Hip Hop as a Co-Culture Term Paper

Pages: 5 (1652 words)  ·  Style: MLA  ·  Bibliography Sources: 10  ·  File: .docx  ·  Topic: Music

Hip Hop Culture

The hip hop cultural movement began in the early 1970s, in the Bronx borough of New York City. Since this time, hip hop culture has spread to all four corners of the world, garnering fans beyond their originally intended audience ("Don't Hate"). There is no youth trend that is more visible globally than hip hop (Watkins).

As Grinage notes, today "it is not uncommon, while walking down the street, to see groups of youngsters, hats backward, durags exposed, pants sitting low on their waists, sporting baggy t-shirts adorned with logos and phrases such as "Stop Snitching" and "Welcome to the Hood" or a picture of a notorious rap music icon such as Tupac Shakur or the Notorious B.I.G.."

There are four primary components that make up hip hop culture: MCing or rapping, DJing, breakdancing, and graffiti, with a fifth added by some - beatboxing (Alridge and Stewart; Sheng). It is through this unique urban culture that an entire generation of music, literature, artwork, and fashion has evolved.

MCing, more commonly known as rapping, is one of the largest components of hip hop culture. The art of rapping means, in the loosest of terms, to recite rhymes to beats. It was during the 1970s that rap was born, in the Bronx. Disc jockeys could be found alternating and mixing excerpts from records, adding 'scratching' noises to the mix, while a vocalist would recite rhymed lyrics that sounded similar to spoken poetry.

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Some of the founding fathers of rap included: Afrika Bambaataa, DJ Kool Here, Grandmaster Flash (Grinage), and Sugarhill Gang (Kenis). And more than three decades later it is still growing strong.

This Black/Brown inner city movement, despite being shunned by mainstream America over the years, (has) grown into a global phenomenon. On a national scale, hip-hop culture, particularly its music, has become the face of the economic power, socio-cultural influence and political potential of the generation of Black youth growing up after the Civil Rights and Black Power movements (Reeves).

Term Paper on Hip Hop as a Co-Culture Assignment

DJ Kool Here, born Clive Campbell, was originally from Kingston, Jamaica, but moved to the West Bronx at the age of twelve. However, before leaving Jamaica, Campbell became familiar with the sounds of Jamaican dance hall music. As he grew older, while in the Bronx, he would host parties where he would perform as the DJ and incorporate the unique Jamaican style. Grinage notes that Kevin Donovan, a founding member of the Black Spades gang, also was a Bronx rap pioneer. After a life altering trip to Africa, Donovan became inspired by Zulu warriors and changed his name to Afrika Bambaataa. He then began the racially and politically aware group of rappers known as Zulu Nation.

The harsh economic reality of the 1980s for inner-city communities further inspired hip hop culture. Middle and working-class families began to leave the area just as crack cocaine, an inexpensive alternative to regular cocaine, hit the streets of these highly populated urban areas. Joblessness soared, and this along with racial prejudice in hiring decisions, led many Blacks and Hispanics to turn to drug dealing as an only means of support. This new drug culture, Grinage surmises, "helped produce a new set of values and beliefs that devalued normal social and economic interactions. This new lifestyle of 'easy money' emphasized deception and violence. During this period, crack use and dealing came to be associated with hip hop culture."

Two inter-related types of rap music emerged in the 1980s: gangsta rap and political or protest rap. Where political rap often finds lyrics taking a stand against drugs, poverty, sexism, racism, and the judicial system, gangsta rap focuses on violence, misogyny, and gun play, rife with profane language and anti-social messages. Both facets sprung forth from the poor ghetto communities, as a means of speaking out against the violence, crime, and high mortality rates surrounding the artists. Gangsta rappers, however, claims it is simply speaking the truth about the harsh environment they are forced to live in (Grinage).

One of the reasons for hip hop's global appeal is its cultural and political resonance, according to Watkins. Hip hop has been an incredible source of expression and empowerment for young people, giving those on the margins a voice.

It began as the voice of the streets, giving the powerless a resource to express themselves, and continues to still be that voice today.

Grinage notes that the first gangsta rap song was likely "P.S.K. - What Does it Mean," which was released in 1985 by Schoolly D.P.S.K., a Philadelphia rapper, and featured lyrics that centered on graphic sex, gun play, drugs, and the word '*****'. The initials P.S.K. Stand for Park Side Killas, a street gang Schoolly D. was affiliated with. In contrast, California rapper Ice T. is often credited with the spread of gangsta rap, yet his lyrics often had a political component as well.

Today, gangsta rap is still extremely popular in the hip hop culture, despite its anti-social theme.

Hip hop is not the first music-centric culture to cross international borders and become globalized. Rock-and-roll music spread across the Atlantic ocean. The 1950s saw Brazil's bossa nova migrate to America, affecting American jazz artists. Yet, hip hop is unique in its globalization thanks primarily to the rise of global media conglomerates, according to Watkins.

Never before has a media company had such scope and reach. and, as Watkins continues, "because hip-hop isn't just music - it's also attitude and culture - these global media companies partner with fashion labels, beverage brands, and sports franchises to sell a total hip-hop lifestyle."

Regretfully, also associated with this culture is a high level of misogyny and a general negative perception of African-American culture in general.

Sexism, racisim, homophobia, and materialism is often at the heart of most of today's hip hop music, especially that in the category of gangsta rap. In particular, Sheng puts forth, "music videos, in particular, perpetuate gender stereotypes and discrimination and attempt to normalize unequal social behavior under the label of art."

The stereotyped gender roles portrayed negatively affect how women see themselves. Women are constantly bombarded by violence and abuse and sexism portrayed in hip hop music videos, as well as described in the lyrics, and begin to see this as a legitimate form of 'gangsta love'. In addition, Sheng continues, youth do not have the full cognitive ability to differentiate between illusion and reality. and, as hip hop now serves as the predominant and prevailing expression of Black culture, these negative themes have a detrimental effect on young girls' identity formation. These girls are more likely to adopt a highly sexualized nature, in order to gain popularity, just as they see in the hip hop videos. In addition, the glamorizing of crime and violence contributes to the perception that African-Americans, in general, wish to adopt this sort of lifestyle that these are their socially accepted norms for their culture.

Yet, as Page surmises, even if hip hop culture disappeared completely it wouldn't change the economic, social and political reality that led to its creation, and therefore would likely be replaced by some other pop cultural trend.

But, it does make the problems worse by glamorizing sexual conquests, gangster lifestyles, party drugs, exploitation of women, and absentee fatherhood. As Harvard sociology professor, Orland Patterson, argues, more than economics or historical racism, today's hip hop culture has led to a new underclass of disconnected black youths that is unique in America. "Joblessness is rampant in Latin America and India, but the mass of the populations does not turn to crime" (qtd. Page).

As Alridge and Stewart note, hip hop "has developed as a cultural and artistic phenomenon affecting youth culture around the world." Hip hop has not only contributed to the popular culture, but to the American economy as well (Goodson). This… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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