Technics turntable used by Grandmaster Flash and a phonograph record of "Bustin' Loose Part 1" by Chuck Brown and the Soul Searchers. The arrow on the record label is an example of Flash's "clock theory." National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution.
A recent photo of 1520 Sedgwick Avenue in the West Bronx, where Kool DJ Herc threw his first hip-hop parties. Photo by Bigtimepeace.
B-Girl Laneski break dancing in New York City, 1985. National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institution.
Sometimes a culture of innovation blossoms as a product of its environment, nurtured by the physical and ideological elements of a place ... and sometimes innovation flourishes in spite of its surroundings. The hip-hop movement tells the latter story.
Parts of New York City in the 1970s were blighted places in beleaguered times. Documentarian Bill Adler called the Bronx of that era "the American poster child for urban decay."  Arsonists reduced block after block of buildings to rubble, and the poverty, corruption, and violence that pervaded the city were amplified in the Bronx.
Against this grim backdrop, inspiring proponents of problem-solving, risk-taking, and creativity appeared. Hip-hop artists and their fans pursued joy and self-expression despite the dire realities of their surroundings. Painful times for a city and a nation became times of discovery and experimentation for disenfranchised youth in the Bronx.
Four elements of the hip-hop movement--graffiti art, break dancing, DJing, and MCing (rapping)--emerged together, but the earliest hip-hop parties centered on the disc jockey. DJs Kool Herc and Grandmaster Flash were not the only pioneers, but they exemplify the drive, skill, and resourcefulness that created hip-hop.
Read more »
-- Amanda Murray