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The 4 Elements Of Hip Hop

Though not discussed in today's mixes, the 4 elements of hip hop are as present today as ever.

By Skunk UzekiPublished 7 years ago 4 min read

Most hip hop fans know all about the latest album dropped, the latest gossip between rappers, or the newest video vixen to get mainstream status. They can also tell you volumes about urban streetwear, new sneaker releases, and the hottest clubs to go to in the city.

But, from what I've seen, it takes a real OG to name off what old school hip hop fans coined the Four Elements of Hip Hop. The fact is that you don't really hear much about them in rap lyrics these days - and as a result, some even are wondering if they've been played out.

It was Afrika Bambaataa and Zulu Nation that first actually spoke about the four pillars of hip hop culture as a whole. As many hip hop heads can tell you, that means it's really old school - to the point that it predates Snoop Dogg's celebrity status.

Even though people don't rap about them in today's mixes, the truth is that there's no doubt that these four elements are just as relevant in modern hip hop as they were back in the early 90s.


Yes, though there were electronic music groups out there before hip hop's advent, it'd be a boldfaced lie to not point out that the vast majority of electronica groups have hip hop to thank for some level of music technique.

DJing, beatmaking, and turntablism was one of the founding pillars of hip hop - and any time that you hear a sick beat in a hip hop track, you'll understand why. Hip hop was actually one of the first genres of music to really get innovative with beat drops and was the genre that brought record scratches and beat matching to the forefront.

Beat drops? Those are thanks to hip hop. So, EDM fans have hip hop to thank for that.

Turntable scratches? Very much a hip hop thing, and that's still obvious.

Fading? Also a hip hop technique, commonly applied to pop music, rock music, and even industrial.

Remixes? Yes, hip hoppers majorly helped move this along too, even though actual remix processes started to develop in the 50s.


Now known as rapping, spitting, cyphering, or rhyming, MCing is a very obvious mainstay in hip hop culture. The original idea behind MCing is that it was originally a form of poetry that would discuss a lot of issues people were going through. Eventually, rapping became more synonymous with the kind of stuff that you hear on Hot 97.1.

A lot of kids who were growing up in inner city systems were able to find a positive outlet for their struggles thanks to MCing. Rappers like Nas also are known for bringing positive lyrics into hip hop, making it a very popular outlet to help people avoid buckling to pressures of inner city life.

To this day, MCing is the most visible pillar of hip hop.


If you watch almost any hip hop video out there, you will see some form of breakdancing. Whether it's old school 80s b-boy style windmills, krumping, klowning, twerking, dance hall wilin', liquid, or trick-hooping doesn't matter. Breakdancing is breakdancing, plain and simple.

The funny thing about breakdancing is that it's a big ol' middle finger to the way things used to be. Breakdancing is meant to be a little bit different from person to person. That's why so many breakers have signature moves that they flaunt on dance floors - and why so many moves have multiple names they go by.

Breaking is both a personal and regional thing. Like DJing and MCing, it's a form of art that allows you to show your love for music and let loose your emotions in a beautiful way.

It's breakdancing's individual focus that really shows hip hop's true spirit. Someone might have high windmills. Another person may be known for their ability to rest their ankle on their shoulder while twerking. Others still might pop and lock like a living statue. What I'm saying is that breaking is all about you and your love of hip hop.


Part of the entire culture of hip hop deals with aesthetics, rebellion, and to a point, individuality. Though graffiti itself has been around for millennia, Zulu Nation called it a main element of hip hop because of its pervasiveness around inner cities, its tendency to celebrate one's unique style, and the fact that it somehow just went well with the music.

Graffiti, at the time of Zulu Nation's rise to fame, was an activity that many people who partook in breaking, DJing and MCing did. In a way, it's considered the visual version of rap music by those who are very much into hip hop culture.

Even today, this element tends to be seen in hip hop clothing, sneakers, and even art galleries. As such, it's time we start being honest. Hip hop has become a mainstay of American culture - and it's time we embrace it as the inspiration that it is.

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About the Creator

Skunk Uzeki

Skunk Uzeki is an androgynous pothead and a hard partier. When they aren't drinking and causing trouble, they're writing articles about the fun times they have.

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