one of the most successful record labels in America. Motown artists such as Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, Diana Ross, and The Supremes found massive crossover success with both black and white audiences, helping to bridge the gap between different cultures. This success was due in part to Gordy's insistence on writing songs that were universal in appeal, with relatable themes like love and heartbreak that anyone could identify with regardless of race or background. Motown's success showed that black artists could achieve mainstream success without compromising their identity or artistry, proving that music could be a force for social change.

3. 1970’s and the Development of Hip Hop:

The 1970's saw the emergence of a new genre of music called Hip Hop. This genre was born out of the urban poor neighborhoods of New York City, and its early pioneers were mostly black and Latino. Hip Hop would go on to become one of the most popular and influential genres of music in the world, and its rise to prominence paralleled the rise of the Civil Rights movement.

3. 1 The Birthplace of Hip Hop: The Bronx:

Hip Hop was born in the South Bronx neighborhood of New York City in the early 1970's. This area was characterized by poverty, crime, and a lack of opportunity, which led to a feeling of frustration and anger among its residents. This anger found an outlet in the form of Hip Hop, which became a way for people to express themselves and vent their frustrations. The earliest forms of Hip Hop were DJing and MCing, which soon evolved into graffiti art and breakdancing. These four elements would come to be known as the "four pillars of Hip Hop", and they would form the foundation of the Hip Hop culture.

3. 2 Early Influences on Hip Hop Culture:

Hip Hop culture was heavily influenced by the Black Power movement of the 1960's/70's. This movement advocated for black pride and empowerment, and its leaders such as Malcolm X and Huey Newton inspired many young people in the Bronx. In addition, the Jamaican immigrant community in the Bronx introduced many young people to reggae music, which would also have a big impact on the development of Hip Hop. Reggae artists such as Bob Marley and Peter Tosh were big advocates for social change, and their music helped to inspire a generation of Hip Hop artists who would use their art to fight against injustice.

4. Conclusion:

Hip Hop has its roots in the Civil Rights movement of the 1960's/70's, and it has continued the tradition of using music as a tool for social and political protest. Hip Hop artists have used their music to speak out against injustice and call for change, just as Martin Luther King Jr. and other leaders of the Civil Rights Movement did. In addition, Hip Hop has helped to break down racial barriers and promote understanding and cooperation between different cultures. As the world continues to face social and political turmoil, Hip Hop will no doubt continue to be a powerful force for change.


Hip hop music originated in the Bronx, New York City, in the 1970s. DJ Kool Herc is credited as being one of the first hip hop DJs, and he is also credited with inventing the break beat.

Hip hop music developed over time to include elements of rap, graffiti art, and break dancing. In the 1980s, hip hop music became more mainstream with the help of artists like Run-DMC and Public Enemy.

The relationship between hip hop music and the protest tradition of the 1960’s is a complicated one. Some people argue that hip hop music is a continuation of the protest tradition, while others argue that it has been co-opted by commercial interests.

Hip hop music has been used as a tool for social change in many different ways. For example, rappers have used their lyrics to raise awareness about issues like police brutality and racism. Hip hop songs have also been used to promote positive messages about education and personal responsibility.

Some of the most famous and influential songs in the history of hip hop music include “Rapper’s Delight” by The Sugarhill Gang, “Fight The Power” by Public Enemy, “Straight Outta Compton” by NWA, and “All Eyez On Me” by Tupac Shakur.

Hip hop music has evolved in recent years to include more diverse styles and influences from other genres of music such as electronic dance music (EDM). We can expect to see more diversity in hip hop music in the future as it continues to be influenced by other genres of music