AP English 12
In order for one to understand the genre Hip-hop, one must know the origination, the changes over the years, and the impact hip-hop has on today’s society. Hip-hop has been around for more than a few decades and it has been considered to be one of the most controversial subjects for quite some time. Some people say hip hop encourages hate and violence, others say it encourages self believe and tackle social and political issues. It has been said, that negative lyrics in rap and hip-hop music can seriously damage our society and cause violence, while others presume that hip-hop is freedom of speech, and is the voice of the streets on many popular problems of our society. (University Press of Kansas, 2007), “Music heavily influences people. People listen to music more than they do the President of the United States.” More than half of today’s generation listen to hip hop and it is a wonder how the genre affects these people. Hip hop can only be taken by the individual who listens to it and given the reputation that it has now.
In the beginning Hip-hop originated in African-American communities during the late 1970′s in New York City. DJ Clive “Kool Herc” Campbell is credited as being highly influential in the early stage of hip hop. He created the blue print for hip hop by taking ideas from the Jamaican tradition of poetry and speech over music. Many believe hip hop was born in the historic building in 1520 Sedgwick Avenue, Bronx, New York. This is where DJ Kool Herc and other DJs would perform. He also developed “break-beat deejaying” where the breaks of funk songs were repeated and isolated to be used and go with all-night dance parties. Herc would make announcements to dancers which would lead to rhyme spoken accompaniment now known as rapping. This formed the basis of hip hop music. (Jeff Chang, 2005) With so much international influence, it is no wonder that hip-hop music quickly spread around the globe, and over the last 30 years, it has influenced everything from fashion to dance to graffiti, becoming a cultural movement all its own. Many historians say that the modern hip-hop is made up of four elements: the DJ, rap, graffiti and break-dancing. (Jason Tanz, 2007) However, some contend that these elements are much broader in scope, including visual arts, the written and spoken word, physical movement and style. Hip hop music in its infancy has been described as an outlet for economic and political realities of their lives. Since its emergence in 1970 Hip-Hop has dominantly evolved the American culture and the genre has gone through several dramatic stages. Hip-Hop has allowed the world to hear the adversities black Americans experience while at the same time showcasing their creativity. It has allowed us to be seen for who we are despite what we’ve been depicted to be. In its earlier years it allowed its national listeners to hear the pain and struggles of black Americans. (M.K. Asante, 2009) It offered a place for the oppressed to vent. Through this culture we have witnessed life from the disadvantaged perspective in the 70’s and 80’s, we have heard life from the “dope boy” perspective in the 90’s and we have heard life from the party perspective in the early 2000’s. Hip-Hop has changed and will continue to change, but is it changing in the right direction? Creativity has evolved but the substance has lacked, leaving us with meaningless words and false realities. Surely we would not want to repeat the previous eras, life is about progression, but is there a way to keep advancing hip-hop’s lyrical creativity while maintaining its substance so its listeners will not be inactive in their own progression. (N. Milan, the State of Hip Hop, 2010). Listeners should keep in mind that lyrics are a reflection of what is on the artist’s mind. That said people should do a thorough review of the rap artist and their music because as Nas said, “Hip-Hop is dead”. As a cultural movement, hip-hop manages to get billed as both a positive and negative influence on today’s generation, especially on Black and Latino youth. On one hand, there are African American activists, artists and entrepreneurs, such as Russell Simmons, who seek to build a progressive political movement among young hip-hop fans and who have had modest success with voter registration efforts. On the other hand, there is no shortage of critics who denounce the negative portrayals of Black people, especially women, in hip-hop lyrics and videos. Recently, a few critics in major U.S. newspapers took note of a well-publicized marketing firm study that cited the cultural influence of hip-hop and reported on sexuality among African American youth in households earning less than $25,000 per year in 10 cities. (Steve Stoute, 2011) The study revealed that Black adolescents are becoming sexually active at ages younger than other youth and are suffering from HIV/AIDS at a rate higher than other groups. “The teens did display attitudes consistent with the macho pose of hip-hop rappers. Their motto: ‘Use or be used,’ among others. And ‘Get it while you can.’ And consistent with a culture that uses the “B” word and the “H” word as labels for every woman but one’s mama, the study reveals ‘Black females are dissed by almost everyone,’ including other Black females,” wrote nationally syndicated columnist Clarence Page. “The study of the hip-hop generation fails to pin down the big question: Does rap music and other traits of the hip-hop culture influence teens or merely mirror the culture that teens have created? The answer is probably both,” Page noted. After more than two decades of hip-hop’s growth, an emerging cohort of young scholars may very well provide clear answers to questions of hip-hop’s influence. “At one level, we need to document the genre. It is important that we examine the perspectives of both the producers and consumers of hip-hop,” says Dr. Beatrice Bridglall, the assistant director of the Institute for Urban and Minority Education at Columbia University. As stated before, Hip hop can only be taken by the individual who listens to it and given the reputation that it has now. In closing, in order for one to understand the genre Hip-hop, one must know the origination, the changes over the years, and the impact hip-hop has on today’s society. Hip hop and rap, as a language and genre, is fluid and evolutionary. It moves from a purveyor of social message, to portrait of ghetto fabulous life to optimistic ramblings of a hopeful poet. According to the U.S. Department of State, hip hop is “now the center of a mega music and fashion industry around the world that crosses social barriers and cuts across racial lines.” National Geographic recognizes hip hop as “the world's favorite youth culture” in which “just about every country on the planet seems to have developed its own local rap scene.” (University Press of Kansas, 2007) As we continue to preserve and protect its roots and origin, we must continue to respect it, not as one entity that defines all who participate in it, but as a genre that has many movements, cultures, layers, and pages of history.
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