by, Daveta Saunders, Associate Director
The first thought that comes to mind often, when many think about Hip Hop is rap music. Unfortunately, rap music, is seen as a style of music that only talks about sex, drugs, and money. The second thing that may pop into mind, are the images of gangsters or wanna-be pimps, and ladies scandalously dressed. Another thought that may follow is the vision of children imitating these adult behaviors. Now, many of you may be shaking your heads in agreement, while some of you are saying, “There is more to Hip Hop than rap music, the promotion of self, and tainted perceptions that the media promotes of a successful reality.”
Rap music is a part of the culture of Hip Hop. This music is the blending of two of the four foundational elements of the Hip Hop culture, deejaying and emceeing. The other two elements are b-boying, and tagging also known as graffiti. All four of these elements are mediums that present a message whether vocally, symbolically, or rhythmically.
Some of you may say, “Oh, I know about deejays and emcees.” However, do you know what they represent in relation to the Hip Hop culture? The deejay plays music which sets the atmosphere, but in Hip Hop the deejay also, samples and creates music using turntables, CDs and iPods or mp3 players. A true Hip Hop deejay can cut words from one song and mix those words with another song creating a phrase out of the lyrics of two songs or a whole new song all together.
The emcee is the lyricist, one who uses spoken word to convey a message. Spoken word is the vocal expression of a message that intertwines poetry with drama, movement, and words emphatically articulated. Emcees are the creative voices of Hip Hop that often address political, social, race, economical, community, and relationship issues.
Next is b-boying or what is better known as breakdancing. Traditional breakdancing usually involves four moves, toprock, downrock, power moves and freezes/suicides. So, when a Hip Hop beat drops and out the blue someone begins moving in sync with the beat as though they have broken bones, or starts spinning on the ground and stops in a pose that person is usually breakdancing or trying. Although breakdancing began in the Hip Hop culture, one can often find breakdance crews battling in competitions to Hip Hop music and also to other genres.
The final element of the Hip Hop culture is tagging or graffiti. Regrettably, tagging is mostly known for devaluing property and sending a message of one’s territory. However, the painted symbols and slanted, blocked or bubbled letter writing when looked at from another angle, is a form of art. It is the visual message of the streets. This artistic message can be seen in the clothing apparel designs and murals within communities.
One cannot deny the influence within this powerful culture of expression, as it has crossed ethnic and international lines. For example, Hip Hop music was created by Blacks and Latino’s during the 1970s, but individuals of all races and nations listen to Hip Hop music. In the classroom educators have used rap to teach students their lessons. Businesses utilize Hip Hop in television commercials and radio advertisements. Such as, McDonald’s commercial in which a young man is pop-locking to the Cha-Cha Slide while dipping his apple slices in caramel sauce. Some artists also use Hip Hop music to present worship and knowledge messages such as in Christian rap or Holy Hip Hop.
Hip Hop is everywhere, if you turn on the radio, watch TV or travel around campus, I’m sure you will hear and see the elements of Hip Hop. One can enjoy emcees in person on February 1, 2011 at 7pm in the DeMoss Hall Grand Atrium for the Open Mic Underground Session. If you are a poet, spoken word artist, or have some unique way of expression, join us! The focus for this session is Black History Month. Also, on February 15, 2011, we will address the topic: Hip Hop, It’s a Culture Not a Crime at 6pm in DeMoss Hall 1104. In addition on Friday Nights at 10pm you can listen to The TakeOva, a three hour Holy Hip Hop show hosted by Lil Preacha, on the campus radio station 90.9 FM or www.thelightonline.com.
Remember, Hip Hop is like a Transformer, there is more than what meets the eye. It is a culture comprised of music that moves you and lyrics that straightforwardly speak reality. This influential culture of expression has changed over the years, but the foundational elements are still evident. Next month, I will address Holy Hip Hop more in-depth.
Some portions of this article were originally published in the article Hip Hop It’s ELEMENTary in the 434 Magazine.
Daveta Saunders is a 2004 graduate of Liberty and received her
Master's from LU in 2007. She is an author and hosts a radio
program called "The TakeOver," which airs every Friday night
from 10PM-1AM on the campus radio station, 90.9FM The Light.
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