Personal musings. Views are my own.

House: Chicago's hip hop

In reference to the initial development of house music in Chicago in the late 70’s/early 80s:

“Intriguingly, house took on exactly the same cultural role as hip hop had done in New York. Its original constituency was poor and black. Its energy came from djs competing on a local level. Its aesthetic was a result of djs, dissatisfied with the prevailing sound, rediscovering older music and recasting it in new ways.

Just like hip hop, house stole basslines and drum patterns from old songs (both musics were initially about creating a very minimal and repetitive version of disco). Its creative progression was a result of djs constantly introducing new elements to their performances to outdo the other guy. And house, like hip hop, depended on a fierce “do-it-yourself” spirit. Even the clothes which characterized house in Chicago—baggy and functional—were what would later be identified as hip hop styles throughout the world. The only fundamental difference was the tempo of the music, and that house accepted rather than rejected disco’s gayness and its four-on-the-floor beat.

Some Chicago djs, like Pierre, can even recall battles, just like those between hip hop crews in New York, where a series of house djs would perform for the honor of having impressed the largest number of dancers—complete with mcs!

‘A dj had to bring his own sound system, his own mc, and bring a big sign with his name on it. And it’d be in a big school gymnasium,’ he recalls. ‘Then another dj, he’d bring his own sound system, and a third dj’d bring his sound system. And you had to do your thing for like thirty minutes or an hour, and whoever’s sound system and djing skills sounded the best won the competition.’ Pierre even remembers losing a battle because he didn’t have a particular record, ‘Time to Jack’ by Chip E.

Given the nature of the house subculture, it’s no wonder, then, that for many years hip hop was virtually unheard in Chicago. Only in the mid-nineties, after house as a local phenomenon had gone resolutely back underground, could hip hop claim any kind of listenership in the windy city. Today, the musical spectrum on Chicago radio still has a high ratio of uptempo dance music compared to other American cities, but increasingly it succumbing to the swingbeat-style r&b and hip hop which now chokes the US music business.”

from Last Night a DJ Saved My Life: The History of the Disc Jockey