A Child's Introduction to Hip-Hop

The Beats, Rhymes, and Roots of a Musical Revolution


By Jordannah Elizabeth

Illustrated by Markia Jenai

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This item is a preorder. Your payment method will be charged immediately, and the product is expected to ship on or around August 8, 2023. This date is subject to change due to shipping delays beyond our control.

This definitive guide to hip-hop teaches kids about the history and world-wide cultural impact of the genre, covering everyone from early heroes like The Sugar Hill Gang, Kurtis Blow, and Run D.M.C., to modern day titans like Kanye West, Cardi B, and Kendrick Lamar.

In the 1970s, a musical and cultural movement was sparked in the Bronx neighborhood of New York City. Led by three DJs who performed at local block parties, DJ Kool Herc, Afrika Bambaataa, and Grandmaster Flash become known as the “Holy Trinity” of hip-hop and they helped establish the four main pillars of the genre: deejaying, mc'ing, break dancing, and graffiti art. 

From these early days, acclaimed journalist and music critic Jordannah Elizabeth takes kids on a journey through the history of hip-hop, helping young readers understand how and why it was invented, and how it evolved into a powerful platform that gave (and still gives) a voice to the often-ignored Black community in America. From Tupac Shakur and Ms. Lauryn Hill to Drake and Tyler the Creator, kids will celebrate some of hip-hop’s biggest names while learning about the roots of their musical sounds, and the community that propelled them into stardom.

Packed with modern, charming illustrations, including a pull-out poster for kids to color, A Child’s Introduction to Hip-Hop features age-appropriate descriptions of a musical genre that is changing the world and dominating the airwaves. This is the perfect book for young students who want to know more about the world of hip-hop and rap, as well as for parents who want to introduce their children to some of their favorite artists. 


How Hip-Hop Began


The very first days of hip-hop culture began in the early 1970s in the Bronx, New York.

The Bronx is a borough (or section) of New York City that was home to many African Americans and Latinx Americans who sometimes saw poverty and violence in their communities. Not all people of color are poor, but for many poor youth, music and art helped them express their unique views of the world.

The Whitestone Bridge connects the Bronx neighborhoods of Throggs Neck and Ferry Point Park.


THERE WERE A lot of block parties in the Bronx in the 1970s. Block parties are outside events, usually held in cities where neighbors and community members come together and put on a big party in the middle of the street! Block parties tend to be for people of all ages and they are all about community.

Hip-hop culture began at these block parties. New types of music were played and new dance moves were created. These young people were inventors. Their way of life was so lively and powerful that hip-hop music and its culture spread everywhere.


ALONG WITH THE fun of block parties, hip-hop culture has had a lot to do with fashion and style. Over the years, hip-hop style has changed a lot, but items like gold or diamond jewelry have stayed the same since the very beginning. Hip-hop style is tied to Black and Latinx street style. Kids would wear comfortable clothes they could dance and run in. Fashion designers like Tommy Hilfiger began to make clothes for the hip-hop culture and the style grew more popular. Later on, rappers like Def Jam’s Russell Simmons, Sean Combs, and many others began creating their own fashion lines.

A Bronx block party in the 1970s



DJing or turntabling


Graffiti art

Break dancing


A LOT OF the music played at block parties was by artists called DJs. You’ve probably seen a DJ before. They turn or spin dance music on records on turntables (record players). Not only did the DJs choose the music that would be played to entertain the partygoers, but they also had microphones and spoke to the crowd and got them excited!

DJ Clive “Kool Herc” Campbell was known to be one of the best DJs around because in 1973, at his sister Cindy’s back-to-school party he took DJing and turntabling to new heights.

Kool Herc found a way to make the percussion sound, which is the drum sound, of a song stand out by using two record players and a mixer. He could make the beat of a song longer by switching back and forth between the two records, playing it over and over. This created a whole new type of music and a way to keep people excited and dancing. This type of DJing was called breakbeat.

Kool Herc’s style became the foundation of the hip-hop sound. Even today, beats are essential to the way a rapper performs their rhymes and the mood and pace of the song.

DJ Kool Herc

A rap battle


MCING, ALSO KNOWN an “emceeing” or “rapping,” is another essential element of hip-hop. MC comes from the term “master of ceremonies,” which was a title given to a person who hosted parties and dance events. Originally, MCs would entertain the partygoers by making them laugh and getting the crowd excited with the latest dance craze or fast-paced music.

Over time, MCs began to turn their humor, charm, and talent for language into rhymes or “raps.” They would speak to the rhythm of the music and create clever sayings; many times their raps would be improvised, meaning they didn’t write anything down or memorize what they were going to say. This form or rapping later became known as freestyling. MCs would create raps that described the energy of the crowd and would boast and brag about how cool and talented they were.

MCs became so good at rapping about how great they were, they would compete with other rappers. They would challenge them to show the crowd who was the best rapper based on how original the rapper’s rhymes were, how well they could embarrass the rapper they were competing against, and how excited the group would get.

At the end of each rap battle, the crowd would choose who was the best rapper by cheering the loudest for their favorite rapper.

Painting a subway car in graffiti


GRAFFITI IS THE visual art side of hip-hop. Starting in the 1970s, the youth of the Bronx and New York City began “tagging” their names inside and outside subway trains, subway stations, and on the sides of buildings. It all started after “TAKI 183” from 183rd Street in Washington Heights began writing his nickname around his neighborhood in the late 1960s. At first, no one knew who he was and the city became fascinated by this mysterious “writer” whose name seemed to be everywhere. In 1971, he finally shared that his name was Demetrios in an interview with a newspaper.

Young people realized that they too could become famous for their graffiti. Tagging and graffiti soon became a part of the hip-hop culture. They started using brightly colored spray paints to stand out.

Later in the 1970s graffiti culture became even more organized and stylized. A new competition called the “style wars” started. The pieces got bigger and young writers began to sketch their work in notebooks before painting them. Young writers would get together for “writers’ benches” and study each other’s sketches before painting them. Older writers would take young graffiti artists under their wings and teach them all that they had learned. Even though the art was competitive, it also created a tight community of artists. This community still lives on today. Graffiti is now global and lives on as new generations of artists continue to paint large-scale and small-scale tags.

Even though graffiti has traveled all over the world, it also still isn’t accepted everywhere. Many people think graffiti is a crime since graffiti artists sometimes paint buildings and subways without permission. Because of this, many artists have to hide who they really are with nicknames.

Graffiti is risky but this doesn’t mean it isn’t an important part of hip-hop culture. It helped young artists of color find their passion and express creative talent. They turned something negative and illegal into a positive community-building phenomenon that has a rightful place in hip-hop history.

People break dancing downrock moves


BREAK DANCING IS another important element of hip-hop. The phrase break dancing comes from DJ Kool Herc’s breakbeat type of DJing. Dancers learned to use the long drumbeats to perform a dance style that used moves from gymnastics and martial arts, pushing dancers to flip, split, and spin on their heads!

Young people also used fast footwork and humorous moves to grab the crowd and attract attention. Break-dancers became known as “B-boys” and “B-girls” and during many of Kool Herc’s parties he would set aside time for the dancers to show off their footwork by yelling “B-boys, go down!”

Like all the elements of hip-hop, there was a competitive side to the break dancing. Young people would gather around in a big circle to give the dancers plenty of room to do backflips and complicated twirls. Each dancer would show their skills.

Break dancing has a number of different dance steps. A few of these are freezes, toprocks, downrocks, and powermoves. The combination of these movements along with a dancer’s own unique twists to the style created a widespread craze across the Bronx and New York City’s Black and Latinx communities. Break dancing is still alive and well today. Dancers continue to create new moves and give partygoers and audiences amazing shows! There are also dance competitions all over the world that embrace break dancing.

The Birth of Mainstream Hip-Hop




  • “The ideal music history book for young students who want to know more about the world of hip-hop and rap (as well as for parents who want to introduce their children to some of their favorite artists), A Child's Introduction to Hip-Hop is especially and unreservedly recommended for family, school, and community American Music History collections.”

    Midwest Book Review
  • “A comprehensive guide to hip-hop, this book delves into its rich history and impact as both a music style and cultural phenomenon.”

On Sale
Aug 8, 2023
Page Count
96 pages

Photo of Jordannah Elizabeth

Jordannah Elizabeth

About the Author

Jordannah Elizabeth is a music journalist and author of She Raised Her Voice! by RP Kids as well as the forthcoming A Child’s Introduction to Hip-Hop. She’s studied astrology, mysticism, and tarot since she was twelve years old and recently studied under the world-renowned American astrologer Acyuta Bhava Dass. She’s written on a number of topics for Ms. MagazinePOPSUGAR, O Magazine, and Cosmopolitan.

Learn more about this author