by Joaquin Galvan
(Charlotte Fife-Jepperson added to the story)
Hip-hop started in the early ‘70s in the Bronx, New York City. Unemployment, poverty, and crime rates were at an all-time high, and the community’s black and Latino residents, who felt abandoned by the city, found an outlet through a new culture and art movement – Hip-hop.
Grandmaster Flash, an influential DJ who was involved in the early Hip-hop scene, said that Hip-hop’s message was, “We matter. We stand for something,” according to a quote in Dorian Lynskey’s August 2016 article “Grandmaster Flash,” published in The Guardian.
In the ‘70s and ‘80s, Hip-hop culture spread through the streets in the Bronx through house parties, block parties, gym dances and mix-tapes.
The words Hip-hop and rap are used interchangeably today, however Hip-hop is not only rap.
Afrika Bambaataa, DJ and founder of the Universal Zulu Nation (an international Hip-hop awareness group) outlined the Four Pillars of Hip-hop as: DJing (turntabling), MCing (vocal rapping), breakdancing (movement), and graffiti (visual art).
Hip-hop’s roots can be traced back to slavery. Much like Hip-hop, songs and spirituals were sung by African American slaves as a way of transmitting culture to the next generation.
After slavery, as African Americans moved into cities like Detroit, New York and Chicago, the culture they created followed. However, because they were seen as second-class citizens most lived in poverty for generations.
Hip-hop began to take stances on social justice issues early on, much like the Black Lives Matter movement does today. Songs like "Fight the Power" and "F* the Police" are prime examples of rap that took a stance on the injustices afflicting the African American community during the 1992 L.A. riots over the Rodney King assault.
Hip-hop has become a great way for a community to have its voice heard when other avenues for the political process have failed. It is also a means of communicating within the Hip-hop community itself.
The Stop the Violence Movement was formed in 1987 by rapper KRS-One in response to violence within the Hip-hop community. Several New York rappers joined forces to record the single, "Self Destruction." All proceeds of the single went to the National Urban League, a New York based group that focuses on social and civil rights issues affecting communities of color.
Two years later, the West Coast Rap All Stars followed suit by teaming up to produce a No.1 rap single “We’re All in the Same Gang,” which earned a Grammy nomination for Best Rap Performance by a Duo or Group in 1991.
Several Hip Hop groups and rappers like 50 Cent, Timbaland, Common, Talib Kweli, Run the Jewels and MC Killer Mike have endorsed political candidates throughout the years.
Kamau Rashid, Associate Professor at National-Louis University, Chicago, said in 2006,
"[Hip-hop] represented a potential shift in the ideological and ideational dynamics of the African American community insofar as it signaled an intergenerational movement around crafting solutions which were artistic, organizational, and institutional to the structural malaise of post-industrial urban black communities.”
Hip-hop maintains a strong stance in the African American community today. However, as the Hip-hop culture grew so did its diversity. It has become a global community of solidarity.
Joaquin Galvan, a Filipino American raised in the Guadalupe neighborhood of Fairpark, appreciates Hip-hop in all its forms.