‘Rivers of Rhythm’: Episode 6 Focuses on Hip Hop

Videos by American Songwriter

Videos by American Songwriter

“Hip Hop emerged from the streets—Rap, rhythm. and poetry, metaphors, punchlines, rhyme schemes and inner-city dreams. Block parties with DJs playing funk-filled breakbeats and emcee chanting, getting the people on their feet. If the emcee told partygoers to raise their hands in the air or repeat something that he said, that’s exactly what they did. And that’s the power of hip hop,” the narrator says kicking off the sixth and final episode of Rivers of Rhythm.

The six-part video series presented by American Songwriter and Renasant Bank highlights the work of the National Museum of African American Music (NMAAM), celebrating the accomplishments of Black musicians and artists during Black History Month.

The series features interviews with some of today’s artists, alongside perspectives from leading historians and curators. Episode 6 takes a deep dive into the days of Hip Hop, which includes Run DMC, NWA, 2Live Crew, Queen Latifah, The Sugar Hill Gang, Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, Jay-Z, Dr. Dre, and Puff Daddy.

“Hip hop music reflected the attitudes of the community in the South Bronx, it reflected the need for a positive outlet for the youth in a community that was disintegrating because of the effects of urban renewal, because of the destruction across the community with the construction of the Cross Bronx Expressway,” said Dr. Steven Lewis of the National Museum of African American Music.

“They were growing up in a crumbling world around them really. That’s what they were seeing, no one was investing in them, no one was really giving them much and they wanted to talk about that and express that in their music,” added Dr. Marquita Reed-Wright of the National Museum of African American Music.

Music Educator Franklin Willis goes on to explain the five elements of hip hop.

  1. DJ – the one who moves the crowd, who enlivens everyone and gets everyone excited about the music
  2. Rapping – the lyrics, the story and putting that on the beat.
  3. Daning – all about hip hop culture and expressing yourself through music.
  4. Graffiti – (Huge in the ’80s and ’90s) putting your art, your lived experience once again on the wall
  5. Conciousness – shareing your lived authentic self through the music.


“When it’s controversy people want to know more about it,” says Willis. “So when it became a part of the political landscape more people actually started listening to it.”

Watch the full episode below and check out episodes 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5 of Rivers of Rhythm HEREHERE HERE, HERE, and HERE

Episode 1: The Music of Africa – Watch HERE.
Episode 2: Spirituals & Gospel – Watch HERE.

Episode 3: The Blues – Watch HERE.
Episode 4: Jazz -Watch HERE.
Episode 5: Rhythm & Blues – Watch HERE.
Episode 6: Hip Hop – Watch Below.

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