This story is part of our new story Hip-Hop: ’73 to Infinity Series, a celebration of the 50th anniversary of the genre.

“There can be no hip-hop without technology,” Bobcat Goldwave told Gizmodo via phone last week. Goldwave is a Baltimore-based hip-hop producer with over 15 years of experience working in the genre, who has also found success posting his own beats, samples, and mashups. TIC Toc and SoundCloud. As we look back at this revolutionary genre during its 50th birthday this month, it’s important to consider how technology has played a central role in hip-hop’s history: its relationship with the recording industry, the 80s and 90s. Its production during the 1960s, the way it is consumed today, and what will happen next.

Hip-hop is widely believed to have begun in 1973. in The Bronx, New York. A party played a huge role in its origin: DJ Kool Herc, the stage name of 18-year-old Clive Campbell, made records at his sister’s back-to-school party in his apartment’s recreation room. Herc played the records on his dual turntables, but the moment that spawned a genre began when he looped an instrumental snippet of James Brown’s “Give It Up or Turnit a Lose” and rapped over it. Over the next five decades, hip-hop evolved and iterated countless times, but technology – or the lack thereof – became a key piece of the puzzle even before DJ Kool Herc was born.

While phonography, the art of recording sound in a physical form such as a disc or cylinder, developed in the 1870s, the music industry did not see widespread recording of black voices until about 1939.

Eddie Carson told Gizmodo, “It’s called a race record, and race record was literally just to say it’s a record that has a black person’s voice in it, and it becomes a bankable commodity.” Carson is a hip-hop artist and assistant professor of hip-hop and the Global South University of Virginia, ,[T]This is due to racism, because the people who were recording or who were using phonographic technology to make records literally meant that the voices of black people were to be heard live, but in a way that was appropriate for the recording technology at the time. Wasn’t

Six years after Herc spun, and decades after the black voice was first recorded, singer and record producer Sylvia Robinson married the two into a single piece of technology—a rap record. Carson credits Robinson with being the first person to invent the rap record after assembling a band and a group of kids to perform a song in a studio in 1979. That song was Sugarhill Gang’s “Rapper’s Delight”, and it was this track that forced hip-hop to become, as Carson described it, a “bankable commodity”, and shifted the genre from live to recorded. .

Carson said, “The change from hip-hop to hip-hop on stage or hip-hop at a house party, which you can sell as eight tracks or whatever, it’s a technological intervention.” Is.” “He invented the rap record.”

Hip-hop quickly became the biggest trend in music. While most trends in the music industry come and go, this style remained strong through the 80’s and 90’s. During that time, hip-hop production took on a new form. Drum machines like the famous Roland TR-808Released in 1980, it allowed producers to experiment with new sounds and textures. Meanwhile, rappers also began experimenting with tape loops, where a section of magnetic tape from a cassette would be joined end-to-end to create a nonstop section of music that was repeated, just like Herc did it in 1973 with his turntables. Manufacturers also got creative with the technology they already had available. Carson noted, for example, that manufacturers eventually figured out that they could slow down tracks on a tape player or record player to half the speed, which allowed them to effectively double the volume of the music when they played. Could have accelerated it back.

At the turn of the century, rappers continued to push the limits of the technology available to them. For example, Autotune is a pitch correction software released in the late 90s, but rapper T-Pain used it during his early career in the mid-2000s to add a distinctive digital and robotic texture to his voice. Seen as an opportunity. , his 2009 track “buy ua piya” propelled him, and the effect, into the mainstream.

Meanwhile, digital audio workspaces, or DAWs, became ubiquitous in studios everywhere, centralizing all the analog tools producers previously used into one piece of software. These DAWs revolutionized computers and introduced entirely new production workflows and subgenres of hip-hop such as “chipmunk soul,’ in which producers such as Kanye West and Just Blaze cut vocal samples from Soul Records and sped them up, while rapping on top. West used this technique in his 2004 song “through the wire” in which he sampled Chaka Khan’s “Through the Fire”, released in 1984. DAWs are still an integral part of music creation today, and Goldwave points to their weapon of choice, Ableton. As a DAW that lets him do it all. This software is also used by hip-hop hitmakers kenny beatswho has produced for Gucci Mane and Roddy Rich, and london ondatrackwho worked on Drake’s “Sneakin'”.

“I love Ableton because you can do anything with it. However you choose to build, you can build entirely in Ableton,” said Goldwave. “If I just want to track audio, or if I want to play guitar, and drums, and record instruments, I can do that. If I just want to cut samples and rearrange things and play MIDI, I can do that. If I want to take all my recordings and everything and play it live and improvise live, I can do that.

While the music industry has moved away from analog machines for production, there will always be a place for hardware in hip-hop production. goldwave said that tools like machines Provide an opportunity to step away from the computer screen and use the touch pad to create music. The Machine is a piece of music-creation technology developed by Native Instruments that creators can connect to their DAW to create entire beats using the technology’s drum pads, knobs and switches.

Goldwave said, “You’re taking the source material, or a piece of it, and reusing it, re-contextualizing it, and making it completely your own.” “I love the beauty of sampling. I love hearing someone else tell me about their music history through their samples. It’s so powerful because it allows everyone to have their own individual voice. To What do they want to bring into the equation?”

Today, technology is not only evolving and influencing the creation of hip-hop, but it is also changing the way the genre is consumed. Hip-hop is no longer controlled by radio DJs and people like MTV, and anyone with a few extra dollars every month can access almost the entire genre with streaming services whenever they want. During the 2010s, platforms such as Spotify and Apple Music democratized the way music was consumed, and hip-hop’s popularity skyrocketed. most streamlined style on those services. Carson said the incident is a powerful representation of confronting American culture’s tendency to tell an antiquated version of its own problematic history—a version that often undermines the black experience.

,[That trend] It shows that there is a kind of narrative power that isn’t coming from the powerful institutions that have previously given us music and mythical stories about country,” Carson said. “I think streaming services, or the consumption of hip-hop, is a direct line to what’s under the covers in America.”

Hip-Hop’s AI Problem

Like industries around the world, hip-hop producers are struggling to decide what to do with artificial intelligence. earlier this year, An AI-generated song called “Heart on My Sleeve” that mimics Drake and The Weeknd’s voices It was pulled from streaming services after it went viral. Major music labels have also raised concerns over copyright issues in this uncharted territory-Universal Music Group asks streaming services to stop AI engines from scraping their content, Carson, in one Article He wrote for The Washington Post, cautioning that AI’s role in separating black voices from their bodies is indicative of how early rap pioneers were exploited and exploited. Goldwave said he doesn’t want to hop on the freight train of the recent boom in AI popularity, but he does want to find productive ways to add it to his workflow.

“AI is a big wave that’s coming for everything at the same time, and it causes a lot of fear and paranoia, but at the same time, it’s also a powerful tool,” Goldwave said. “I try not to focus so much on the fear of the inevitable because I’m just a producer. I can’t stop the wave of AI, but I can try to implement it in my set up to do what I do best.,

From the debut of DJ Kool Herc’s turntable in The Bronx to the controversy surrounding it AI-generated rapper on TikTok rapperHip-hop has evolved and changed as technology has done the same, but where AI will take the genre is anyone’s guess. As hip-hop artists have broken the boundaries of the genre and broken the rules of technology time and time again, one thing is clear: It will happen again.


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