Research Paper: Hip-Hop: The Greatest of All Musical Art

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Hip-Hop: The Greatest of All Musical Art Forms

"Woke up in the morning, feelin' like P. Diddy." The nation collectively chuckled as the suburban, white teenage rap star Kei$ha styled herself as an enterprising hip-hop diva. [Hyperbole] However, Kei$ha's song, as derivative as it might seem, marks an important cultural milestone. It symbolizes that hip-hop is no longer a marginalized, uniquely black art form. Originally, hip-hop was a means of expression for individuals who could articulate their hopes and desires through the conventional American dream of hard work and success. Through the use of parody and pastiche, hip-hop was a radical genre that critiqued the American Dream through postmodern appropriations of the hegemonic white culture. However, a distinction must be made between commercialized versions of hip-hop sounds such as Kei$ha's, and the original function of hip-hop as an urban critique, as practiced by the original Puff Daddy and groups such as Public Enemy: the former is advertising, the latter is art. [Parallel structure and alliteration]. Hip-hop that remains true to its artistic roots in the street, however, is perhaps the greatest art form of all, embracing the postmodern ethos of the time and merging it with social activism.

"The first hip-hop hit, 'Rapper's Delight' by the Sugar Hill Gang, came out in 1979. Hip-hop got its start in black America, but now more than 70% of hip-hop albums are purchased by whites. In fact, a whole generation of kids -- black, white, Latino, Asian -- has grown up immersed in hip-hop" (Farley et al. 1999, p.1). But although the mainstreaming hip-hop may be welcome, this should not come at the expense of hip-hop's original purpose of expressing black anger and angst in a manner that often made mainstream American uncomfortable, even while they delighted to dancing to a hip-hop beat (Powell 2000). Hip-hop is more than rapping words. It is "a form of expression that finds its roots imbedded deep within ancient African culture and oral tradition. Throughout history there has always been some form of verbal acrobatics or jousting involving rhymes within the Afro-American community," to express though art what could not always be expressed in politics ("Hip Hop: The history," Independence, 2006.). Hip-hop is perhaps the ultimate postmodern art form: it has always had strongly derivative elements whereby it would take elements of so-called mainstream culture and twist them to allow the artist to make his or her own statement. At first, this was simply conveyed by hip-hop DJs mixing records and beats during relatively spontaneous happenings, but gradually the mixing of different cultural elements became more serious, as exemplified in Public Enemy's 1989 rap song "Fight the Power." The greatness of "Fight the Power" and other groups of this era such as NWA in contrast to the manufactured techno and bubble gum pop of the 80s was that it conveyed a message using a musical style that was innovative, harsh, yet powerful.

Even non-hip-hop artists have conceded to the greatness of hip-hop, allowing their music to be used in hip-hop music. A good example of how hip-hop style can use an existing song to create an entirely different meaning is that of "Every breath you take." In its original form the lyric was a very personal, musing 1983 Police tune about an obsessive lover. The hip-hop artist Puff Daddy turned the ironic, slightly sinister song into a sincerely rapped tune entitled "I'll be missing you" about the lives lost to urban violence, including Puff Daddy's friend, the Notorious B.I.G. Sting gave the use of song his blessing, and when Puff Daddy (now known as P. Diddy) performed this at the MTV Video Music Awards, Sting joined the rapper on stage ("I'll be missing you' by Puff Daddy," Song Facts, 1997). [Alliteration]

"Now a billion-dollar industry, hip-hop has become the voice of young people on the planet breaking down racial, ethnic, gender, class, language and regional barriers. Hip-hop is manifest everywhere, pushing… [END OF PREVIEW]

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