The First Ever ‘Hip Hop’ Song: A Look Back in Time

First Ever 'Hip Hop' Song
Written by Corey Morgan

What Was the First Ever ‘Hip Hop’ Song?

Hip hop, with its infectious beats and powerful lyrics, has become a cultural phenomenon that has left an indelible mark on the world of music and entertainment. But have you ever wondered where it all began? In this exploration, we’re going to dive deep into the origins of hip hop and seek to uncover the enigmatic birth of the very first ‘hip hop’ song.

Origins of Hip Hop

Before we can unearth the first hip hop song, it’s essential to journey back to the roots of this captivating genre. Hip hop emerged in the 1970s, in the vibrant and diverse neighborhoods of the Bronx, New York City. It was born out of the socio-economic challenges faced by African American and Latino communities, serving as a beacon of hope and creative expression amidst adversity.

At its core, hip hop is a multi-faceted culture comprising four key elements: DJing, MCing (rapping), breakdancing, and graffiti art. These elements converged to create a unique subculture that transcended music, influencing fashion, art, and social movements.

The First Hip Hop Song

Now, let’s delve into the heart of our quest: the first hip hop song. Yet, the answer isn’t as straightforward as one might expect. In the nascent days of hip hop, there wasn’t a clear distinction between what we now consider a ‘hip hop song’ and other forms of music. Instead, hip hop’s inception was characterized by dynamic DJ performances at local parties and gatherings.

The concept of a ‘hip hop song’ in its traditional sense, with structured lyrics and composition, was still in its embryonic stage. The early hip hop songs were essentially extended instrumental breaks or ‘breakbeats’ that DJs such as DJ Kool Herc and Grandmaster Flash manipulated to create irresistible dance grooves. While these breakbeats were instrumental in the evolution of hip hop, they didn’t fit the conventional song structure we associate with the genre today.

Artist Behind the First Song

To uncover the identity of the artist behind the first hip hop song, we must explore the contributions of key figures from hip hop’s early days. While it’s challenging to pinpoint a single ‘first’ hip hop song, there are individuals who played pivotal roles in shaping this genre, and two such luminaries are DJ Kool Herc and Coke La Rock.

DJ Kool Herc

DJ Kool Herc, whose real name is Clive Campbell, stands as one of the foremost pioneers of hip hop. In the early 1970s, Kool Herc hosted legendary parties in the Bronx, particularly at 1520 Sedgwick Avenue, an event often regarded as the birthplace of hip hop. Although he may not have recorded the first hip hop song in the traditional sense, his influence on the genre is immeasurable.

Kool Herc’s innovation lay in his use of turntables and his ability to manipulate records. He isolated and looped the instrumental ‘breaks’ from funk and soul records, creating a continuous beat that kept the dance floor alive. These breakbeats became the foundation upon which hip hop was built, giving rise to the DJing aspect of the genre that remains a vital component to this day.

Coke La Rock

In the early days of hip hop, the role of the MC was just as significant as that of the DJ. One of the earliest MCs in recorded hip hop history is Coke La Rock, who collaborated closely with DJ Kool Herc at the aforementioned Sedgwick Avenue parties. Coke La Rock’s contribution was in the realm of freestyle MCing, where he would engage with the audience and rhyme over Kool Herc’s infectious beats.

While Coke La Rock’s presence in hip hop history is undeniable, it’s crucial to note that these early performances were more akin to improvisational poetry than what we now consider structured hip hop songs. The notion of a hip hop song with verses and a chorus was still taking shape.

These early pioneers laid the groundwork for what would become a global cultural phenomenon. While they may not have recorded the first hip hop song in the conventional sense, their innovative spirit and creative expression ignited a spark that would continue to grow and evolve within the hip hop community. The fusion of Kool Herc’s DJing skills and Coke La Rock’s MCing talents created an infectious energy that paved the way for the future of hip hop.

Impact of the First Song

The early days of hip hop, marked by the dynamic DJing of individuals like DJ Kool Herc and the charismatic MCing of figures like Coke La Rock, had a profound impact on the Bronx and the world beyond. While the concept of a ‘first hip hop song’ in the traditional sense may still elude us, the cultural and social impact of these early hip hop pioneers is undeniable.

The parties hosted by DJs like Kool Herc provided an essential outlet for young people in communities grappling with economic hardship and social challenges. Hip hop became a haven for self-expression and empowerment, offering an alternative to the violence and despair that plagued some urban areas. The energy, creativity, and unity fostered at these events left an indelible mark on the Bronx and sowed the seeds of a global movement.

Evolution of Hip Hop

As hip hop continued to evolve, it began to take on more structured forms. While the first hip hop songs were primarily instrumental breaks and freestyle MCing, the late 1970s and early 1980s witnessed a transformation in the genre. One of the pivotal moments in this evolution was the release of “Rapper’s Delight” by The Sugarhill Gang in 1979.

Produced by Sylvia Robinson and featuring rhymes by Big Bank Hank, Wonder Mike, and Master Gee, “Rapper’s Delight” is often considered one of the first commercially successful hip hop songs. It introduced a structured song format with verses and a catchy chorus, helping to define the hip hop genre further.

From there, hip hop continued to diversify and innovate. Artists like Run-D.M.C., LL Cool J, and Public Enemy pushed the boundaries of the genre, introducing sampling, beatboxing, and electronic production techniques. Hip hop’s sonic landscape expanded, creating a rich tapestry of sounds and styles.


In our quest to uncover the first hip hop song, we’ve journeyed through the vibrant history of a genre that has transcended boundaries and brought people together. While the concept of the ‘first song’ may remain elusive in the traditional sense, the pioneers of hip hop, including DJ Kool Herc and Coke La Rock, played pivotal roles in shaping a culture that has influenced generations of artists and fans worldwide.

The early days of hip hop were marked by innovation, creativity, and a spirit of unity. What began as live DJ performances and freestyle MCing evolved into a global phenomenon that continues to inspire and empower individuals from diverse backgrounds.

Hip hop’s impact on music, fashion, art, and social change is immeasurable, and its journey from the Bronx to the world stage is a testament to the enduring power of artistic expression and community. Hip hop’s story is still being written, and it’s one that will continue to resonate for generations to come.