Monday, September 28, 2009

Hip-Hop 101: An Introduction...

This isn’t something that started when Grand Wizard Theodore started scratching records on his turntable. Nor did it begin when Melle Mel and the rest of the Furious Five spit “The Message” over Grandmaster Flash’s beat. It didn't start when Crazy Legs and the Rock Steady Crew were breakdancing in the movie "Flashdance." And it sure as hell didn’t start when TAKI 183 bombed all of New York City with his graffiti tags.

Hip-hop is far beyond all that.

Most people like to see hip-hop as an art, including some so-called hip-hop artists like Ludacris, Jay-Z (who also sees hip-hop as pure entertainment - but that’s another story) and 50 Cent. It’s easy to call hip-hop an art form when the gifts that most of these cats possess - like MCing, DJing, breaking and tagging - reap the benefit of different forms of art. When you hear productions by people like DJ Premier, Dr. Dre and the late J Dilla, it's undeniable that the songs are the modern-day version of beautiful in the same way beauty is found in one of Beethoven’s pieces. We know that Rakim is as lyrically gifted as a million poets put together. But it's impossible to understand these things UNLESS we remember why these artists do what they do and where they got the skills to do these things.

We all know the saying “nothing is new under the sun.” This is the easiest and quickest way to explain the origins of hiphop. People can easily connect MCing to poetry, but hip-hop artists in specific get their spunk from the Amiri Baraka and the poets from the Black Arts Movement. This movement glorified the empowerment of the Black community by resorting back to African roots and explicitly voicing opinions on racism during that time era.

DJing, although a lot of the techniques behind it came from accidents and experimentation, originated through extending the best parts of a song. All of the cutting, blending, sampling, scratching and so on came as ways to express oneself without physically saying a word.

Breaking was never anything new, and originated from various forms of dance. Many of these forms have African and Latin origins (i.e. capoeira, mambo, etc.), but some breakers go so far as to include things like karate into their moves.

And unless you never paid attention in history class, graffiti's origins from hieroglyphics is obvious.

This is just a basic outline that shows hip-hop is not just an artistic outlet for the oppressed and for minority groups. Its roots show that as long as you brush up on your history, you can see that even hip-hop's origins were outlets for the oppressed. So to further define hip-hop as a lifestyle and a culture I must say that hip-hop is that voice of the poor that says “despite our condition we’re still having fun and we’re proud of who we are.”