The Language of Hip Hop
Term paper for the PS
"The English Language in America"
handed in by
Table of contents
Introduction to hip hop
Hip Hop Nation Language
Features of the HHNL
The relationship of HHNL and AAL
Gin And Juice
Drop It Like It's hot
Introduction to hip hop
To explain the language of hip hop it's necessary
to know about its history. The author of XXX. Drei Jahrzehnte Hip- Hop (George 5) assumes that hip hop was really recognized for the first time during the 1970s. Its centre were block parties in New York City where DJs isolated drums and percussions to form a new kind of music named breakbeat. While breakdancers danced to this music some performers started speaking over it. They were called MCs and had the task to entertain the crowd as kind of a moderator. Later these performers started to rap. Alim describes it as "aesthetic placement of verbal rhymes over musical beats" (Rickford and Finegan 388). In 1979 the first hip hop songs were released by The Sugarhillgang and King Tim III. The beginning of the development of hip hop from 1970 to 1985 is known as the old school hip hop era. Hip hop was spread all over America and even foreign countries recognized the new music genre. The golden age hip hop era (1985 to 1993) was mainly characterized by the delimitation and rivalry of hip hop of the American East coast and the West Coast. G-funk was established as a new style and there was a rise of gangster rap because of social changes. Many performers grew up in the ghetto or were involved in criminal activities. It got another image and therefore since 1993 a style called hardcore hip hop began to develop. Today there are many underground genres characterizing the modern era. So one can assume that not only the image but also the language of performers changed during the eras. Nowadays the hip hop culture is very much connected to fashion. This linkage shows that hip hop can be considered as more than just music. Another important issue is that members of the hip hop culture mostly distinguish four major elements: MCing, DJing, breakdancing and writing (graffiti art). All of them can again be divided in different parts or styles, e.g. MCing consists of Battle-Rap, Freestyle, Story-Telling and others. But although there are these elements the whole hip hop culture is characterized by changes influenced by its members or leaders. 2
In fact Afrika Bambaata adds overstanding as an other additional element in the past but nowadays it's mostly not longer accepted or recognized. Because of social and political changes the original idea of hip hop is sometimes misinterpreted. So many aspects have a certain influence on the language of hip hop, e.g. the social background is very important. Many artists that are very famous now were involved in crime and rap was their opportunity to express their feelings in an own community, e.g. 50cent is rapping about his past and why he had to deal with drugs. Furthermore many artists claim that hip hop develops in the streets and that this became the centre of hip hop cultural activity. Because of the media nearly everybody can get access to the hip hop community now. That means many people now use the special features of hip hop language. Therefore Alim claims that language would perhaps be "the most useful means with which to read the various cultural...
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