HEAVY METAL, PUNK AND HIP-HOP STYLE MUSIC

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HEAVY METAL, PUNK AND HIP-HOP STYLE MUSIC

Following the turbulent political, social and musical changes of the 1960s and early 1970s, rock music diversified. What was formerly a discrete genre known as rock and roll evolved into a catchall category called simply rock music, which came to include diverse styles like heavy metal and punk rock.

During the ’70s most of these styles were evolving in the underground music scene, while mainstream audiences began the decade with a wave of singer-songwriters who drew on the deeply emotional and personal lyrics of 1960s folk rock. The same period saw the rise of bombastic arena rock bands, bluesy Southern rock groups and mellow soft rock stars. Beginning in the later 1970s, the rock singer and songwriter Bruce Springsteen became a major star, with anthemic songs and dense, inscrutable lyrics that celebrated the poor and working class.

Punk was a form of rebellious rock that began in the 1970s, and was loud, aggressive and often very simple. Punk began as a reaction against the popular music of the period, especially disco and arena rock. American bands in the field included, most famously, The Ramones and Talking Heads, the latter playing a more avant-garde style that was closely associated with punk before evolving into mainstream new wave. Other major acts include Blondie, Patti Smith and Television. In the 1980s some punk fans and bands became disillusioned with the growing popularity of the style, resulting in an even more aggressive style called hardcore punk. Hardcore was a form of sparse punk, consisting of short, fast, and intense songs that spoke to disaffected youth, with such influential bands as Bad Religion, Bad Brains, Black Flag, Dead Kennedys and Minor Threat. Hardcore began in metropolises like Washington, DC, though most major American cities had their own local scenes in the 1980s.

Hardcore, punk, and garage rock were the roots of alternative rock, a diverse grouping of rock subgenres that were explicitly opposed to mainstream music, and that arose from the punk and post-punk styles. In the United States, many cities developed local alternative rock scenes, including Minneapolis and Seattle. Seattle’s local scene produced grunge music, a dark and brooding style inspired by hardcore, psychedelic and alternative rock. With the addition of a more melodic element to the sound of bands like Nirvana and Pearl Jam, grunge became wildly popular across the United States in 1991.

Heavy metal is characterized by aggressive, driving rhythms, amplified and distorted guitars, grandiose lyrics and virtuosic instrumentation. Heavy metal’s origins lie in the hard rock bands who took blues and rock and created a heavy sound centered around the guitar and drums. Most of the pioneers in the field were British; the first major American bands came in the early 1970s, like Blue Oyster Cult, KISS and Aerosmith. Heavy metal remained, however, a largely underground phenomenon. During the 1980s the first major pop-metal style arose and dominated the charts for several years kicked off by metal act Quiet Riot and dominated by bands such as Motley Crue and Ratt; this was glam metal, a hard rock and pop fusion with a raucous spirit and a glam-influenced visual aesthetic. Some of these bands, like Bon Jovi, became international stars. The band Guns N’ Roses rose to fame near the end of the decade with an image that was a reaction against the glam metal aesthetic.

By the mid-1980s heavy metal had branched in so many different directions that fans, record companies, and fanzines created numerous subgenres. The United States was especially known for one of these subgenres, thrash metal, which was innovated by bands like Anthrax, Metallica, Megadeth and Slayer, with Metallica being the most commercially successful. The United States was known as one of the birthplaces of Death Metal during the mid to late 1980s. The Florida scene was the most well-known, featuring bands like Death, Morbid Angel, Cannibal Corpse, Decide, and many others. There are now countless death metal and death grind bands across the country today.

Hip Hop is a cultural movement, of which music is a part. Hip Hop music for the most part is itself composed of two parts: rapping, the delivery of swift, highly rhythmic and lyrical vocals; and DJing and/ or producing, the production of instrumentation either through sampling, instrumentation, turntablism or through beatboxing, the production of musical sounds through vocalized tones. Hip hop arose in the early 1970s in The Bronx, New York City. Jamaican immigrant DJ Kool Herc is widely regarded as the progenitor of hip hop; he brought with him from Jamaica the practice of toasting over the rhythms of popular songs. Emcees originally arose to introduce the soul, funk and R&B songs that the DJs played, and to keep the crowd excited and dancing; over time, the DJs began isolating the percussion break of songs (when the rhythm climaxes), producing a repeated beat that the emcees rapped over.

By the beginning of the 1980s, there were popular hip hop songs, and the celebrities of the scene, like LL Cool J, gained mainstream renown. Other performers experimented with politicized lyrics and social awareness, or fused hip hop with jazz, heavy metal, techno, funk and soul. New styles appeared in the latter part of the 1980s, like alternative hip hop and the closely related jazz rap fusion, pioneered by rappers like De La Soul.

Gangsta rap is a kind of hip hop, most importantly characterized by a lyrical focus on macho sexuality, physicality and a dangerous criminal image. Though the origins of gangsta rap can be traced back to the mid-1980s style of Philadelphia’s Schoolly D and the West Coast’s Ice-T, the style broadened and came to apply to many different regions in the country, to rappers from New York, such as Notorious B.I.G. and influential hip hop group Wu-Tang Clan, and to rappers on the West Coast, such as Too Short and N.W.A. A distinctive West Coast rap scene spawned the early 1990s G-Funk sound, which paired gangsta rap lyrics with a thick and hazy sound, often from 1970s funk samples; the best-known proponents were the rappers 2Pac, Dr. Dre, Ice Cube and Snoop Dogg. Gangsta rap continued to exert a major presence in American popular music through the end of the 1990s and early into the 21st century.

 Kathy Kiefer

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