Monday, April 9, 2007

Little Ditty on Hip-Hop

Hip-hop is a movement that started in the era of post-industrialism and urban reform during which little opportunity or jobs were available and the (mostly minority composed) “underclass” was contained within efficient but unlivable housing projects. Combined with the empowering movements that had occurred before or were ongoing through the 1960s and 1970s like Black Nationalism and the Black Panthers, or Civil Rights and peaceful demonstration, the socio-political impetus that was instrumental in hip-hop’s birth becomes obvious. Indeed, hip-hop arose as a way to express one’s self within the context of these surroundings.

What’s important is the way in which hip-hop’s inception was tied to its inceptors’ life and community. In hip-hop’s earliest years, it was impossible to have one without the other because so much of hip-hop was meant to influence (if not fundamentally change) its community. The fact that it arose through aesthetic mediums/elements—graffiti, bboying/break dancing, djing, and mcing—only adds to hip-hop’s appeal as a unique social movement.

Of course, it’s exactly because of these elements that so much of hip-hop is commercialized and commodified. The problem remains: because hip-hop is in its very essence a movement seeking social change, its message’s success is directly related to its dissemination. But the best way to disseminate hip-hop has been through the commodification of the aesthetics elements.

Is there no way to balance its popular appeal with its original socio-political goals?

(Is underground the only answer?)