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Hip Hop Essay

Music has been around since the beginning of civilization. Music was used to tell myths, religious stories, and warrior tales. Since the beginning of civilization music has greatly progressed. Music still tells a story, we know just have many genres to satisfy the cultural and social tastes of our modern society. Hip Hop is a genre of music that has significantly grown the last couple of decades. It’s increased popularity has brought it to the forefront of globalization. Technological advances has made it easy for Hip Hop to spread out globally.

This occurrence of globalization is a key example that as our cultural borders are broken down by technology, our own cultural and social practices become fluid. Although there are many positive and negative comments about the globalization of Hip Hop, it is a reflection of the growing phenomenon occurring all over the world. Hip hop originated in the South Bronx of New York City in the 1970s. The term rap is often used synonymously with hip hop, but hip hop can also be described as an entire subculture (“Hip Hop”, 2004).

The term Hip Hop is said to have come from a joke between Keith Cowboy, rapper with Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, and their friends (“Hip Hop”, 2004). Although Hip Hop was created on American soil, it’s influences are global. It can be said that Hip Hop might be a result of ethnic globalization. Hip Hop has roots in African, Caribbean, and Latino culture (“Hip Hop Globalization and Youth Culture”, 2005). Spoken word, which is still popular today is also an influence in Hip Hop music and culture. Spoken word is a style of poetry spoken in a rhythmic fashion.

Hip Hop ranges from rap music, to B-boy dance. It was a platform to empower ethnic youth without violence. Hip Hop in the beginning was essentially still an underground subculture. It was popular with many ethnic communities but it was not popular in the mainstream music industry. This all changed with the band Blondie and their song “Rapture”. “Rapture” is one of the first rap song’s to reach the top of the charts in mainstream pop music. Although Blondie is a punk/rock band, they were the proper catalyst to give Hip Hop the mainstream attention it deserved. Hip Hop has changed since it’s birth in the 1970’s.

Hip Hop is now apart of the mainstream music scene. It is not uncommon to see artist from different genres collaborating with Hip Hop artists. It is also not uncommon to see Hip Hop music and culture in movies, television shows, and commercials. In the past you would only see people from ethnic communities wearing Hip Hop clothing, now all races including Asian, Caucasian, etc have accepted the Hip Hop style. The subject matter has also changed. In the past Hip Hop lyrics focused on political and societal frustrations, now Hip Hop lyrics steer more toward provocative content.

Hip Hop subject matter consists mostly of the aspirations of wealth, sex, drug use, and criminal activity. During the beginning years the age of the Hip Hop listener was wide spread. It ranged from teens to even adults in their 50’s. Although Hip Hop still has an adult audience, it is now more geared toward younger audiences. Younger listeners are more likely to purchase Hip Hop music and paraphernalia, than the older audience. As Blondie helped Hip Hop garner increased exposure in the United States, The internet and other advancements in technology helped Hip Hop gain global exposure.

Technological changes in the late twentieth century and early twenty-first have enabled access to the social spaces previously bounded by time and geographic borders; a process identified by John Thompson as mediazation—a flow of images across time and space (“Hip Hop Globalization and Youth Culture”, 2005). The internet has created a world without barriers and borders. The internet helps connect people from Hong Kong, to people in Bellevue, Washington. Without the internet we would not have social networking. Social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and MySpace, exposes us to different ideas, cultures, and music.

MySpace is the leading social networking site when it comes to music. MySpace allows musicians from all over the globe to share their music with a diverse audience. User can find international music that they would not have been exposed to if MySpace was not created. Because of these connections to international music outlets Hip Hop has been able to spread to many countries. Many Countries have acquired Hip Hop into their own music scene. Many of these countries have mixed Hip Hop with their own popular music to form a new kind of Hip Hop.

As more music driven social networking sites are created blending of different music cultures will be the norm. Japan has been one of the top countries for globalization of music. You can find reggae, dance hall, death metal, or Hip Hop blaring from clubs. Hip Hop has been the most popular type of music to globalize into the Japanese music market. Japan was introduced to hip hop in the fall of 1983 in the movie Wild Style (“Japanese Hip Hop, 2010). This movie created an underground buzz. Soon Hip Hop in Japan began to be embraced by the Japanese youth. They ere inspired by the popular B-boy style of the western Hip Hop Culture. In the 21st Hip Hop’s popularity has become mainstream.

Young Japanese listeners have also adopt the dress culture as well, wearing baggy clothes, and backward caps. Because Hip Hop in America focuses on the hard life living in the ghetto, some think that Japanese Hip Hop is not authentic. With a lack of ghettos, Japanese youth consider hip hop to be more about fashion–baggy jeans, medallions, dread locks. Actual Japanese rap lyrics have a tendency to refer to mundane subjects such as food, cell phones, and shopping (“Japanese Hip Hop”, 2010).

The Japanese subculture of “blackfacers” may also challenge Japanese Hip Hop authenticity. The Japanese pop group, the Gosperats, has been known to wear black face makeup during performances (“Japanese Hip Hop, 2010). This example of imitation will most likely not be embraced by western “Hip Hop Heads” (Avid Hip Hop Listeners). Many would think that instead of taking Hip Hop into their own hands and constructing something different and new for the genre, they just ride on the backs of western Hip Hop creativity. Brazil is another country that has adopted Hip Hop culture into their own culture.

Brazilian Hip Hop was born in the barrios (ghettos) of Brazil. The Brazilian youth were drawn to the western Hip Hop culture. Hip Hop gave them a platform to voice the political and economic turmoil of living in the barrio. To escape their impoverished lives, break dancers, DJs, graffiti artists, and rappers would meet at the Largo de Sao Bento and in the center of Sao Paulo on weekends, where Brazilian rap’s distinctive sound (often incorporating roots, samba, and reggae) and lyrics began to be developed (“Popular Music”, 2005).

This integration of Hip Hop and Brazilian based music birthed Baile Funk. Baile Funk can be described as Hip Hop as it might sound in the post-apocalyptic wasteland of Mad Max (Edlund, 2005). This wild sound of Baile Funk screams the pain of the Brazilian slums. Brazilian Hip Hop has garnered much respect world wide. It’s authentic sound, and unapologetic, infectious beats have inspired artist everywhere. Because the Brazilian youth choose to hybridize the Brazilian and hip hop sound, they are respected for their originality.

Latin Hip Hop is significant because of the close proximity that Latino countries such as Mexico and Cuba are to America. Latino Hip Hop developed within the youth community. The Latino youth could relate to the hard life Hip Hop artist had in the ghetto. Many Latino Hip Hop acts were created by youth frustration in substandard living conditions. Because of the border between Mexico and the United States, Mexican Hip Hop was greatly influenced by western Hip Hop. The mixture of Spanish lyrics with American ones created a “Spanglish” sound.

Control Machete, founded in 1995, is most accurately classified as hip-hop, blended with the distinctive sounds of traditional Mexican guitar harmonies and the rhythms of danzon (“Popular Music”, 2005). This mix was used to target the Mexican youth to seek change of political and social problems amongst the Mexican community. These Mexican Hip Hop bands have also garnered a substantial following in the United States; because of the close proximity to the U. S. music flowing in both directions increase the influence of the Mexican music scene (“Popular Music”, 2005).

Cuba is another Latin country affected by Hip Hop music. Even though trade and travel between the United States and Cuba is restricted ,Hip Hop has still been able to influence their music. Cuban citizens were suppressed in many ways including free speech in journalism. Music was the only outlet to air political, economic, and social grievances. Songs about prostitution, street life, poverty, domestic violence, obsession with money, class differences, and the lack of spiritual and ethical values abound, and their biting, poetic criticism is a refreshing antidote to the island’s lifeless press (“Cuban Hip Hop”, 2008).

Lastly, Europe has not been able to dodge the influence of Hip Hop culture. The British Hip Hop scene is still forming an audience in the United States, while it has wide spread popularity in it’s native U. K. British grime is the fusion of cockney slang with hard beats, and Hip Hop flavor. The style grew out of London’s mostly black projects, called council estates, sometime around 2002, and spread via pirate radio, which functions in Britain essentially as mix tapes do here (Edlund, 2005). French Hip Hop is also alive in Europe.

This is an incredible feat because French culture is usually very resistant to American influences. Although French Hip Hop is mainstream in Europe, it has not garnered much success in the states. Throughout the past twenty years, the French hip-hop community has cultivated its own style and sensibilities while staying closely connected to American artists via music videos, concerts, radio, and other media (Hip Hop Music and Culture, 2005). There are many questions about the true authenticity of these forms of Hip Hop.

With the exception of the Japanese Hip Hop Movement, it can be said with confidence that authenticity has been achieved. While the Japanese Hip Hop movement stays true to the old school rap values and mentality, it does not go further than that. It does not seek to mix cultural influences with it’s music like the other countries. The European, Latino, and Brazilian Hip Hop movement have all mixed their culture, old and new to build something that is truly their own.

By adding each countries unique social, economic, and political turmoil, each international Hip Hop genre speaks a song of oppression, pain, and hope for the future that their own culture can relate to and value. Besides the Japanese Hip Hop community all other Hip Hop communities chose to hybridize their cultures with Hip Hop. The Japanese Hip Hop culture sought to homogenize itself. They seem to be more focus on imitating American Hip Hop life instead of building their own experiences. The adaptation of Hip Hop internationally is not really different in each country.

Although there problems may be different, they have the common denominator of being powered by the youth. Each Culture’s youth has grabbed hold of the Western Hip Hop ideals to create their own individuality in their own country. Also, Hip Hop seems to flourish is poor societies. These artist have more heart felt words to speak and genuine creativity because when you are brought up in such poor societal conditions that is sometimes all you have to hold on to. Hip Hop proves to be the voice of the people that may not be able to speak for themselves in conventional ways.

Globalization has allowed many people who would not have the means to speak up, to be able to take center stage. Many believe that globalization will be the end of individuality and creativity. This has been a theory that seems to fail when put up against Hip Hop globalization. Hip Hop Globalization has proven to hybridize communities and music,that in the end forms something that has never been seen before. Globalization may prove that instead of making the world “flat”, it will create new mountains and craters of creativity that were never imagined.


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