The History of British Hip Hop Music
by Alex Cosper (12/03/13)

British hip hop music grew from dub music that migrated to the UK from Jamaica during the 1960s and 1970s. Dancehall and reggae deejays who made "toasts" over instrumental tracks helped influence the genre. These instrumentals were often b-sides to popular American hits, as deejays adlibbed rhythmic lyrics over instrumentals. Musically, the styles grew from Caribbean dub, mento, calypso, ska and reggae. Dub evolved from reggae as a subgenre and is based on manipulating existing recordings with rever or enhancing the highs and lows of rhythm through equalization.

An early pioneer of toasting was deejay Count Matchuki from Jamaica in the late 1950s. He was influential to another deejay named U-Roy, who also helped develop the rap style. Both Matchuki and U-Roy imitated American radio announcers by talking over the intros of songs. One of the initial inventions that came from this activity was beatboxing in which deejays added elements called "peps" to parts of recordings they thought needed enhancement.

As toasting developed throughout the sixties in became a practice of telling funny stories and commentary over music with rhymes. This type of music pre-dated DJ Kool Herc in America, who emerged in 1974 as a social commentary storyteller over beats, which influenced the music of Kurtis Blow, Grandmaster Flash and Sugar Hill Gang. Herc was originally from Jamaica before making his mark in New York and was influenced by the pioneers of toasting.

The connection between Jamaica and the UK was that Jamaica was ruled by England from 1655 until 1962. Spain had claimed the Caribbean island after Christopher Columbus found it in 1494. Africans, who were treated as slaves, had become the dominant race of the land by the 1670s. The slave trade was abolished in 1807 and the British completely abolished slavery by 1834. By 1958 Jamaica named a province of the Federation of the West Indies, which was under the rule of the British West Indies. Four years later Jamaica gained full independence from the UK.

British hip hop started to become experimental following the American success of artists like Grandmaster Flash and the Sugar Hill Gang in the late seventies. Early pioneers of British hip hop included Dizzy Heights, who had a hit called "Christmas Rapping," Adam and the Ants, who had a hit called "Ant Rap" and Wham, who had a hit called "Wham Rap." Although Falco came from Germany, his rappish melodic hit "Der Kommissar" was covered by British Rock band After the Fire, who had the bigger hit in America. Murray Head's "One Night in Bangkok" became a hit in 1984, which helped spawn many records that mixed rap and melody.

Check out information on the following British music scenes:

Bangor, UK
Belfast, UK
Birmingham, UK
Cambridge, UK
Cardiff, UK
Coventry, UK

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