Wednesday, August 23, 2006

...And You Don't Stop

I grew up during, was molded by, contributed to, and sadly witnessed the commercialization and bastardization of one of the most (if not THE most) globally influential cultural revolutions ever to exist.
I stress the word culture, because hip-hop is so much more than baggy pants and misogynistic party anthems. Hip-hop is most certainly a way of life. Hip-hop culture has helped people express disenfranchisement with financial, social and political oppression and given B-Boys and B-Girls a sense of pride, bravado, and a desire to be themselves.
Once you choose hip-hop as a way of life, you are a part of a huge like-minded collective, but you are praised for and prompted to be an INDIVIDUAL. Because so much time and effort is spent developing a unique style, once established it is considered sacred and imitation could be met with verbal scrutiny, or a beatdown. Either way, getting caught "biting" or stealing someone else's style can lead to shame and loss of credibility.
Unfortunately, that drive to be different has tapered off, and I believe this is the main reason for Hip-hop culture's slow demise. Personally I blame record companies who, in their desire to make copious amounts of money, continuously churn out rehashes of whatever "R&B/Urban" or "Top 40" hit song that is slightly, or grossly influenced by hip-hop music currently at the top of the Billboard charts. The general public is then spoon fed this "music" and told to like it. And they do. Songs are requested on the radio and in clubs, and CDs are snatched up as quick as that, and the snowball is on the roll. The funny thing is, these songs are not even considered hip-hop by people who consider themselves part of hip-hop culture. These are RAP songs. (I'll explain the difference between hip-hop and rap during another of my tirades)
All that said, if you are at all interested in experiencing, and preserving hip-hop in it's purest form, pick up Boogie Down Productions' Criminal Minded (grandfather of Gangsta Rap), Eric B & Rakim's Paid in full (some of the best lyrics, and delivery ever), Tribe called Quest's People's Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm (innovative delivery style, precursor to "backpack" or alternative hip-hop), most definitely Grand Master Flash and the furious Five's The message (raw, gritty reality-based lyrics, excellent delivery, and one of the greatest DJ's of all time), and last, but definitely not least is Organized Konfusion's Stress: The Extinction Agenda (crazy, crazy metaphors, and deft use of vocal tones, and harmonies- my favorite {slightly} contemporary hip-hop album). My list of music could go on and on, but again, I'll save it for another time.
Also pick up the book, or do a web search of "Back in the Days" photographs by Jamel Shabazz. Within the pages of this book, you will see the pride, individuality and creativity of each individual photographed as they pose in their best B-boy/B-Girl "Stance". Also check out the movie "Wild Style", and the documentary "Style Wars" For the most authentic representations of hip-hop on film.
It's up to the members of hip-hop culture to EXPECT that very culture to grow and change, continuously pushing the envelope and moving beyond all preexisting parameters.

1 comment:

SRH said...

My youth (Jr High and HIgh School years) were during the Hip Hop explosion. Grade School was the time of the founders, but I was a white kid in suburban Alabama, so my exposure to the whole of Hip Hop culture was negligible and typically negative.

White southern suburban people did not look highly on the mostly inner city black trends. I have had to glean together the positive aspoects of the bloom of hip hop culture via retrospectives and documentaries. As well as conversations with the wife. From a detached perspective, it seemed rather fascinating.

I have rambled enough.