Hip-Hop in the US: The Cities Behind the Music

6:28 am  |  18.11.2021

Since the 1970s, hip hop has grown from the streets of Brooklyn into a global cultural phenomenon.


The genre has covered a wide range: from sampling and the aggressive lyrics of the artists in the mid to late 1980s to the socially critical rap of the 1990s. Today’s artists are breaking new ground with an innovative mix of electronic music, soul, and funk. Follow the history of your favorite genre in these hip-hop capitals.

The Birth of Hip-Hop 

Beastie Boys and Run DMC, New York City, 1987 

New York City, New York has always been known for its lyricists and songwriters. So it’s no wonder that every borough in the metropolis has its own hip-hop legend: The Sugarhill Gang in the Bronx, Run-D.M.C. in Queens, The Notorious B.I.G. (aka Biggie Smalls) in Brooklyn, the Wu-Tang Clan on Staten Island, and Kool Moe Dee in Manhattan. The undisputed centerpiece of the scene is the Apollo Theater, which can seat 1,500 people. Although the theater has now expanded significantly, there are still many hip-hop shows and festivals on the calendar of events. Brooklyn is still one of the hotspots.

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The historic Apollo Theater in Harlem Manhattan, New York City

Hip clubs like The Social Butterfly and restaurants like Butterfunk Kitchen with southern cuisine or The Safari Room at El Cortez with Latin American specialties and live music by underground artists crowd in the Flatbush district. In Manhattan, you will experience the future of hip-hop e.g. B. in the S.O.B.’s in Soho, a combination of bar and music venue, or at Miss Lily’s, where Jamaican retro flair is exuded. Tours are offered by Hush Hip Hop Tours, among others.

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The West Coast

A rooftop DJ in Los Angeles

Los Angeles, California is the capital of West Coast rapeseed and the home of G-Funk, whose layered synthesizer sounds and mind-altering grooves were created by Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, and Tupac Shakur were perfected. L.A. is also the birthplace of the explosive, anti-authoritarian gangsta rap that was made famous in 1986 by groups and artists such as Ice-T, N.W.A and Public Enemy. The experts at L.A. Hood Life Tours make sure that you don’t miss any hip-hop highlights.

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If you feel like going to live shows, you can see and hear the latest acts at The Novo. The Airliner specializes in underground music, while the Echoplex and Shrine Auditorium feature well-known artists on stage. You can experience your favorite stars from other genres at a concert under the stars in the Hollywood Bowl. You have a good chance of seeing one or the other star while strolling down Hollywood Boulevard or on Rodeo Drive.

The Epicenter of Hip Hop

Breakdancer on the streets of Atlanta


Atlanta, Georgia, owes the music world to Afrocentric hip-hop (Arrested Development) as well as various megastars (Outkast and Ludacris), the crunk (Lil John), or the trap (Lil Yachty). Up-and-coming artists perform in Smiths ’Olde Bar or Masquerade, while the biggest names in the industry perform at Drunken Unicorn (formerly MJQ Concourse).

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The most important landmarks include the Fox Theater, which after the completion of the renovations shines again in its original splendor from 1929, the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historical Park with the childhood home of the civil rights activist, and the Center for Civil and Human Rights, whose exhibitions human rights in illuminate the world. Before you leave, be sure to stop by chef Steven Satterfield’s Miller Union restaurant, whose creations are an ode to the state of Georgia.

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In the Footsteps of Tupac Shakur

Der Inner Harbor in Baltimore

Tupac Shakur, who was shot in 1996, is still attributed to the west coast. In fact, he went to school in Baltimore, Maryland. A city tour in Pac’s footsteps leads you to venues such as The Ottobar or Baltimore Soundstage, where artists from various genres perform.

Everything that is well-known in the music world appears in the Royal Farms Arena. An absolute must for Baltimore is the Inner Harbor with the National Aquarium, the countless shops and restaurants at Harborplace, and various boat tours where you can experience the city by day and at dusk. The fact that Baltimore has a lot to offer when it comes to sports is often overlooked. The strong Ravens play their home football games at M&T Bank Stadium, while the Orioles reside nearby at Oriole Park at Camden Yards, one of the league’s finest baseball stadiums.

Music Legends and the US Space Program

The Buffalo Bayou against the brightly lit Houston skyline

The hip hop scene in Houston, Texas formed in the early 1990s with a mix of G-funk and big beat. Famous representatives are the late DJ Screw, inventor of the chop and scratch sounds, as well as Scarface and Z-Ro. The most famous stages include the House of Blues and Warehouse Live, both of which are downtown and serve multiple genres. Beer lovers should stop by the 8th Wonder Brewery and the Flying Saucer Draft Emporium. Sports fans will also be thrilled – they can cheer for the Astros (Baseball World Champions 2017) in Minute Maid Park or watch a Rockets home basketball game at the Toyota Center. At the Space Center Houston, you can find out what the famous saying “Houston, we have a problem” is all about.

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