Painting on walls is around since mankind exists but Writing (also known as “Graffiti”) set a new standard. Forerunners of today’s well known phenomenon were writings of political activists and so called gang graffitis which were used by gangs to mark their territory. Not till the end of the 60ies Writing started to develop as we know it nowadays. Individuals wrote their nicknames all over to make it famous (writing the name, thus writer/writing). Already from the middle until the end of the 1960ies two writers from Philadelphia with the nicknames Cornbread and Cool Earl wrote their names all over the town and thus also attracted attention to the local press. It is not quite clear how this phenomenon found its way to New York and if there is a connection at all or if it was a spontaneous appearance but soon after writers also appeared in Washington Heights (New York City). One of the very first and most important was Julio 204. Other names like Frank 297 and Joe 136 could be seen really early too. The first writer who got known all over New York was Taki 183. It was the nickname of a Greek named Demetrius who lived in the 183. street and who was a foot messenger and thus was moving through the whole town. His numerous “tags” with this unusual name caused the New York Times to write an article about him in 1971. Because of that he got well known and more and more writers started to write their tags all over the town. In the beginning is was enough to write his name as often as possible to get famous but as the competition was getting tougher and the rivals more numerous it wasn’t long until also the subway system was used to spread his name and it was also more and more about how one wrote his name to stand out of the mass. Because of that everybody had to be creative by developing their own alphabet and style of the letters. This was the beginning of the “Stylewars”. To stand out even more and be different and unique, soon after also decorations were added to the letters. The next step was the size: As one was limited with markers people started to use spraycans with which one could also write much bigger and thicker letters. Because of that soon after the outlines of the letters were painted with another color and also decorations were added to the surface of the letters. The first so called masterpiece was done by Super Cool 223. Other pioneers were people like Stay High 149, Phase 2, Riff 140, Tracy 168, Cliff 159, Blade, Flint 707 and many more.
B-Boying – also known as Breaking or “Breakdance” (the latter term was created by the media) – should not be mixed up with Popping (Electric Boogaloo) and Locking because these dance styles have their own terms, histories and pioneers. The expression B-Boying probably originated from the african word “Boioing” which means to “hop, jump” and which was used in the Bronx River area (NYC) to describe the bouncy style of Breaking that the B-Boys did. It was also used to describe the ball on their ski hats that went boioing when they danced. The “B” of B-Girl/B-Boy stands for Break-Girl/Break-Boy (some use it also for Boogie or Bronx) because they got down to the floor during compounded and therefore expanded breaksections of records: Break on the Breaks. Rocking, as Breaking was first known as, was a reflection of African American as well as Latino (Puerto Rican) culture brought by the immigrants and emerged in New York City in the late 60ies and beginning of the 70ies. In the early stages this dance was done upright, a form which became known as “top rocking”. The structure and form of toprocking has influences from Brooklyn uprocking, tap dance, lyndi hop aka jitterbug, salsa (like the latin rock), Afro Cuban and various African and Native American (like the indian step) dances. There is also a toprock Charleston step called the “Charlie Rock”. Another major influence and inspiration was James Brown with his hits “Popcorn” (1969) and “Get on the Good Foot” (1972): Inspired by his energetic and almost acrobatic dance on stage, people started to dance the “Good Foot”. As the tradition of dance battle was already well established at that time and as Rocking/Breaking also got incorporated into the Hip Hop culture (“fight with creativity not with weapons”), it became more and more a dance that involved the dancer using their imagination to execute foot stomps, shuffles, punches and other battle movements. As a result it wasn’t long before top rockers extended their repertoire to the ground with “footwork” (“floor rocking”) and “freezes”. Floor rocking, influenced by material arts films from the early 70ies, tap dance (russian style footwork, swipes, sweeps, one shot headspins from a cart wheel, ..) and other dance forms, didn’t replace toprocking but it was added to and became another key point in the dance. The main goal in a Breaking Battle was to beat the “opponent” by being more creative with Steps and Freezes and by doing better and faster Moves. Pioneers were people in crews like The Nigga Twins, The Zulu Kings, Rockwell Association, Starchild La Rock, the Crazy Commanders and many more.
Although the turntable was invented already in the end of the 19th century it was not til the beginning/middle of the 1970ies until it was revived. DJing existed already before but people like Kool Herc, Grandwizard Theodore and Grandmaster Flash changed it fundamental. The turntable was not only used to spin records one after the other but further also as an independent instrument. Kool Herc developed a revolutionary technique to extend the drum breaks by needle dropping and backspinning the records. With this he created the foundation of break beats. Grandwizard Theodore for his part had a deep and momentous experience in the year 1977: One day when his mother came to his room to tell him to turn down the volume of his soundsystem he immediately stopped the record which was spinning on his turntable. While he was holding the record it went slightly back and forth and because the needle was still on it, interesting new sounds were created. Grandwizard Theodore was fascinated in such a way that he continued to experiment on it and soon after he was known all over New York as the inventor of “scratching”. Grandmaster Flash took over the techniques of Kool Herc and Grandwizard Theodore and developed them further. As he was also technically talented he worked on and extended his mixer so that he could listen to two records at the same time. With this technique he could perfect the mixing and merging of records. Grandmaster Flash was also the first who released a track featuring his DJing skills: “The Adventures of Grandmaster Flash on the Wheels of Steel” (1981). Another DJ with big influence was Africa Bambaataa who was well known all over the town for his huge record collection which he tried to use completely in every set he did because he wanted to combine and merge all kind of different music like Funk, Rock, Pop, Folk or Disco (it just had to be funky!) to get the ultimate party vibe. Although all above mentioned DJs tried to use the turntable more and more like an instrument and not just like a tool to play music, it was Grandmaster DST who presented it for the first time in public as an independent instrument in Herbie Hancocks song “Rock it” (1983) where his scratches to the beat were not just decoration but an important part of the sound characteristics. This revolutionary advancement of the use of turntables as an independent instrument with unlimited possibilities is nowadays worldwide known as “turntablism” (this term wasn’t introduced before the middle of the 1990ies by DJ Q-Bert and DJ Babu though).