DJs, dancers, graffiti artists – each of these originators played a role in the evolution of hip hop, but there's one more crucial player that needs to be recognized …
Hip hop culture was born out of Bronx house parties in the 1970s, and those parties were nothing without MCs.
DJs spun the records. B-boys dropped the moves. But the MCs were the life of the party.
Their job? Keep the energy up. Keep the crowd hyped. Keep the party moving.
Here's how it all went down …
THE ORIGINAL MCs
To understand the full history of MCs, you need to go back—way back.
The term "master of ceremonies" had been traced backed to the 5th century, but it may actually go back even further. The Catholic Church has been using the term for centuries, referring to officials who help oversee Mass and other papal events.
More generally, the term is now widely used in all forms of cultural events, referring to a host who speaks to the audience, performs, entertains and keeps an event moving from one performance to the next.
It wasn't until the early 1970s that MCs became synonymous with hip hop.
MORE THAN A DJ
DJ Kool Herc (born Clive Campbell) is widely known as one of the first hip hop DJs and the "founding father" of hip hop itself.
But Herc was more than a DJ. He was the host.
His parties at 1520 Sedgwick Avenue in the Bronx became legendary for their crowds. The energy was off the charts, and that was all because of Herc. He mixed records in a way nobody had ever heard before, giving dancers more time to do their thing. He energized them and called out to them, sometimes creating his own rhymes: "B-boys, b-girls, are you ready? Keep on, rock steady."
He didn't know it at the time, but he was creating the signature sound of hip hop. And in the process, he was setting off a cultural revolution.
THE FIRST RAP ARTISTS
By the 1980s, the term "MCing" (or emceeing) became synonymous with rapping. MCs would introduce new DJs and fill the time between with their own lyrical skills. Soon, introducing another performer became a performance in itself. MCs would share their latest rhymes or just freestyle until the next DJ got set up – whatever it took to keep the crowd energized.
Many of those early MCs would go on to become hip hop artists, taking their lyrical ability beyond the party and breaking into the music industry.
Early influential MCs include Grandmaster Caz, Kurtis Blow, MC Kool Moe Dee, Run-DMC, Melle Mel and KRS-One (Lawrence "Kris" Parker).
MOVING THE CROWD
MCs have been pivotal to the evolution of hip hop culture. Today, many people use the terms MC and "hip hop artist" interchangeably. But the key difference is that an MC is all about "moving the crowd" … electrifying the audience … using lyrical wit to keep crowds engaged. A hip hop artist can be a great lyricist but might not have the improvisational talent of an MC.
A good MC is the difference between a dope party and a dead one. Their talent might not get the same attention as a show's headliner. But without the MC, the show would grind to a halt.
Why does it matter to us?
At a.fatti, we're here to shine the spotlight on those who push the boundaries of creativity and cool factor. And that's exactly what MCs have been doing from the very beginning. Our STREETLEISURE brand is built on the mindset that each person is capable of WAY more than they think. Invent. Reinvent. Raise the bar. That is the mindset that inspires us.
We give props to all the MCs out there who continue to step up their game and keep pushing the evolution of hip hop even further.