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Music has always been an essential constituent of human life. It is the fabric of our society. Diverse cultures, both the past and present cultures, all had a form of music. It is a form of art which makes use of harmonic frequencies to express emotions (Baker 2). Since the pre-historic times, significant strides have been made in as far as the evolution and development of music and its genres are concerned. As Baker notes, each era in the music of history was dominated by a particular musical type (15). The beauty with music, however, is that despite its enormous variation between times and places; it has stood out as a universal language with the ability to transcend all the boundaries of communication; be they cultural or linguistic and so forth (Baker 4). Consequently, the ability of music to evoke deep feelings that are central to the existence of the shared human experiences places music at the core of critical issues such as race, class, gender, and sexuality among other attributes that define our identity. This paper, mainly, details about Hip-Hop and how it relates to the issues regarding the social structures.
Amongst the black community in New York City (Hodgman 402). The music genre developed as a part of the Hip-Hop culture. This subculture consisted of critical elements such as rapping, break dancing, scratching with turntables and graffiti writing (Baker 6). Rap music, which entails chanting of rhythmic and rhyming speech, is sometimes used synonymously about Hip-Hop music. Since its inception, Hip-Hop music has been at the forefront arena of discussions revolving around the issues of race. For many years, since its beginning, the genre was inhabited to a high degree, by black male rappers who were thought to identify with the lower class black populations (Hodgman 403). Having its roots and prevalence amongst the African-American communities led to the notion that Hip-Hop was majorly a reserve for the black population. Hip-Hop has evolved over the years to incorporate white rappers into the bargain. However, Hodgman notes that white rappers have had to justify their positions to fit into the upper echelons of an industry initially dominated by black populations (403). Hodgman further notes that even the shooting of music in black urban inner-city locations was meant to add onto the authenticity of the origin of the Hip-Hop subculture.
Also depicts some dominant elements of the black culture which cemented its assertion as a reserve for the blacks African descendants. For instance, amongst the West African oral traditions lies the idea of nommo. According to these traditions, Nommo was the first creature created by the supreme deity (Baker 16). It was believed that Nommo's creative power was generated through spoken word. According to this premise, therefore, rappers among the African-American communities had special abilities to rap which attempted to rationalize their dominion in the industry (Baker 16). Also, rappers were thought to be scions of griots. Griots were praise-singers and oral historians who were highly regarded (Baker 17). They were entrusted with keeping and purveying of knowledge on tribal affairs (Baker 17). They spread knowledge through spoken word, a method which was thought to be more accessible. Similarly, Baker writes that in the US, rappers in the Hip-Hop industry create songs that spread the news about contemporary issues, their dreams, daily lives and so on (17). They are viewed as the voice of the underprivileged African-American youths. They are the keepers of the history and concerns of the African-American working-class population. Evidently, the aforementioned depicts a music genre which is deep-rooted in African traditions which consequently brings out the issue of race and racial disparities in the industry.
To the discussion of Hip-Hop. Firstly, Hip-Hop and its associated culture were 'born' at a time when political discourse was rife in the US (Hodgman 404). Some communities were written off as being marginalized. Rebollo-Gil and Amanda note that the intensification of social issues such as poverty largely contributed to the emergence of this genre and its associated culture (118). Consequently, early artists of Hip-Hop epitomized a poor urban image. Music videos as well as the rhymes chanted over Hip-Hop music - rapping - often depicted black urban poverty which associated this genre with an underprivileged social caste (Hodgman 404). Hodgman further notes that, in the world of Hip-Hop, authenticity was pegged upon not only having specific racial characteristics but more importantly, hailing from an urban ghetto (405). In this class-based location, earlier artists of the music genre depicted underclass neighborhoods, laden with crime scenes, drug abuse, unemployment among other social issues related to impoverished communities. Over time, however, the use of racial signifiers to establish authenticity seemed to be faced off with the entry of white rappers, such as Eminem, into a previously blacks-dominated industry. However, even then Rebollo-Gil and Amanda write that white rappers have had to identify themselves with the underclass to gain authenticity and relevance in the industry (119).
In matters related to gender and sexuality. It has always been a subject of controversy when it comes to gender and sexuality. As an example, some Hip-Hop artists have been criticized severally for irresponsible statements which explicitly support misogynistic tendencies (Cundiff 32). For instance, Tyga, in his song "Bitches Ain't Shit" came under attack for using explicitly misogynistic words (Cundiff 32). This, among others, are also examples of songs where the artists treat and regard women as mere subservient objects of sexual desire. The aftermaths herein are self-evident. In research involving college students, Cundiff reported that young women were more likely to perceive their bodies in a negative light after watching videos which depict women as objects of sexual gratification (33). It is also of worth noting that the terms used to refer to women, in such songs, are usually derogatory. Besides, in Hip-Hop videos, the placement of male artists in positions of power over video vixens who are placed in subordinate and submissive roles is usually an outright depiction of chauvinism (Rebollo-Gil and Amanda 120). Ultimately, these videos seem to advocate for the propagation of vices which should otherwise be abolished. In some cases, some Hip-Hop videos use homophobic icons which directly translate to a perpetuation of homophobic attitudes (Rebollo-Gil and Amanda 120). Consequently, this propagates discrimination based on one's sexual orientation. In other cases, some artists, in a bid to gain street authenticity, associate themselves with hypermasculinity coupled with explicit scenes of extreme violence (Rebollo-Gil and Amanda 121). Such scenes are subliminally influential on the character development of adolescents and especially males who at times strive to emulate such a gangster life.
That Hip-Hop is a dominant cultural force whose stylistic elements bespeak a lot about its history and evolution up to present time. Indeed, it relates significantly to issues related to our social structure, ranging from race, class, gender sexuality and so forth.
Baker, Soren. The history of rap and hip-hop. Lucent Books, 2012.
Cundiff, Gretchen. "The influence of rap and hip-hop music: An analysis on audience perceptions of misogynistic lyrics." Elon Journal of Undergraduate Research in Communications 4.1 (2013).
Hodgman, Matthew R. "Class, race, credibility, and authenticity within the hip-hop music genre." Journal of Sociological Research 4.2 (2013): 402-413.
Rebollo‐Gil, Guillermo, and Amanda Moras. "Black women and black men in hip-hop music: misogyny, violence and the negotiation of (white‐owned) space." The Journal of Popular Culture 45.1 (2012): 118-132.
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