Issues of Representation and Identity in Hip-hop

Document Type:Essay

Subject Area:Music

Document 1

The music genre is sometimes confused with rap, although the two intertwine, with hip-hop being the culture itself, and rap part of the culture. Kool Herc is heavily credited with the genre, where he began experimenting on beats during an era where block parties were the norm in New York (Stephens, 2012: 170). He himself had immigrated from Jamaica, and settle in Bronx where the residents were predominantly of African descent-from Puerto Rico, and Jamaica. The features employed in creating the hip-hop sound involved turntable techniques such as beat mixing, scratching, beat juggling which created a long base that could be rapped over. Over the course of the 1970s and the 1980s, the hip-hop music grew exponentially, although the term hip-hop was not used until 1984 by Keith Cowboy a rapper in the group Grandmaster Flash, a hip-hop group that were among the first to be recognized in New York.

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The African Americans are heavily associated with the music genre. It is argued that it was a way of expressing themselves in the face of oppression orchestrated by the system. It can be argued that they own the hip-hop music genre, due to the fact that to date there are more black American rappers than there are white rappers. The gangsta rap genre mainly involved themes of violence that were prevalent in predominantly black neighborhoods. However, the genre has spread across the globe, and people use to it to express their own culture as well as curve an identity for themselves. It does not happen overnight. The media constantly conditions people on what is trending, what to buy and what to have-the basic things that mark the materialistic nature of the world.

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Then comes the rap music, displaying the grandeur of the ‘it’ lifestyle. The youth out there without means will seek ways of gratifying this need of being exactly like the superstar rappers or to belong to a group, will resort to crime and violence to meet the standards of acceptance and identity (Quick, 2012:4) The hip-hop culture is not about the negativity. There are other aspects to it that define the culture. This include: lack of opportunities, disenfranchisement, apathy from the government, and basically to challenge authority just as the early rappers such as NWA did in the 1990s. Taylor and Taylor (2007: 211) argue that people who subscribe to hip-hop cultural ideals are intelligent and have refused to accept what they term as hypocrisy from adults, the law and the government.

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As a form expression among the youth, Taylor and Taylor (2007) posit that it is not the fault of the youth when they accept social vices as the norm. it is not a derivative from the hip-hop culture, rather the society itself, the themes that are constantly repeated in the movies. Ultimately, the youth will accept as the norm, the things that adults frown upon. In the end, hip-hop a genre of music as well as a culture has been reproduced worldwide to tell unique stories as well as curve an identity especially among the youth. Influence of hip-hop in mainstream America Since its inception in the 1970s in Bronx, New York, hip-hop culture has been associated with the African Americans who used it to express themselves and speak truth to power.

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Overtime it has grown exponentially, crossing into mainstream and becoming a popular culture in not only in the United States of America but across many countries across the globe. The hip-hop culture now is the norm, with its distinct dressing, the love for flashy cars and wealth, rapping, break dancing and graffiti make an important part of the American culture. What began from the trend that had hit back street New York streets known as block parties has become a global phenomenon in the name of hip-hop culture. However, white rappers such as Eminem and Iggy Azalea have managed to successful use hip-hop as their mode of expression, but through being antagonistic to the white culture (Catanese, 2011: 11). Cultural appropriation is a term that is used to describe white rappers who have adopted the African American traditions which in this case is hip-hop.

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The issue of authenticity, known as keeping it real among the black rappers, is absent in the white rapper’s work because the genre is simply not their tradition (Balliu, 2015:29). The issue of identity and authenticity are some of the issue that makes it impossible for white rappers to gain a foothold in the dominantly black music genre. There are rappers that have succeeded n hip-hop are Vanilla Ice in the 1990s who marketed himself as an artiste who maintained credibility in the black community. To the common street dweller who once sought identity in the music, it puts him or her at cross-roads, and may even resort to drugs and violence to live the lifestyles the rappers talk about, especially when they refer to their humble beginnings.

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