Minstrel Shows and Hip-Hop the Degradation of the African American Culture

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Minstrel Shows and Hip-Hop the Degradation of the African American Culture

For the y2k generation, Hip-Hop Music has been the center of popularity and interest. In the late 1800’s Minstrel shows served the same purpose. Throughout the various generations music and theatre have had a large impact throughout the community. However this impact is not always positive. What was originated as positive became negative very quickly. The minstrel show, which was originally intended to be harmless entertainment for the masses, came to be viewed as a form of propaganda that degraded and dehumanized African Americans; similarly, today’s hip-hop serves the same purpose by glorifying bigotry and degradation.

Webster’s Dictionary defines a Minstrel as “any of a troupe of performers typically giving a program of black American melodies, jokes, and impersonations and usually wearing blackface,”[i] Thomas D. Rice is believed to be the first Minstrelsy in blackface. Rice modeled his minstrel after an older disfigured black man entertaining himself with song and dance wearing unkempt clothing. His most popular minstrel was “Jump Jim Crow.” "Jump Jim Crow" became the first popular minstrel song, but in reality it was a mockery of African Americans and an exploitation of their culture. Unlike Rice’s sole contribution to the origins of the minstrel show, Hip Hop has had many contributors: DJ Kool Herc, Keith ”Cowboy” Wiggins, Grandmaster Flash and the Fabulous Five, Chuck D and Public Enemy, and Run DMC are some of the most remarkable contributors. These men are most remarkable because at the rise of the Hip Hop movement, Hip Hop was not centered around violence, drugs, weapons, and sex as people like to think. It was just mere entertainment or a political message with songs like “Rappers Delight” (see Figure 1) and “Fight the Power.” (see Figure 2)

Davy D of Davyd.com tells us that:
“Hip Hop is an art form that includes deejaying [cuttin' & scartchin'] emceeing/rappin'. breakdancing and grafitti art. These art forms as we know them today originated in the South Bronx section of New York City around the mid 1970s. Hip Hop has thrived within the subculture of Black and Puerto Rican communities in New York and is now just recently beginning to enjoy widespread exposure. From a sociological perspective, Hip Hop has been one of the main contributing factors that helped curtail gang violence due to the fact that many adults found it preferable to channel their anger and aggressions into these art forms which eventually became the ultimate expression of one's self.”[ii] Hip Hop is not only a type of music, but it is a cultural movement that was developed in the early 70’s. Beginning in the Bronx, Hip Hop culture has been contagious throughout the world. Over the years, Hip Hop went from being commercially positive to being full of negativity, propaganda, sex, violence, alcohol, dehumanization, and bigotry. During a Minstrel show, Minstrel performers told lots of malapropistic jokes that caused them to accidently substitute words they meant for other words. In Hip-Hop one of the signs of creativity were to identify women as “Bitches” and “hoes.” The “n” word is used to substitute friend, enemy, or brother. For example, rap artist Lil’ Kim refers to herself numerous times throughout her music as a bitch or a hoe. Even her style of dress is highly provocative and un-lady like. (See Figure 3) The minstrel show had six stock characters. These characters express common stereotypical African American characteristics that white America thought were humorous. These characters were found humorous to white Americans, but were found dehumanizing and degrading to African Americans. Hip-Hop artists fulfill some of the same dehumanizing and degrading characteristics as displayed through the stock characters in a minstrel show. H SA few of the characters in a minstrel are "Jim Crow" the stereotypical...
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