Hip Hop educates, expresses and unites many cultures. It is a “transfer of cultural nationalism and pride” it promotes the “sharing [of] local languages, local history and local regimes” (Henderson, 2006).
This is my new view of hip hop. Previously, I had a narrow view of what hip hop stood for and encapsulated. I believed it was just sexually explicit and demeaning videos of women being subservient to men and those men parading around with their “hoes”.
Oh how wrong I was! There is much more to the story of hip hop and that includes the immense connection that their music has to heritage.
The most prominent figure of hip hop dancing – Suga Pop – is of islander heritage and has globe trotted for many years blending West and East Coast U.S., Hawai’i and New Zealand dancing styles – such as ‘breaking’ – with traditional Samoan movements. Henderson states Suga Pop as having the “prominent role” of being the creator of “bicoastal cross-fertilization of popular dance”. And this is why hip hop dancing has so many origins because individuals such as Suga Pop learn, incorporate and then disseminate their way of dancing. These particular influences acted as “diasporic currency” for other young American Samoans as it “signified a connectedness with the …communities ‘over there.'”
But the true shock for me was the difference in hip hop music. The multicultural connections that artists make about home, family, religion and love are potent and sometime poignant. Many have connections to black suppression, colonisation and imperialism over the decades whilst others incorporate their traditional language – such as Maori and Samoan. MC Xzibit’s song ‘Always Represent’ contains thought-provoking lines such as “Casualties of imperialism…submerge indigenous thoughts into oblivion”. Whilst I always assumed that African-Americans produced more music about family and injustice, Macklemore or Ben Haggerty has created some phenomenal music that relates back to these elements. Whilst his songs do not necessarily explore historic injustices, he writes about the current injustices within the 21st Century – such as his amazing and beautiful song ‘Same Love’ which looks at inequality. In saying that, he also produced a song ‘Irish Celebration’ which explores Irish-British relationship and the abuse that the Irish endured.
So the genre of hip hop is not as shallow as hips and people bopping, it has so many depths. It is about celebrating whilst remembering, educating whilst still entertaining but most importantly, it is about connecting.
Sources: Henderson, A (2006) ‘Dancing Between Islands: Hip Hop and the Samoan Diaspora’ The Vinyl Ain’t Final: Hip Hop and the Globalization of Black Popular Culture Basu, Dipannita and Sidney J. Lemelle, eds. London: Pluto Press, pp. 180 – 200