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Cultural Impact of Hip Hop

Nov 13, 2008 1095 Words
The Cultural Impact of Hip Hop Music

The Main Impact of Hip-hop music is on the Kids of today. The music, slang and clothing are a couple of examples of heavy influences. Why can't they be more like ... actually kids today are pretty much the same are their parents and grandparents were when it comes to creating their own culture. Only now, instead of flappers, hippies or punks, we've got a generation of youths influenced by hip-hop culture.

It's hard to argue that the current domination of hip-hop in popular music has had a strong influence on the way American teens talk, dress and act. Hip-hop culture has affected a variety of young people, and its effects can be seen in myriad ways.

The Talk
The concept of American youths creating a "second language" is nothing new. Slang has been around forever. Peachy keen turned into groovy, which turned into cool, which turned into tight, which turned into...I don't know, I'm older and I'm kind of lame. The point is, kids always have - and always will - found ways to separate themselves from their older un-hip counterparts, and using slang has been an easy way to do it. A lot of today's slang comes from hip-hop culture and/or lyrics to rap and hip-hop songs. Rapper/actor/entrepreneur Snoop Doggy Dogg has been a leader in this trend, inspiring the youth of the nation to add -izzle (or -izzey or -izzie) to the end of words. For example: "That was off the hizzle, fo' shizzle, my dizzle!" means "That was off the hook, for sure, my dog." (As far as what "off the hook" means and why anyone would refer to someone as a dog...well, we'll get to that in a minute.)

The Language of Hip Hop

Bill Cosby at this point in his career is not just internationally famous; he has become an icon in the black community as a successful, inspiring individual who did not let his color get in the way making his mark on society. So when this highly recognizable and well-loved entertainer came out a couple of years ago with a tirade against the black community, citing hip hop and the language associated with it as part of the problem with today's black youth, people paid attention. His rants, delivered at a NAACP event honoring the 50th anniversary of Brown vs. Board of Education caused quite a stir.

As founder of Def Jam Records Russell Simmons aptly put it, "pointing the finger may not be helpful -- we still have more struggle as a society and more work to do to reform it." (Debate Continues as Cosby Again Criticizes Black Youths, by Hamil L. Harris, Washington Post) It's hard to imagine a music culture that has evolved economically and culturally and has become so widely accepted to still suffer such censorship and harsh criticisms.

True, there is in fact a negative connotation to some of the language in hip hop, but conversely this same language has been adopted and assimilated into modern culture. How can you have politicians, parents and critics lambasting the same language that is used to market anything from cell phones to Subway sandwiches? Many in the hip hop world would tell you that language of hip hop is the language of the street -- the lexicon of the day-to-day struggle in urban life. It's hard to imagine a music culture that has evolved economically and culturally and has become so widely accepted to still suffer such censorship and harsh criticisms. The language of hip hop isn't going to change anytime soon. For every reference to the N word, guns and sex there are just as many references to empowerment, being strong and standing up for what you believe. Not everyone who plays a videogame shoots up a school. Not everyone who listens to hip hop will abuse women and join a gang. Understanding, interaction and communication is the key rather than focusing primarily on the negative aspects of hip hop. It's like being a part of that brotherly bond. And that's the thing that feels good about it. It's your people, and you hear other people using it, it's kind of flattering, you know what I'm saying? Even if they don't give the recognition like they are supposed to! It feels good to hear people out there 'biting' [using] your slang, basically. It's communication, you know what I mean? It's communication." (Ameen, Oakland California youth talking about the impact of the language of hip hop to an NPR reporter). Cultural Relations

As a sad comment on the state of race relations and racial misunderstandings, it was recently uncovered that throwing parties in which partygoers act or dress in stereotypes of black people are hip among some white college students.

When the news was reported in an article in the New York Times, it seemed hardly believable that parties of this nature could be occurring - and even worse that it would be occurring among college-age students. After all, most colleges require some sort of cultural understanding or history of another culture class as part of the general education criteria for obtaining a degree.

It was found that some white students at Tarleton State University in Texas hold parties where partygoers dress like gangsters and drink alcohol from paper bags. On the weekend of Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday, a white student from Clemson University attended a similar party. (Found out courtesy of MySpace.) In addition, university officials at Johns Hopkins are investigating a fraternity that throws parties inviting people to come wearing grills or caps on their teeth.

In a very strange twist off the general premise of a costume party, some students have made the image of hip-hop and black people into a cartoon meant for imitating as a joke or for fun.

However, many in the nearby black communities where some of these parties are being held are not laughing. On one side, there are people saying they were just having fun and mimicking what is already socially acceptable. On the other hand, there are people outraged at the implied cultural insensitivities.

The only problem is that with television, movies and music promoting the same images some of these students were trying to recreate at their parties, society seems to have a double standard for what is acceptable and what is not. At what point do we draw the line and say that none of that behavior is acceptable - whether that be at a college party or on TV?

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