Hip Hop culture, rap, graffiti, turntablism and breakdancing? African American community and non-African American community HIp Hop? what? Rap vs. Poetry. Graffiti vs. Art. Breakdancing vs. Ballet. Turntablism vs. Automated Radio broadcast. How to define Hip Hop? Who distributes it and how? Old School, Gangster, Conscious, underground, Krunk, Christian vs. Muslim Hip Hop cliche’.
Those who distribute the message and have the means to shape it and mass produce it also further define it in accordance with the monopoly of meaning and media-spheres of influence to propogate that single sighted truth. What of Rap vs. Poetry, Graff vs. Art etc. conflict, two-valued logic games highlight dualisms in which most but not all HIP HOP culture seems to be wrestling with on masse. As if it has not already totally permeated every part of everyday life, langugage and culture. Like an African American language virus eating up stiff white English meat: Hip Hop culture has transformed the worlds cultural, political, economic and linguistic landscape. But what parts of the new HIP HOP culture of 2009 resemble those of 5, 10, 20 or 30 years ago, when HIP HOP and the four elelments were coming together for the first in such a urban street hip incarnation.
I have my own views of what real HIP HOP culture and music are, were and should be. And as a DJ have spent more than 15 years making mix tapes, mixing beats and developing the art of turntablism for my own ends, listen to these tapes and tracks for yourself and come to your own conclusions. I mean to say that one sure sign of HIP HOP seems to be a strong sense of self reference. Identity and purpose! To be living the way, the path, and for the art, for the the word and the music. Yes. A way of life in the fullest sense of the word. Therefore we have a large degree of self explanation involved, but sadly those not out on the streets or inside the music studios fail to experience the kind of lifestyles many of the artists lead and which they reflect upon in their work. Reflect, redirect and blow into and out-of proportion. Depending on a massive flux of socio economic factors, and personal aesthetic and structural descisions that each HIP HOP artist may encounter.
Alike most things in modern consumer life, 90% of HIP HOP, as we know it – around the world – seems shallow, predictable, dogmatic, and full of cliche’. No surprises there. But its that small percentage of great inventive, improvisational and creative individuals that we are aiming to highlight, push forward into the mediasphere and let loose upon the agricultural industrial military media that helped spawn it. HIP HOP as the invention of new languaging tools to help make tribal bonds within the new electronic tribal world (1970’s) and F-E-E-D-B-A-C-K using microphones, spray cans, dancing, walls, turntables, amplifiers.
With organizational groups within communities creating SPORTING meetings between local ARTISTS in a similar spirit to that of the great African Indian American’s and the Mardis Gras Indians battles. ART. Music, song, dance, poetry, graffiti! In neighbourhoods across New York and Brooklyn and then reaching out around America and the rest of the world, HIP HOP culture began to spread. Another Black Revolutionary Language virus was on the loose and taking over sound systems and boomboxs and the radio waves, like Blues, Country, Jazz, Rock and Roll music before it – HIP HOP would rock and shock the nation’ and was spreading to every street corner and every store, every radio channel and every TV station, everything had something connected with HIP HOP culture within the small period of roughly 20 years. But, as i keep repeating – along that road something happened to HIP HOP, a hijacking?
The DJ’s stopped being such a crucial center piece of the experience, backing tracks played more often than a beat juggler! The Graffiti writers no longer followed the MC, tagging and designing the environment on the fly, using all their worldly experience as a Graffiti icon, defender of the word, truth and beauty and all things that resemble those things; meanwhile the breakdancers also splintered off into the FAME school or fitness academy – at least seemingly to my eyes and ears around about 1996-98 when HIP HOP started to emerge into the mainstream of UK music culture, and become the most popular US musical export, overtaking ROCK music by 2001. By which time i was in the US playing turntables with a band called Garaj Mahal, who defy musical definition, and kindly invited me to plug in my turntables and introduce scratching, samples and beats to the music, jam and represent. (type: DJ FLY AGARIC 23 + GARAJ MAHAL and search)
I have already raised many questions, and don’t pretend to give any easy answers, as the field of HIP HOP culture maintains many more knowledgeble and versatile minds than my own, plus individuals who can realize American HIP HOP and African American Hip Hop culture from expereince more so than my own UK Gothic Hip Hop cultural pickling that culminated in my recording with early UK HIP HOP crew NEW Flesh FOR Old, on one of the most respected and own personal favorite HIP HOP music labels from the UK: BIG DADA recordings, sister label to the mighty NINJATUNE.
My major concerns about HIP HOP and the new American President Obama and his comments and interest in SOME hip hop revolve around the question of who decides what is GOOD hip hop and what is BAD. What are the values – hierarchy of values – with which the comparisons are drawn? What shall we do about the N word? or for that matter any other single WORDS that are deemed different, special, more meaningful and powerful than the others? what of context? what of the arts of deception? of language used to persuade and coerce people by forcing them into two valued logic traps.
What of aristotelian logic games? and epistemology, the question of origins? the divine rights of kings, the greek letters fraternity? what of the NEW language? Of CHINA and Ideogram? HIP HOP and Graffiti? compare them? how many GRAFFITI superstars? Ask yourself questions about ART and |Culture, the balance between the visual arts and the aural arts? Record deals and Mural commisions? Compare the fine ART industry and the recording industry? Economically and then from the point of view of public entertainment and celebrity status?
Why have we allowed HIP HOP culture to be cracked open and robbed its meaning, satisfied with an empty shell of material beef rappers and mouth pieces. Why did we loose the balance between the four legs of DJ’ing, MC’ing, Graffiti and Breakdancing? Here i find a more interesting place for study, as the likes of JZ, Kayne and other outspoken supporters of OBAMA seem to have forgotten the other 3 disciplines and the fact that one of them: GRAFFITI is deemed ILLIGAL and a Crimnial activity by the worlds backwards government authorities from Australia to the UK and the USA. ARTCRIMES is the name of the largest online GRAFFITI archive for a good reason!
President OBAMA! Graffiti and Hip Hop? If you want to help educate the youth and inspire their minds open up the designated Graffiti areas, and teach them how to modify their environments for the benifit of the many rather than the few. And any UK authorities reading this i urge you to quickly do the same. But, alas i suspect that a political figure who can speak smoothly about music and about HIP HOP in particular (as the biggest youth culture movement of the 21st century) coming from the UK is sadly unlikely within the next 8 years. Since the criminal Justice act of 1994 in the UK they have been moving towards a police state and surveliance culture, from my own observations. The United Kingdom has never seen the coming together of some quality artists and politicians like what we have just witnessed in the USA, the closest links between celebrities and the state in the UK are through sporting avenues, maybe best embodied in one man: Lord Sebastian Coe. Say ‘HIP HOP’ in the houses of parliament and the echos will ring out as if Horace Andy sang em. But if the UK wants to stay on the scene, themn it better get up! and rise to the new age of African American Culture, including HIP HIP, Blues, Jazz and Reggae. In fact, anybody who wants to do business, dazzle and turn on the Obama administration better have some soul music, some improvisational skills and at least a breif understanding of HIP HOP culture. Rap. Graffiti. DJ’ing and why YOUTH culture are using these tools to revolutionize humanity, in the minds of the people.
I am still only just getting to wrestle with the questions of poetry, what is it, what does it mean? And so to distill poetry from Rap and Hip Hop culture requires a firm foundation for describing poetry, how it operates, its structure and other pointers, without which it remains simply language, charged with the upmost meaning.