One of the hardest aspects to understand about any phenomenon is why it is the way it is.
Take, for example, the United States. It’s commonly held that this is a country which values individualism. As opposed to celebrating the person who dutifully does what his family or community says and wants, as some cultures do, we hail the white guy—it’s typically a white guy, right—who “bucks the trend,” “goes against the grain,” takes the path less chosen,” “innovates.”
The Iconoclast. The Rebel. In some societies, these are figures of outrage. But, here, they are seen as absolutely, quintessentially American.
You’re not going to get an answer here, first, because I don’t have one, but, more because, second, the real question I have is about hip-hop.
In Joey’s video, above, he speaks about hip-hop as a place to express the complementary values of “diversity” and “uniqueness.” I’d agree he may be correct. But, if so, why does the music have this character? European classical orchestras, right, don’t necessarily share these values, either as much, or in the same way.
Think about it: If, at a performance of Debussy, you started barking “Woof! Woof! Woof!“, you’d be asked to leave. But, if during a Hit Boy show, the audience was dead silent, then applauded at the end, he might think you were trying to diss him. How come?
I wish I could say I knew. I mean, I think I do. That is, I think most questions about hip-hop’s cultural nature can be found in retentions. These are qualities, preserved from Africa by the descendants of slaves, who are called African-Americans, today. The basis for qualities like hip-hop’s predilection for call-and-response, polyrhythms, or even certain sonic textures, might be found in these holdovers from the past. (I first clued into this years ago, when a college professor compared the sound of scratching to that of the Afrikan sekere, right, a large, gourd, percussion instrument, circumscribed by beads.)
Whatever the reasons are, though, we’re not going to really find the solutions to these puzzles until we know more about both a) hip-hop, and b) the Black people who created its audacious superstructure. Currently, we mostly take both for granted. To stop doing so would unleash the power of both, and change all that is within and without them.