Jamarhl Crawford

The Changing Face of Hip-Hop Culture

"Beat Biter, Dope Rhyme taker...tell you to your face you ain't nothin but a faker!!!"
Culture (kul‚cher) n. 1. Enlightenment or Civilization 2. The sum total of the attainments and activities of any specific period, race or people, including their implements, handicrafts, agriculture, economics, MUSIC, ART, RELIGIOUS BELIEFS, traditions, LANGUAGE and story. Culture Trait n. Any socially transmitted element or feature within a culture.
What is happening to Black Music? What is happening to Black Culture? These are pivotal questions that must be addressed to ensure the survival of the Hip-Hop, which so many young people so loudly proclaim to love. Hip-Hop does not exist in a bubble and is only a microcosm indicative of a larger society. Therefore, we must say that Hip-Hop is not special and what has happened to the rest of the world will and is happening to Hip-Hop.
Time and time again we can see examples of where culture that has been observed, then joined, dominated, destroyed, then regurgitated and reformatted for the benefit of those outside of the original culture. Most often these outsiders then manifest themselves as a force of oppression.
Here are a few examples drawn from our definition of culture…
Music - Jazz and Rock & Roll: both shared Black origins and bore stars who starved while their music made fortunes for record label 'massa and white copycat artists. Art - Modern Art,
Classics, Graffiti: The European manifestations of art and the artists are valued more highly than the African Origin of Art and the Black Artists from which they borrowed.
Language - English, Ebonics, Multilingual Expression: English itself is a mutt language, it makes the least sense and yet it is the standard for world communication. Ironically, the concept of written and spoken language itself is African and yet blacks are stereotyped as having a minimal grasp of words. Ebonics is a broken Black English, like an American Patois which is scorned, meanwhile white kids copy Black slang and it is seen as "fresh."
Can a music be the sole property of a race or people? If so, do we have the right to keep "outsiders" from participating in and enjoying it as a matter of self-defense? Is Hip-Hop Black Music? Yes, Yes and YES. Clearly music has always been a part of culture. Music itself was a creation of African culture from which sprang all musics throughout the diaspora and the world. Afro-Cuban & Latino rhythms, Reggae, Blues, Gospel, Scat, Doo-Wop, Be-Bop, Jazz, Rhythm & Blues, Rock & Roll are all branches from the same tree. Our roots go deep. Hip-Hop is another branch from this tradition, birthed in the sub-cultures of America's Black Community.
Historically, it seems European culture is fascinated with absorbing the qualities of other cultures. Euro-domination by way of infiltration/assimilation. Emulation is not the highest form of flattery. If Hip-Hop is not Black, what is it? and if Black people can not have Hip-Hop and it is not ours, what can we have and what is ours, or should we have nothing our own?
There is much talk nowadays of "keeping it real," with probably as many definitions of that term as there are people saying it. For Hip-Hop Culture, "keeping it real" translates into maintaining the principles that were present at its foundation while still evolving for the future; principles that stem from surviving oppression, maintaining strength as a community while being marginalized. In other words, if Hip-Hop started with community standpoints and goals then "keeping it real" would mean recognizing that foundation and building off of it. It can be used as a means to connect people with the same moral, ethical, spiritual, and cultural convictions. Similar to other political movements that come together around common principles and builds a platform to express their ideals.
Like the historical debate surrounding the Afrikan origins of civilization, there is much debate on the origins of Hip-Hop.
If only it worked like that. We don't know who invented basketball but we know the players it has popularized. Those who own and play the game. The person who created the game is irrelevant and dies in obscurity. Has Hip-Hop has been that far removed from its origins? They say it could always be worse. Looking at the remnants of rock & roll, jazz, and blues, I say Hip-Hop better protect its neck.
Who is willing to do the work to "keep it real" and maintain the roots of hip hop? It would seem that the originators have taken a back seat to a new and youthful generation, which gladly snatched the baton like a purse and ran with it in the opposite direction. There is little to no communication between the founders and the followers and therefore a crucial transfer of information has yet to take place.
The fact of the matter is that it is largely white youth who are MCs and DJs, who are still interested in breakdancing and graffiti — activities which the hip-hoppers of back in the day have traded in for families, jobs and the trappings of adult life. In days when black men are dying for reaching for their wallets, you won't catch me in a dark train yard with a shiny spray can giving the police another reason to shoot me dead, (as if they need one).
It shames me to admit that there are some aspects of Hip-Hop that I can't or won't participate in any more. Nowadays when venturing out I notice more and more places where the DJ's, the crowd, the MC's, the dancers, the artists, are for the majority, white. This is in stark contrast to the days when I was a young MC and you would rarely find hardly anyone who was not Black and Latino bopping their heads or even spinning on them to the tunes of early hip-hop. The demographic is changing. The age, class & color of Hip-Hop is changing. But not everything has to change. The Borg of Star Trek may tell us that resistance is futile. I say resistance is mandatory.