You ask most people what they know about hip hop and they tell you a range of things. If they’re from a white upper/middle class background they’ll probably look down on it as the sub-culture of the minorities from down-trodden inner cities. Ask most of the pupils from my old secondary and they’ll list various rappers and R’n’B artists, particularly if they fall into the ‘chav’ category. The average Joe on the street will have probably not heard of it apart from Diversity and Flawless from Britain’s Got Talent. But ask someone involved with the sub culture and they’ll give you a completely different idea of how the aspects of hip hop allows them to express themselves.
So where did hip hop come from? Because films like Street Dance and Honey (see above clips) didn’t come from nowhere. The style of dance, music and clothes all came out of the same culture, from the Afro-American, Caribbean and Latino communities found in places like the Bronx in New York City. And hip hop isn’t just about the way you look or move, but was originally a way to react against the poverty and violence that predominated many of these areas. The film 8 Mile, which starred Eminem, captures this less glamorous side of hip hop, specifically rap. The other side of hip hop preserves the cultural traditions of the communities’ ‘home nations’. Jamaican traditions of boasting and toasting through rhythmic speech inspired the nature of rap, which in turn affected ‘turntabling’ and ‘breakdancing’.
The question is where does hip hop stand in 21st century society and culture? Popularised through dance classes and films, like the two clips above, it could be argued that hip hop has entered mainstream culture. Even the style that accompanies it is influencing designers and the catwalk. Think Kenzo with their snapbacks and sweatshirts.