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Hip-Hop English Glossary


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African-diasporic: Related to the dispersion of people around the world from the African continent.


b-boying: Dynamic form of dance, also known as breaking, that was created by African American and Puerto Rican people in New York City and is set to hip-hop, funk, or breakbeat music.


boogaloo: Term that may have roots in the Bantu language (with a meaning of "devilishly good") and has carried various meanings in music and dance, including the following: musical genre created by teenage Cubans and Puerto Ricans that was popular in the United States in the 1960s; way to say "get down" and "enjoy yourself" during the Harlem Renaissance; and style of music pioneered by Boogaloo Sam that consisted of fluid body rolls of the neck, torso, hips, and knees.


bouncing: Foundational type of movement in hip-hop dance, which is characterized by a buoyant quality in both movements and transitions.


break: The part of a song where an instrumentalist plays an improvised solo; similarly, in dance, the break is a dancer′s solo.


breaking: Dynamic form of dance, also known as b-boying, that was created by African American and Puerto Rican people in New York City and is set to hip-hop, funk, or breakbeat music.


burn: Personal improvisational gesture that is designed to insult an opponent and is performed in partnership with a jerk as part of a four-count step or setup to deliver the burn.


call-and-response: African-diasporic tradition rooted in African cultures, often exemplified in church services ("Can I get an Amen?" "Amen!"), and used in dance when the music calls for a response in the form of a particular dance or movement.


canon: In dance, the creation of overlapping imitations by initiating the same sequence at different times.


commercial: Term used to describe not a technique or type of dance but a dance performance displayed in venues concerned with or engaged in commerce (such as advertising or selling products).


cosmogram: One of many symbols from African Kongo or Bakongo culture used by African-diasporic people.


counterflow isolation: Movement in which the neck is isolated by moving in one direction while the torso moves in the opposite direction.


counterrotation: Movement in which the upper and lower parts of the body go in opposite directions.


cypher: Practice (similar to a ring shout) in which people gather in a circle and use rap or dance to display skill in a friendly, sometimes aggressive manner.


drop: Stylized way to get to the floor when breaking or b-boying.


fluid body: Consistent body movement that is free of jerking or stopping.


funk-styles: A term coined by Timothy "Popping Pete" Solomon to cover the forms and style performed by West Coast Poppers and Lockers to deter people from putting multiple dance forms under one title and to create conversations that differentiated the techniques, forms, vocabulary, and pioneers in each form.


grooving: Moving smoothly with the tempo of the music.


hip-house: Musical genre that mixes elements of house music with hip-hop.


isolation: Movement performed with some parts of the body while keeping other parts still.


locking: Form of dance, created by Don Campbell, that combines the fluid movements of social dance of the 1970s with short stops or pauses.


Los Angeles style: A loaded phrase; there are a few ways to understanding this term. One way is that what is known as Los Angeles style was actually inspired by three dancers from New York called Shades. These dancers moved to Los Angeles and began working with Janet Jackson; their approach to choreography was based on multiple dance forms included New York hip-hop and house. Another way to view this phrase is the dance style of young dancers in the Los Angeles "street" dance scene, which was very abstract, flows, and ground movements. And third is the sharp, gestural movement in popular in North Hollywood dance studios.


nu style: Shortened term for "New York style"; used in reference to hip-hop dances and culture in New York City.


polycentric: Using more than one center of movement in the body.


polyrhythmic: Using two or more rhythms simultaneously; in dance, movement of two or more body parts to different rhythms.


popping: Form of dance performed by consistently contracting one′s muscles (specifically, the sternocleidomastoid muscles in the neck, the pectorals, the biceps, and the triceps) to the tempo of the beat.


repertoire: Collection of dances, movements, or pieces that an individual or company is prepared to perform.


ring shout: Transcendent religious ritual first practiced by enslaved Africans in the West Indies and North America.


rocking: Style of dance (specifically, a part of b-boying) that involves rocking motions such as top rocking (performed while standing) and floor rocking (performed on the ground).


routine: Series of sequences that form a cohesive dance.


sequence: Particular order of movements or dance steps.


tone: Character of a musical or vocal sound determined by its pitch, quality, and strength.


visualization: Type of affirmation that involves envisioning oneself doing or completing a movement or choreography.


waacking: Form of dance, also known as punking, created in the LGBT clubs of Los Angeles during the 1970s disco era.