The Periodic Table
of Hip Hop Elements

The Periodic Table of Hip Hop Elements

The Breakdown of Hip Hop Elements

All Hip Hop Elements on the Periodic Table of Hip Hop Elements will be detailed on this page.  This page will continue to grow one at a time until it is complete, but it will continue to change as the information changes.  As with the table itself, we strongly encourage fellow heads to contribute to the validity of our descriptions.  If there is any information you can add or insist be changed please Contact us.  We strive to make this information as accurate as possible and we can do it much better if we collaborate with heads in the know.  For maintaining relevance with the changing times, a date last modified field will indicate the individual element's last update.  Please help us keep these dates fresh! 


Hip Hop Element Number 1: The DJ

Element Name:

Element Symbol:

Atomic Number: 1

Column: IA

Row: 1

Symbol Abbreviation: Disc Jockey

Scientific Name: Discus Jockeyous Yerbodious

Element Type: Primary Four Element


The Hip Hop DJ is the first element.  It is the one that marked the beginning of the Hip Hop culture.  Back in the 1970’s, one DJ from the Bronx, the Godfather of Hip Hop, DJ Kool Herc can be universally credited with starting Hip Hop.

Kool Herc initially started playing records for small parties, but his reputation as disc jockey spread quickly throughout the Bronx, and soon he was responsible for entertaining thousands of people at his now historical (almost mythical) block parties. 

“I didn’t have the luxury of head phones, I had to cue the music over the records,” stated Kool Herc.

In doing so he learned how to manipulate the record on the fly.  He also noticed certain short parts of the songs he was playing, typically a drum break and/or a bass line, (See Element: Breaks) energized the crowds into more excited dancing.  (See Element: B-Boying) By looking at the record, he could visually see this darker groove that represented this ‘break’, and he began to focus on repeating the break over and over.  Sometimes he had two copies of the record which allowed him to extend or loop the break.  Other times he had only one copy, and had to resort to picking up the needle and dropping it quickly at the beginning of the break without losing the song's natural momentum.  Eventually, that unique style of DJing was what he became famous for.  During this phase, his partner, Coke La Rock, began “toasting” and “rapping” over these breaks.  (See Element: MC, See Element: Rap)   

These milestones all mark the beginning of Hip Hop.  One might argue that Graffiti predates these events, it’s been around for centuries, that may be true, but it was not considered a Hip Hop element until after Hip Hop was born at the hands of Kool Herc.

Since then, the role of the Hip Hop DJ has evolved into a very diverse job description.  From rocking block parties, to early mega mixes in the 80s, then from basic scratching, to battling... (See Element: Battle)  Also, came scratch composition and juggling.  (See Element: Juggling)

While technology may have changed the way certain DJs play the game, the primary role of the Hip Hop DJ will never change; to energize, entertain, and make the crowd dance their worries away.

-Written by rchecka

Source: (Interview with Kool Herc)

See Also: DJ Related External Elements

Last Modified: 6/15/2012


Hip Hop Element Number 2: MC

Element Name: MC

Element Symbol:

Atomic Number:

Column: 0

Row: 1

Symbol Abbreviation: Master of Ceremonies/Microphone Controller

Scientific Name: Micromasterus Ceremoncontroli

Element Type: Primary Four Element


Coming in at number two, we have the MC (emcee)….the vocal counterpart to the DJ (see element: DJ).  With influence coming from a myriad of genres and eras, one can go back as far as band leaders of Jazz groups of the first quarter century of the 1900’s -  to the likes of James Brown and his form of singing, flamboyance, showmanship and “rappin’” - to the most referred-to influence of the 1960’s-1970’s era (Jamaican) “toasters/toastmasters”, who spoke over reggae riddims as they themselves, or their DJ spun records in whatever setting or event they happened to be at.

Starting out in the Bronx (NYC) in the mid-late 70’s, the MC was the right-hand to the DJ as he spun records at local, inner-city housing project recreation rooms, block parties, and other homegrown events.  Gaining popularity to upstaging (but working in tandem with the DJ), the MC started out being known for motivating the crowd by throwing out chants and adding verbal assists to the music that was being spun.  Things quickly evolved to the MC taking it a step further; opening boundaries by constructing and incorporating nursery style rhyming patterns into the delivery that ultimately ended up as full-blown routines, then into actual songs (which could be (and still can be) found on recorded cassette tapes of these various local, live shows).

The MC also evolved from a one man entity (refer to Coke La Rock in Element: DJ ) to a whole ensemble (or “crew”) of MCs that would tag-team the microphone or in unison.  Grandmaster Caz (of the Cold Crush Brothers) and Grandmaster Melle Mel (of the Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five) have been noted as creating the template, the foundation and the format of emceeing to what we have seen over the past three decades, to what we currently know and acknowledge as a modern day “MC” (emcee). 

Attributes of an emcee being: Mic presence/voice; charisma; personality; creativity; delivery; cadence; originality; lyrical compound…and from a ‘live’ perspective – stage presence.

-Written by Uptownkid

Additional Essay:

MC’ing is about expression…as all it is in all forms of art.  It is said, “Lyrics are an expression of one’s soul”.  The MC is the kid brother of the DJ…of the B-Boy..of Graffiti…becoming the shining, front-running, money-making sibling of the brotherhood – as well as the prodigal son of the family. -Uptownkid


See Also: MC Related External Elements

Last Modified: 6/15/2012


Hip Hop Element Number 26: Old School

Element Name:
Old School

Element Symbol:

Atomic Number: 26

Column: VII

Row: 4

Symbol Abbreviation: Old School

Scientific Name: Paleos scholío

Element Type: Regional / Sub Genres


Old School Hip Hop is an era that is long gone (1979-1986).  Public perception of when Old School Hip Hop began and when it ended seems to be divided into two distinct schools of thought. For some it all boils down to their own personal experience, their age, what they were listening to back in High School.  However, in reality Old School Hip Hop was an specific Hip Hop era, the era that started it all, and it ended in 1986.

It all started with element one; the DJ, (See element: DJ) specifically one DJ; Kool Herc. Only Herc and his apostles (the B-Boys and B-Girls and early MCs) witnessed Hip Hop's birth first hand. Prior to 1979, relatively speaking, this was a small group of lucky individuals who witnessed Hip Hop. Small pockets of trueschoolers consisting of aspiring Hip Hop DJs, MCs, graph writers, and their fans popped up in the early to late seventies in the Bronx and in a few other urban areas, but it was unarguably Kool Herc who owned Hip Hop in the seventies, he was Hip Hop almost exclusively.

That music, the artwork, and the street dance of the earliest Old School Hip Hop all contributed to a Hip Hop culture explosion that went global by 1979. Hip Hop literally went viral that year because for the first time ever, anyone with a record player in their home could witness Hip Hop with their own ears. '79 was the same year Fatback "King Tim III" (the first recorded Hip Hop vinyl record) dropped, and soon after the first rap hit single "Rappers Delight" by the Sugar Hill Gang blew up the airwaves. Hip Hop was finally accessible to the masses outside the Bronx. 1979 was the first year of Old School Hip Hop* for "the rest of us". (*Unless you were one of the "lucky ones" who witnessed Herc's now famous block parties first hand.)  If you were one of the original B-Boys who saw it all go down in the beginning, Old School Hip Hop started back in your hood back in the early seventies, but for the remaining Hip Hop masses, it started with that one 12" single, or that other one, either way in 1979.

From 1979 through 1986, the recordings of Hip Hop music evolved fairly gradually. As with all music, there were many distinct sounding, noteworthy singles, and many of those records became widely popular despite the plethora of non Hip Hop artists jumping on the Hip Hop band wagon.  By 1985 the writing was on the wall about the inevitability of Hip Hop's necessary drastic reinvention. Sugar Hill Records went bankrupt that year, and Beat Boxing pioneer Doug E Fresh dropped the gold record hit "The Show" proving that sometimes you only need a mic to make a good beat.  Even B-Boyism started to go into a lull as kids started saying things like, "Breakin' is out". Graffiti also seemed to being falling out of popularity. Meanwhile, early innovative MCs, DJs, and producers continued to push the boundaries of the music form. The Old School Hip Hop sound was gradually dying as new techniques and new concepts in rhyme and rhythm emerged.

In 1986, the Golden Age of Hip Hop was just around the corner. Just as Old School Hip Hop exploded into the scene in 1979, it blew up again in 1986, particularly after the Old School pioneers Run DMC dropped the seminal "Walk This Way" video on MTV. This unheard of marriage of Rock N Roll and Hip Hop changed the music game drastically almost overnight.  1986 was also the year the Beastie Boys released their first album "License to Ill", which was yet another sign that Hip Hop stereotypes were breaking down, rules were changing, and the sound was changing. Suddenly it seemed more acceptable for white kids throughout the world to listen to urban music invented by (and to this day, still dominated by) black musicians. This sudden change marked the end of the Old School Hip Hop days.

Other Hip Hop game-changers that were dropped in 1986:

  • Eric B and Rakim - "Eric B. is President" (another unarguably relevant and distinct Hip Hop single.)
  • MC Shan's "The Bridge" (One of the longest running Hip Hop beefs ever sparked.)
  • Ultramagnetic MCs "Ego Trippin" (Golden Age pioneers' debut single.)
  • Schoolly D "PSK-What does it mean" (Independent MC drops what some call the first gangster rap single.)
  • Run DMC "My Adidas" (Rappers freely endorse a product out of love for the sneakers giving birth to the first name brand element.)
  • Just Ice "Cold Gettin Dumb" (Just Ice's signature rhyme flow over Mantronix's monster beats helps usher in the Golden Age of Hip Hop.)

In summary, Old School Hip Hop began and ended with a culture explosion. It started with a big bang in 1979. While the fuse may have been lit by Kool Herc prior to that date when he built the bomb with his own two hands, it blew up in 1979. Old School Hip Hop went out with an even bigger explosion when 1986 brought definitive Hip Hop game-changers, Run DMC and the Beastie Boys.  These watershed events are ultimately responsible for defining the beginning and the end of Hip Hop's first era.

-Written by rchecka

Additional Essay:

Read More and Comment on the Official Periodic Blog

Last Modified:


Hip Hop Element Number 32: Crate Digging

Element Name:
Crate Digging

Element Symbol:

Atomic Number: 32

Column: IVA

Row: 4

Symbol Abbreviation: Crate Digging

Scientific Name: Showbizan Ageanious

Element Type: Unique / Misc. Elements


Traditional Definition of Crate Digging:

Urban Dictionary defines crate digging as - "...a hip hop term for when one goes to an record store to look for old records to sample."

This is an outdated, incomplete, and over-simplified definition of traditional crate digging only. So much is wrong with that definition. Not all diggers buy wax for sampling, it has transcended well beyond Hip Hop circles, and due to the advent of the Internet it no longer is limited to going to a physical record store. Crate digging has a loosely defined modern off-shoot that compliments and enhances traditional crate digging without detracting from it. Let's just call it what it is, modern crate digging. Yes, traditional crate digging has always meant being physically present at a record store and digging through stacks of records. But crate digging, in general, no longer means just that.

A Modern Definition of Crate Digging:

Here is a more updated definition of what crate digging means in very simple terms.

Crate Digging
(or cratedigging) - The activity of actively searching for music.

With this broader definition of modern crate digging, conventional lines become gray and are broken down completely and simplified into the search itself. With the advent of Final Scratch and Serato, DJs can mix traditionally in an nontraditional way using mp3s and wav files that can be extracted from any music medium. By that definition records aren't even a prerequisite. Consequently with modern crate digging, music format is not relevant. With the onset of the Internet, the world's online record stores become as close as your mailbox. Anyone who has searched online for records knows that it can be a long process of digging various sites, but in the end it is the same search for records as physical record store digging, only its cleaner and more convenient.

-Written by rchecka

Additional Essay:

Read More about Crate Digging and Comment on the Official Periodic Blog's Crate Digging Breakdown
which includes Traditional Crate Digging Etiquette, Recommended Crate Digging Tools and more.

Additional Crate Digging Resources:

The Cratedigging Co-Op:  A Crate Digging forum for crate diggers by crate diggers.  Join and build with us!
Rap Songs About Crate Digging (Add on!)
First known occurrence of the term "crate digging" or "digging in the crates" in a rap song

See Also: Cratedigging Related External Elements

Last Modified: 6/15/2012


Hip Hop Element Number 63: Hip Hop Forums

Element Name:
Hip Hop Forums

Element Symbol:

Atomic Number: 63

Column: VIB

Row: A

Symbol Abbreviation: Hip Hop Forums

Scientific Name: hip hop ti̱ syllogí̱

Element Type: Community Elements


An online forum (or message board) designed primarily for open discussion of the Hip Hop culture.

Since the early years of Internet, open forums have made it possible for fans of the Hip Hop culture to spread their knowledge, ask questions, or to simply discuss current Hip Hop news. In fact, in the early days it was not at all uncommon for Hip Hop fans to be able to talk directly to Hip Hop musicians to get insider information.  Today there are literally thousands of Hip Hop forums spread across the globe.  The Hip Hop forum used to be (in a sense) Facebook for Hip Hop Heads before Facebook came along.  But ironically, Facebook, Twitter and other social networking giants have seemed to have depleted the membership and activities of modern Hip Hop forums.  Once booming forums have gone stagnant or closed completely.  (see Death of a Forum pt. 2) Yet nowadays there are many great Hip Hop boards that still have a strong presence based on their longevity and loyal members and relevant current topics.  Long live the Hip Hop forum!

- Written by rchecka

Other Resources:

Check out OP's Hip Hop Forum a part of!

See Also: Hip Hop Forum Related External Elements

Last Modified: 6/15/2012

...more coming soon!