Hip Hop: history and culture

Who I am
Lluis Enric Mayans

wikipedia.org, lonelyplanet.com

Author and references


  • The development of the movement
  • The obstacles

L‘hip hop it represents the most widespread expression of the African American community in recent decades. It was born in the late 60s in the Bronx of New York to spread to the rest of the world in a very short time, with the conquest of the recording, cinema, publishing and clothing market.

Hip hop is based on four main disciplines: The Rap, the art of turntable manipulation, called the Turntablism, the B-Boyng (also known as Breakdance), and finally the art of spray cans, theAerosol art.

Gill Scott-Heron, the Last Poets and other artists of the 60s, are to be considered as forerunners of today's rappers, for the way they articulate the lyrics, for the vocal techniques and for the social messages contained in their art. The master of Soul also had great influence in hip hop, JamesBrown, inspiring new dance moves with sexual allusions and creating new themes for the lyrics, taken from the imaginary gangster, in addition to the inspiration taken from the Reggae, especially from the activity of the Jamaican Kool DJ Herc, and his use of the bases and the microphone to entertain partygoers.

La African history has had an important impact on the growth of this genre, through deportation and colonialism, and it is in this perspective that the rapper fits as a figure similar to that of the minstrel who sings the deeds of kings and popular heroes; in this vision, the movements and acrobatics of hip hop dancers are compared to the initiation tests of young people called to become adults in the villages, the rhythm of the drums is evoked by the haunting sound of electronic drums.

The producers of the hip hop genre compose the bases for rappers with a particular methodology, that is practicing a work of cutting and sewing, assembling together and making coexist, alternating and overlapping, pieces of songs taken from the drunk, from jazz, from rock and often also from music lyric.

All this has contributed to disrupting the identity of world pop. One of the particular innovations of hip hop is the birth of a kind of home-made music, and with the advent of house and techno, funky and disco music practiced by professionals are somewhat supplanted.

The birth of the scenes could not be explained trip hop and drum'n'bass, which from England are conquering the planet, without the long apprenticeship that the major exponents of these phenomena have consumed in the ranks of turntablism, rap, B-boyng and aerosol art.

The low costs of equipment for making music, mean that many homes are transformed into small sources of sound and music production. At the end of the 60s, the protest writings on the walls evolve into personalized signatures and later into works of art, the parks begin to be meeting places where DJs adopt new techniques in the use of mixers and turntables, in in such a way as to allow the dancers to transform the boogie movements into new acrobatics, and the MCs, masters of ceremony, to send their invitations through the microphone.

The development of the movement

We can say that the period from 1969 to 1979 belongs to the oral history circuit, and evidence of this is the fact that Kool dj Herc, progenitor of the hip hop dj lineage, has left no record of his work.

If the birth of the Universal Zulu Nation, founded by Afrika Bambaataa in 1974, offers the nascent movement the first Afrocentric, pacifist and self-conscious "common home", it is the arrival of rap on the record market that marks in September 1979, a point of no return, the official act of hip hop, the first sure reference for the historiography of this culture.

Between 1982 and 1984 hip hop grows and becomes mature, and social denunciation is added to the pleasure of pure entertainment; songs like "The Message" by Grandmaster Flash And The Furious Five and albums such as Run-DMC's debut one, clearly demonstrate that they have sounds and themes capable of competing with even high-level rock products.

It is always in this period that hip hop culture also appears in the film market, an example of which is films such as "Wild Style"and "Flashdance". In this period also new record companies specialized in the genre such as the Def Jam, Tommy Boy, Priority and Sleeping Bag, distributed in turn by major record companies, ensuring that the products are exported to all states of the Union.

The old school of rap also offers a chance to give hip hop visibility outside the United States. In 1983 Technics introduces the new SL12000MKII turntable, a very important tool for practitioners of this culture. Between 1985 and 1987 hip hop with its music consolidated its positions in the entertainment business, expanding and enriching early music with large doses of Rhythm and Blues and Funk, giving life to local currents throughout. the world.

The obstacles

In March 1987 the top of the American pop chart was conquered by the first rap group, a trio of whites, i Beastie Boys, all this after Run-DMC have already conquered the cover of the "Rolling Stone". Hip hop has now become a gold mine, but it is also starting to pay the price: violence in fact begins to spread in rallies, concerts and in the private life of the protagonists and representatives of this culture.

In October 1985 the hip hop film "Krush Groove" was released, dominating the box office charts, but it was during the screening of the film that a boy lost his life in a fight. All this starts a smear campaign and of accusation towards rap, and in this period the stickers that will stand out on the covers of the discs begin to be printed, saying: "Notice to parents: this disc contains explicit lyrics".

Even the use of other people's music to make the bases begins to generate discontent and heavy reactions from those who own the rights, and the lawyers of James Brown and Bobby Byrd in 1987 attack the duo Eric B & Rakim, guilty of having used their music for their hit song: "Paid In Full".

The clash will end with the defeat hip hop. All the authors of the bases of this genre, from this moment on, will be forced to have to report the titles and pay the rights for their use. However, the defeat will not last long, in fact the large amount of records sold will soon allow not only the payment of all rights and the remuneration of any guest, but will also entail a moral revenge deriving from the demonstration that thanks to hip hop, old singers who have almost fallen into oblivion, will regain fame among the new generations.

Unfortunately, violence is rampant in American society, also due to social unrest and the public circulation of firearms; at the end of the 80s, the movement appears to be divided, on the one hand, a new generation of artists based in Los Angeles (West Coast), where the nihilistic instances and war scenarios of Niggers With Attitude prevail, on the other, a faction opposite, in New York (East Coast), where the message of peace and the search for African roots is kept alight by far-sighted collectives such as Native Tongues and Boogie Down Productions.

With the release of the debut album by Niggers With Attitude and the song "Fuck Da Police", Which reflects the state of life in the neighborhoods, a crescendo of clashes between rap and authorities will be created, which will be followed by direct interventions by the FBI. On March 4, 1981, images of the beating of a black motorist by the police are projected on the screens and, when a year later the police are acquitted, a Los Angeles a real guerrilla will be unleashed in which 58 people will die.

Artists like Ice Cube e Ice-T they are indicated by the press, because of their texts, as architects of the wave of hatred; from this there will be no interventions to reduce social discomfort, on the contrary censorship, smear campaigns, denied distributions, obtaining as a reaction the spread of the gender "Gangsta-rap", That is hip hop with singsong mafia tones of which they will be the main representatives: Snoop Doggy Dogg, Coolio, Notorius B.I.G., Puff Daddy, Tupac Shakur, Dr. Dre.

Soon it will turn from threats to deeds, and between 1996 and 1997, Tupac and BIG will be killed by their respective rival clans. In the 90s, marijuana becomes the protagonist of the words of many records becoming almost a sort of fifth discipline; at the same time, there is a musical conditioning by the movement of the Nation of Islam, led by Louis Farrakhan, affecting many sectors of the scene.

On October 16, 1995 the "Million Man March”Promoted by Farrakhan a Washington influences hundreds of records, interviews and statements by the clans of both coasts, bringing hip hop even closer to Islam. At the end of the 90s, hip hop now has empires of its own, like those of the gods Fugees and Wu-Tang Clan; rap dominates the charts with the most disparate products, from the sweet and calm rhymes of Lauryn Hill to the neo-gangsta of Master P, and in the period from 1997 to 1998 the top places in the American charts are mostly held by rap records .

A social function

Hip hop definitively spreads throughout the world, creating national schools that respect its grammar without giving up the particular local inflections, including Spanish ones. Often it becomes a means for educational interventions also promoted by public bodies towards the children of the suburbs, even in universities, stimulating them to question themselves about their own roots and nature.

The "old school”Then returns to vogue, old protagonists return to the limelight, historical songs are reprinted, reworked by DJs and groups from the big beat and trip hop scenes. Consequence of all this is also a new flowering of dance and aerosol art: the creativity of hip hop is now almost unlimited.

In recent decades, many hip hop artists have become actors and even protagonists of social commercials against the violence andAIDS, others have been in prison for crimes of various kinds, there are those who have written books and those who have died in the clashes between rival gangs; precisely for this reason the protagonists of hip hop do not enjoy the same privileges as the other stars of the world of literature and cinema, as their past and the origin from torn social realities weighs on their heads. On the other hand, denying their origins, history and the personal formation of each of them would mean cutting off their primary source of inspiration and definitively destroying their credibility.

Among the best known artists in the history of hip hop, considering even more recent times, we cannot fail to mention Eminem, MC Hammer who with the hit U Can’t Touch This had great success in the XNUMXs, Jay Z, Will.i.am and 50 Cent, discovered and brought to success by Eminem himself.

The latter is considered one of the most popular figures in the world of hip hop in the 2000s, it is no coincidence that his success led him in 2013 to the award Global Icon during the MTV Europe Music Awards, fourth artist worldwide after Queen, Bon Jovi and Whitney Houston; among the greatest successes of her, with which she has won various diamond discs, we remember Not afraid, Love the way you lie e Lose Yourself: with this last song he obtained the first recognition for the world of hip hop at the Oscars in 2003.

Together with Tupac he is the only rapper to have more than one recognized diamond album.

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