Willie Dixon once described the blues as being “the roots” of all American music. With a history that dates back centuries, it’s certainly a statement with merit. Even so, it can sometimes be difficult to identify influences of the blues in modern music, particularly for those who are relatively unfamiliar with the genre. In this article, we take a closer look into a few core influences blues has had on many of its musical offspring, with focus on one of its most popular descendants, hip hop.
The blues originated from enslaved African-Americans in the 16th century, when the genre gave a voice to the their common experiences in a period where the majority of society was indoctrinated to both deny and eliminate their self-expression. This was one of the major themes of the blues – the voice of the people, in addition to love, poverty, and betrayal, amongst many others. These themes were one of the elements that would later become essential in many of the multitude of genres that blues music spawned.