Rap and Hip-Hop

Submitted by DerekArnold on Fri, 05/25/2007 - 12:52.

One thing that Chuck D addressed while in Akron a couple of days ago is the absence of historical context when it comes to talking about hip-hop.  The monicker to describe what is now known as hip-hop was born in 1976 but the spirit that allowed all of its element to come together as an American art form (as American, if not more so, than jazz, the blues or Appalachian folk music) comes from the whole of the experience of Africans and African-Americans.  

     Rap music itself is simply people speaking rhytmically over music.  You can sing over music, you can talk over music.  Rap is in between. Hell, James Brown used to do all three. Hip-hop is the wider cultural perspective surrounding it.  It's form of dress, lexicon, MCing (which is a combination of rapping and showmanship -- MC means "master of ceremonies" after all), DJing, graffiti art and breakdancing.  It's the customary beliefs, social forms, and material traits of a social group which makes it a......culture.

     While some elements within the culture have different emphases, one thing that it's not is monolithic.  Balance is necessary in portrayal of what hip-hop culture is.  But, America has never been good at giving black people balanced coverage.  Black people, especially men, are often characterized as unassailably good (a la Michael Jordan) or unspeakably bad (a la Mike Tyson).  In reality,  all of us are somewhere in the middle. We may be at a different spot in the continuum day-to-day.

     Which leads us to Dumn Anus (nee Don Imus)...Don Imus used language that predates hip-hop (people used ho, which is merely a short form of whore and nappy-headed way before hip-hop) to describe a group of women (primarily black women) in an extremely base and disrespectful way.  Just because some rappers use these same terms to disrespect women doesn't mean that there is a relationship between hip-hop and an old ignorant man insulting a group of classy student-athletes.


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So Derek, what do you think PD "Street Culture" means?

Thanks for this informative summary of hip hop, rap and culture - very concise and powerful presentation and enlightening context. I agree completely with you and see this issue from the perspective of readers of the Plain Dealer, the unbalanced Cleveland newspaper that has gone on a crusade against what they call "Street Culture"... Sister Regina Brett leads this culture-profiling initiative, as considered here.

Derek, can you describe "Street Culture" and differentiate it from criminal behavior, as this distinction seems lost on the Imusness-perpetuating, all for profit and ratings media world that is  corrupting and then "ho'ing" American cultural uniqueness... still seems to me like the days when Jazz combos would play at white theaters and then the black musicians would be forced to go eat and sleep in black-only facilities... the "white" world has always appreciated the artistic creativity of other cultures but historically has not consided non-white creators equal to whites. I see that as the root of all the problems in American society today... racism and supremacy.

Let's see if we can get Regina and others at the PD to shake off their Imusness and recognize some of the more sophisticated aspects of cultural issues, as you describe above... keep an eye on Regina for her response.

Disrupt IT