MCing is the art of rapping. MC stands for ‘master of ceremonies’, and that is exactly what MC’s were. Early rappers were simply there to host the party. In the early days of hip hop the DJ was the main attraction. Hip Hop started when DJ Kool Herc came to New York, from Jamaica in 1970. Herc invented the ‘break beat’, which allowed for easier dancing because of a continuos beat. Kool Herc brought with him, from Jamaica, a style of talking over tracks called ‘toasting’. DJ’s had been toasting over reggae rhythms in Jamaica for several years and Herc copied this style and while playing sets would pump up the crowd by shouting things like, “Throw your hands in the air / and wave them like you just don’t care!” This was known as ‘rapping to the crowd’. Kool Herc invited his friends Coke La Rock and Clark Kent to MC for him while he cut up break beats, and this became the first rap group, called Kool Herc and the Herculiods. Other groups started copying the Herculiods and the rest is hip hop history.
At first the raps were simple, but as time pasted groups had to evolve their styles to stay ahead of the rest. Some MC’s started doing a style called beat-box, by vocally copying the sounds that a DJ could make on the turntables. Beat-boxing is considered the hardest thing an MC can do, and only a handful of MC's have mastered the beatbox.
MC’s soon became the the headliners at shows and people would come to clubs and parties to hear different groups and MC’s battle each other with rhymes. ‘Freestyling’ was the most popular form of finding out who was the best rapper. MC’s would make up lyrics on the spot, which where often offensive to the person they were battling. Nowadays MC’s raps are very intricate and a lot more complicated than the simple ‘rock the crowd’/ throw your hands in the air’ raps of the late 1970’s and early 80’s. Instead my rappers use their talents to tell the stories of the ghetto ills and personal tribulations, but the freestyle remains the number one way of finding out who's the best.
Hip hop's initial commercial successes from 1979 to 1986 were with small, independent labels like Sugar Hill and Enjoy. As soon as the majors figured out what was going on in the streets they jumped to get a piece of the action. By 1986 groups, like Run DMC were getting major radio airplay and hip hop had officially hit the mainstream. White kids in suburbia began buying records and by the late eighties, rap artists were making top ten on the charts.
1988 to 1994, was known as the golden era of hip hop. Some of the greatest hip hop artists of all time came out during these years. Public Enemy used their fame to promote black unity, while N.W.A and Dr. Dre started ‘gangsta’ rap on the West coast. There was a huge amount of diversity in the music to choose from. Major labels signed as many rappers as they could and many independent labels died off. Rap records started reaching gold and even platinum sales with albums by Nas, Tupac Shakur, and Notorious B.I.G. Everything was looking great for the music.
Then came the mid-nineties. Hip hop had become overrun with violence and between September 13, 1996 and March 9, 1997, the hip hop world had lost its two biggest names, Tupac and B.I.G, to the infamous East Coast / West Coast rivalry. It was a sad year for many fans, but at the same time, hip hop music was selling more than ever.