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The Beginnings of Hip-Hop Essay

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Updated: Dec 19th, 2018

Within the course of three decades, hip-hop has become a part of the mainstream culture. Yet, the situation was quite different in the early eighties when hip-hop was marginalized. This paper is aimed at discussing the origins of this musical and artistic movement.

In particular, much attention should be paid to the distinctive characteristics of this subculture and its connection to African traditions. Overall, one can argue that it incorporated the elements of different genres, styles, and traditions. Furthermore, hip-hop can be regarded as a response to various social and political problems faced by African Americans several decades ago.

First, it is important to mention that at the initial stages of its development, hip-hop was closely related to various social themes such as crime, social injustice, drug abuse, lack of educational opportunities and so forth. Overall, these artworks were supposed to explore the life of black neighborhoods such as the Bronx (Toop 12).

It should be taken into account that this artistic movement evolved at the time, when many inner cities were in the state of decline. This is why these problems were reflected in the songs of rap performers (Black 206). The situation changed only with time passing when hip-hop began to play an important role in the global culture.

Secondly, one should note that the representatives of this movement placed much emphasis on improvisation. For instance, rap performers valued free style or improvised lyrics. In this way, they attempted to demonstrate their skills. Similarly, b-dancers also had to create new movements while competing with one another. This is one of the details that should be considered. In part, this characteristic can be explained by the fact at that time, there were practically no standards or canons which musicians and dancers had to follow.

Thirdly, in the early eighties, hip-hop could be described as a synthetic or even eclectic artistic movement. In other words, people, who represented this subculture, could incorporate the elements of other musical styles such as blues, rock and roll, or jazz (Harrison 22). It should be kept in mind that rap performers were closely relying on already-existing samples that could be borrowed from other musicians.

On the whole, the pioneers of hip-hop argue that it was a “home-grown” culture (And You Don’t Stop: 30 Years of Hip-Hop). In other words, various performers had to develop their own styles and techniques because they did not have any example that could be followed. These are the main aspects that can be identified.

Overall, hip-hop culture strongly relies on African traditions. To a great extent, this tendency can be attributed to the popularity of Black Power movement in the United States (Harrison 90). The representatives of this movement argued that African Americans had to rediscover their authentic culture.

To a great extent, hip-hop reflected this trend. First, it should be mentioned that rap performers continued African oral tradition of story-telling accompanied by recitative (Harrison 92). This is one of the similarities that seem most apparent to me. These technique remains critical for many hip-hop performers even those ones who do not belong to the African-American community.

Moreover, judging from my knowledge of hip-hop culture, I know that emcees play a vital role in movement. However, their performances closely resemble the activities of griots in African savannah. These people were responsible for keeping the oral history of their communities (Harrison 92).

Moreover, they could act as narrators, poets, or even social commentators. This is another similarity that should not be overlooked. Certainly, one should take into account that hip-hop performers did not directly inherit the elements of authentic African culture. They did not choose certain artistic techniques because they were compatible with the cultural heritage. More likely, the development of hip-hop can be described as a spontaneous process. Nevertheless, the presence of African tradition is palpable in their works.

The readings that were discussed during these weeks have several distinctive elements that can attract attention of the audience. First of all, the authors attempt to look at the development of hip-hop from the perspectives of people who pioneered this movement. For example, in their book, Murray Forman and Mark Neal provide interviews with such famous performers Kool Herz or Afrika Bambaataa (46).

Such an approach is important for enabling the readers to understand how exactly these people struggled to attain success. Moreover, one can see what kind of difficulties they encountered. Moreover, the authors emphasize the idea that hip-hop culture was to some extent the response to the disempowered position of black people in the country. This issue is also vital for the development of this artistic movement.

Overall, this discussion suggests that hip-hop culture evolved significantly with time passing. At the beginning, it could be regarded as an eclectic artistic movement that was represented by people who attempt to develop new techniques and styles. They strived to reflect the experiences of black neighborhoods that could be affected by crime, poverty, and drug abuse. However, in the course of several decades, hip-hop became an inseparable part of mainstream culture.

Works Cited

And You Don’t Stop: 30 Years of Hip-Hop. Ex. Prod. Richard Lowe. New York: Bring the Noise LLC, 2004. Web.

Black, Albert. The Sociology and History of African Americans, Washington: University of Washington, 2000. Print.

Forman, Murray and Mark Neal. That’s the Joint!: The Hip-Hop Studies Reader, New York: Routledge, 2004. Print.

Harrison, Anthony. Hip Hop Underground: The Integrity and Ethics of Racial Identification, Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2009. Print.

Toop, David. Rap attack 3: African rap to global hip hop, New York: Serpent’s Tail, 2000. Print.

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