#gXd: Hip-Hop Allows Artists To Express Diversity And Uniqueness. But How Did These Become Values In, And Qualities Of, The Culture?

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.

But why?

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.



#1 Duane Harley on 08.06.12 at 5:37 pm

I think phenomenoms obtain certain characteristics from the first person or individual who describes it. For example, Hip Hop from its inception was unique and it displayed individualism because it was never done before. All things from the beginning are unique. However rarely the individuals who begin groundbreaking activity do not fully realize it until someone else affirms the activity. In that instant that particular activity will be defined that way until someone else embarks on a creative derivative that will redefine the original activity. Everyone else will either conform to the already laid chrachteristic or redefine it.

#2 bboycult on 08.09.12 at 2:47 pm

I was just thinking about this today…and 1stly before this question “Is hop hop the place to express complimentary values of ‘uniqueness’ and ‘diversity’?” can be answered, the black community has to honestly come to terms with 2 MAJOR points 1: Once Herc plugged in; he plugged into the melting pot; hip hop as a culture involved ALL of us…immediately, hip hop cultural stereotypes exist because of this denial..i.e “All graff artists were white, all bboys were PR, all emcees etc…” Hip Hop was/is a global culture by choice, not colonization.
Diversity/Uniqueness has long been a major foundation block to the culture….Soundclash,Style War, Emcee battle, DJ comp. You succeed in the culture by showing what YOU can bring to build. That’s ABC right there.
But the 2nd thing Black people need to come to terms w/if indeed and rightly so we are to be labeled as HipHops ‘creators of the audacious superstructure’…is that it is OUR conformity that led to the pillage of the culture! Just as it was w/Blues, Jazz, Rock. We sell our souls repeatedly throughout the culutral canon chasing money; and then beocme distraught when OTHERS uphold the code!?! That’s nonsense; and in the case of HipHop, OTHERS upholding the code is justified because the culture is ALL OF US.

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