Hip-hop in the South Bron Essay
Hip-hop in the South Bron
Hip-hop surfaced in the South Bronx and the northeast areas of New York in the early and mid 1970s. Hip hop was so named because of its intrinsic beat. Its popularity began to increase exponentially in the 1980s (Bertram, 1999, p. 42). Hip Hop exists not only in a musical form. Hip-hop as it is known today also represents a style of dress, a distinct language, a particular perspective of viewing the world as well as an expressive form that reflects the feelings of a large section of youth who were born between 1965 and 1984 (Aidi, 2004, p. 108).
The hip-hop culture consists of at four distinct elements. Disc jockeying (DJ-ing), break dancing, graffiti art, and rapping (emceeing) are the avenues whereby hip-hoppers represent the sentiments of hip-hop (Marshall, 2006, p. 50). The movement has evolved from the streets of the Bronx into a highly commercially musical form with associated mega-franchises repeating the benefits of its success. Hip hop artists feature prominent among Americas top radio stations and on MTV. Hip hop has therefore moved from just a locally specific form to contain an international following (Bertram, 1999, p. 2).
Rap has emerged as the most commercially successful aspect of hip hop and it is primarily through this expressive medium that the hip-hop culture is proliferated globally (Bennett, 1999, p. 2). Rap delineates a style of vocal representation in which rhyming lyrics are vocalized or rapped to the undertones of a continuous beat. This ‘breakbeat’ is created by a DJ who utilizes a twin-turntable record deck and combines portions of vinyl records into new music. Scratching is also a defining characteristic of rap music. Here on record is scratched to the beat of another record by using the needle on the record deck (Bennett, 1999, p.
2). Among the rap groups that were prominent during the initial development of hip hop Bennett (1999) notes the Zulu Nation which was formed by Afrika Bambaataa, a former member of a street gang. Hip-hop has now become an avenue for minorities to express social and political sentiments and to speak out against repressive systems. American hip-hop emerged as a successor to the civil rights and black power movements which sought to empower blacks in a racially segregated society. The musical form arose out of an effort to redirect resentment among the youth of the South Bronx away from gang fighting.
The hip-hop movement therefore is inherently antagonistic to oppressive systems. The musical aspect of rap has been observed to encourage violence (Gordon, 2005, p. 367) and, according to Aidi (2004) it also brings pathology and dysfunction (p. 110). Its structure therefore makes it an area of contention among political actors who dislike the often negative, anti-establishment messages that it presents. Because of rap music’s particularly ‘gangsta rap’ support and promotion of violence, it has become a serious issue of concern for the white middle and upper classes which feel the most targeted by its messages.
Hip-hop necessarily speaks to inner-city blacks, Latino youth and even white living in the suburbs who themselves have felt the effects of oppressive capitalist system. Hip hop’s prominence as a cultural form arises from its ability to connect intimately with the experiences of African-American youth since hip hop is about lending a voice to the otherwise underrepresented black community. As Bennett (1999) observes, hip hop ‘has always been and remains directly connected with the streets from which it came’ (p. 2).
However hip hop is not strictly an African-American cultural form even though it has tended to be discussed exclusively in these terms. As hip hop developed it has been adopted by sections of the white US underclass who identify with the messages that it presents. While acknowledging that the hip hop movement did indeed emerge within the inner cities of America, Bennett (1999) suggests that its cultural resonance is not authentic to the experiences of African Americans within the inner city of the United States. Its broader roots are grounded in the historical situation of Africans in the diaspora.
Therefore it is suggested that the real roots of hip hop is in the enslavement of Africans between the sixteenth and nineteenth centuries. Even though the slave trade and slavery have long been abolished, blacks within Africa and former slave colonies, such as the West Indies, have continued to struggle against the capitalist regimes of Europe and now America. Blacks within these regions have been migrating into the UK and the US in order to escape political and religious persecution or to secure a better standard of living and better opportunities for themselves and their families (Bennett, 1999, p.
3). Hip hop, like other music forms, therefore represent an avenue whereby these individuals can communicate shared feelings through the message of music as well as encourage organization and mobilization. Within rap music, artistes attempt to undo the economic dependency of blacks and to speak out against cultural imperialism through the promotion of art forms that are distinctly Africa. Therefore it has become increasingly evident that hip hop no longer appeals solely to youth within the African-diaspora but it attracts youths from very diverse socio-cultural backgrounds (Bennett 1999, p.
4). Globalization of culture has facilitate the movement of the hip hop culture across national boundaries and has also caused the development of distinct local forms of this now international art form (Dennis, 2006, p. 271). Rap is believed to have arrived in Colombia in the 1980s soon after its upsurge in the US. This was possible because of the cross movement of Colombians into the United States. In Colombia hip hop has established its presence and popularity among the country’s urban youth. Devotees to rap are predominantly mestizos.
Afro-Colombian rappers are changing traditional perceptions of ethnicity and race through the performance of music (Dennis, 2006, p. 271). Afro-Colombians identify with the oppressive feelings felt by African Americans and therefore rap music has a particular appeal for them. Most rappers are also from the lower socio-economic classes and many have lived under extreme poverty. Additionally in terms of education, many of the artistes that are attracted to hip hop within Colombia have not completed high school and none so far have had a university education (Dennis, 2006, p.
272). Youths within Colombia experience racial discrimination, particularly within urban centers where young black Colombians come into direct contact with the dominant culture and racist ideologies and behaviors (Dennis, 2006, p. 274). The music of rap has been reinterpreted within the Colombian scenario so as to emphasize the performers’ ethnic-racial identities as well as the cultural significance of their localities (Dennis, 2006, p. 271). Artistes have been mixing rap with Afro-Colombian folklore and other Latin American and Caribbean expressions such as salsa and reggae.
They promote the rights of ethnic minorities and advocate their cultural, musical and racial identity. Like the Colombian masochistic views, rap in this country is also male-dominated. It becomes evident that the Colombian hip-hop culture generally maintains Western concepts of male roles. On the rap scene Afro-Colombian rappers promote leftist, anti-capitalist, and anti-globalization sentiments. Few deal with matters of race or examine the issue of racial discrimination within the Colombian context.
Dennis (2006) observes that it is not till recently that a few Afro-Colombian rappers have been addressing racial concerns through music. Some black rappers in Colombia are now using rap to celebrate their ethnic and racial heritage and also pointing to racial discrimination. Within the UK particularly within Newcastle upon Tyne hip hop has attracted a white following. The area consists primarily of the white working class. There is a small population of Asian and Afro-Caribbean natives residing in the area but these groups have little or no impact on Newcastle’s cultural environment.
A small hip hop-following community has emerged within Newcastle and a few outlying areas such as Gateshead, Blythe and Cramlington but it is equally of little general cultural impact. Hip hop in Newcastle has an essential whiteness to it (Bennett, 1999, p. 6). Black conscious sentiments are echoed here. The followers, though not personally affected by the same oppressive issues as blacks, find intimate connections with the concept of blackness echoed by hip hop music. Its themes are also of relevance to the white working class community.
These followers do not believe that hip hop can be understood only in terms of the African-American context. They therefore try to represent hip hop as a medium through with they can express their views on issues by which they are affected on a daily basis. They embrace the view, therefore, that hip hop music is able to identify with the experiences of the white working class youth in Newcastle (Bennett, 1999, p. 10). Newcastle hip hoppers have developed a form of self-styled local hip hop.
Hip hop is therefore being modified by the youths in Newcastle so that it becomes a more localize mode of expression so that it resounds with the nature of their own particular local circumstances (Bennett, 1999, p. 15). Within the Czech Republic the adaptation of hip hop is primarily an underground movement. This movement is influenced by dissatisfaction with the local drug culture. Hip hop in the Czech Republic is therefore quite distinct from the American form. Hip hoppers here oppose the flashy ‘bling-bling’ emphasis of the western form.
It rather represents a mixture of foreign and local elements but which is distinctly unique. Only three of the four forms of hip hop have been successfully adapted and manipulated within the Czech Republic. Break-dancing is probably the most popular but spraying and rapping are also practiced. DJ-ing has not been possible because of the absence of the necessary technology. Furthermore the Czech form of hip hop necessarily preaches a different message because the majority of Czech youth do not understand the language used in American rap, even if they study English in school (Bertram, 2003, p. 42).
This barrier has therefore resulted in hip hop within the Czech Republic developing, according to Bertram (2003), a different soul. Even in Jamaica, the home of reggae, hip hop has had a significant amount of influence (Marshall, 2006, p. 49). Dancehall music, a variant of reggae, is said to have developed based on the strong hip hop influence on the country’s music. REFERENCES Aidi, H. (2004, Jul-Dec). Verily, there is only one hip-hop umma: Islam, cultural protest and urban marginality. Socialism & Democracy, 18(2), 107-126. Bennett, A. (1999, Feb). Rappin’ on the Tyne: white hip hop culture in Northeast England: an ethnographic study.
Sociological Review, 47(1), 1-25. Bertram, D. (2003, Spring). Czech hip Republic hop. New Presence: The Prague Journal of Central European Affairs, 5(1), 42-43. Dennis, C. (2006). Afro-Colombian Hip-Hop: Globalization, popular music and ethnic identities. Studies in Latin American Popular Culture, 25(271-295). Gordon, L. (2005, Oct-Dec). The problem of maturity in hip hop. Review of Education, Pedagogy & Cultural Studies, 27(4), 367-389. Marshall, W. (2006, Mar/Jun ). Bling-bling for Rastafari: How Jamaicans deal with hip-hop. Social & Economic Studies, 55(1 & 2), 49-74.