– March 12, 2014, the early pioneers of Hip-Hop were honoured with a City Council Proclamation.
“Hip hop. There’s so many things you can say about it you feel me? Like, on the real like, hip hop is just beautiful. Hip hop is life.” Zion I – Bird’s Eye View.
Hip-hop for the longest time has always been present in my life, from the music and dance to the language and the style. However, it was only three years ago that I found myself seeking an understanding of the movement. Without claiming to be anything more than a student of the culture, this article’s purpose is to share/provide a very basic and light insight and understanding to those who might not currently possess it. Hopefully the points raised will provoke dialogue and thought on the direction and essence of hip-hop.
“I grew up in those streets like everyone else, but instead of pushing drugs I pushed knowledge itself.” KRS-One – 5%
Hip-Hop is a culture that originated in the Brooklyn Bronx of New York, United States during the early 70s; the Hip referring to someone who was ‘current’ or ‘in the now’ and the Hop derivative of the term ‘hopping’.
Whilst today, many people’s knowledge of hip-hop history will perhaps only extend as far back to icons such as The Notorious B.I.G or Run DMC, the father and one of the first original generators (OGs) of hip-hop was none other than DJ Kool Herc. Kool Herc began by playing records from an apartment on Sedgwick Avenue and would tailor the mood and music towards various individuals who were in attendance. Often speaking short rhymes over beats, Kool Herc gave rise MCing (MC – Master of Ceremonies, Mic Controller, Mover of the Crowd) known to the commercial public as rap. Herc also has stated that he began to noticed that people would wait for the drum break of record to dance and realizing this he began to extend these breaks, naming those who danced specifically to these parts of a song ‘break boys’ or ‘b-boys’ and ‘break girls’ or ‘b-girls’.
This is the root of all Hip hop and it is from this point that the culture has expanded and evolved. Comprised of various elements that deal with Music (Djing), Mcing (rap), Bboying (breakdance) and Graffiti Writing, hip-hop remains the dominant movement within minority communities; a culture based on knowledge, wisdom and understanding as well as peace, unity and fun.
“I think people need this. There is no way you cannot need this in society right now! Coming from the ghetto where everyone thinks its so negative and we’re doing something positive, how can that not become big? How can that be respected in society?”– The Freshest Kids
Understanding its foundation, hip-hop and the debates surrounding it should begin to make sense. Hip-hop is not a trend, for some it may be introduced as such but it is a lifestyle complete with passion, imagination and creativity, language and knowledge that is applied to the everyday. The self expression of artists such as Nas, Zion I, KRS One, Talib Kweli, Mos Def, Common, The Jabbawokeez, Rock Steady Crew, give insight into the lives of their communities, provide political stand points, inspire and teach, all to as a result, further themselves and the culture.
“Right now, they market hip hop as a thug thing”– Ran Dee – Freshest Kids: A History of the B-boy
Whilst there have been many forces that oppose and damage hip hop e.g. political bias against the hip hop, I believe that the greatest threat comes from within.
As has already been stated hip hop is about knowledge and understanding however, originating within the ghettos, hip hop inevitably has been and still is associated with violence, gang warfare and misogyny and has towards the end of the 80s has even been seen to emphasize and glorify these themes. Most noticeably the success of N.W.A, who although are jewels and a significant icon within hip-hop themselves, is considered a driving force of this perspective. Being so inclusive of all people from all walks of life, hip-hop can afford no other option but to continue evolve and grow however in doing so it’s foundation and history is being lost and as a whole is unfortunately being exploited by corporations and those who seek to work under them.
Words: Kitan Ogunfeibo