Has Hip Hop officially lost it’s street cred?
It seems like everyone these days can have a go at hip-hop in one form or another (yes even a suburban man driving a Kia). To really prove my point I just came back from a hip-hop dance class and I have about as much swag as Nick Cannon did in Love Don’t Cost a Thing (which to be honest was not much at all).
So traditionally speaking if hip-hop is about expressing yourself verbally with an infusion of rhythm and dance, then anyone can do it. But is everyone doing it justice?
With its roots in African-American and African culture, Hip Hop has long been a tool for individual expression. Oneka LaBennet in her text ‘Histories and “Her Stories” from the Bronx: Excavating Hidden Hip Hop Narratives’ acknowledges the African origins of musical form but mostly talks about the origins of Hip Hop back in the early 1970s. She talks about how Hip Hop was used an educational tool, as a mechanism for political activism and as a way in which people could understand, perform or subvert racial identities. In other words, Hip Hop was seen as a performance poetry, as a political act and as a creative response to living in ghetto conditions.
“Whatever do you mean?” you ask, well just take a look at Tupac’s song Changes as he sings about the racial inequalities experienced in the United States. This song still gives me the chills, If only he lived to see the first black president.
“I see no changes. Wake up in the morning and I ask myself,
“Is life worth living? Should I blast myself?”
I’m tired of bein’ poor and even worse I’m black…
It’s time to fight back that’s what Huey said
2 shots in the dark now Huey’s dead…
We gotta start makin’ changes
Learn to see me as a brother instead of 2 distant strangers…”
So if that’s what true hip-hop is about, then what do you call the music saturating the industry today under the likes of Lil’ Wayne and Nicki Minaj? (pre-warning of explicit language). To be fair their music is a reflection of today’s society one way or another, but let’s just say it’s not the kind of take on society we’re after.
LaBennet notes that it was actually about the mid 1980s when many rap lyrics stopped focusing on the “verbal dexterity” of the artists but rather on (and I quote) ‘bitches’ and ‘ho’s’. Maybe it’s time Hip Hop took a note from J.Lo and thought about its origins because that girl is from the Bronx and she sure knows it.
But fear not the political and performative nature of hip-hop isn’t completely lost in the world of MTV, take Macklemore’s latest hits Same Love and Wings for example as he tackles issues of same sex marriage and consumerism.
Nevertheless, Hip-hop has become a globally diverse culture being localised (think K-Pop), hybridised and indigenised (think Aussie Hip Hop) due to the ethnoscapes and technoscapes of the world (the movement of people and technology), it would be hard to stay true to the form that was once the creative narrative of the Bronx.
However it has been adapted across the globe, Hip Hop should always draw links to one’s own heritage, it represents who you are and where you’re from.
Take it from the lady in this video when she says hip-hop is more than just a style, it’s an attitude, it’s you. WERD.