Throughout history, all civilizations have been greatly influenced by music. Songs and dances reflecting various cultures are used to teach, tell stories, inspire hope and express emotion. Music also defines the political, social and economic conditions of a culture. In America during the 1980s, a subculture known as hip-hop began with young, urban African-Americans and eventually spread throughout the country. A culture with its own language, street fashion and style of music, hip-hop evolved from rap music, in which a “rapper” expressed himself through words and rhymes set to a strong rhythmic beat. Rap was an art form accessible to everyone and had no set rules — except to be original and to rhyme on time to the music’s beat. Each rapper displayed his own personal style, using clever word play and lyrical brilliance. In the early days of hip-hop, break dancing was popular, with skilled and agile dancers moving athletically to highly rhythmic rap beats. Dancers would stand in a circle keeping the beat, while each took turns performing his or her unique break dance in the center of the circle. Although the 1980s saw the beginnings of hip-hop nationwide, the phenomenon continues to evolve as new generations of young African-Americans seek unique ways of expressing their own world views.
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