Hip-hop isn’t just about music. Hip-hop is about dance, art, expression, pain, love, racism, sexism, broken families, hard times, overcoming adversity and the search for God. It’s a culture, a way of life, a language, a fashion, a set of values, and a unique perspective. Hip-hop is about trying to live out the American dream from the bottom up.
Hip-Hop culture is a unique phenomenon because it does incorporate and affect so many different cultures, ages and classes. In the early 1970’s the unnamed culture known today as “hip-hop” was forming in New York City’s ghettos. Each element in this culture had its own history and terminology contributing to the development of a cultural movement. The culture was identified in the early 1980’s when DJ Afrika Bambaataa named the dynamic urban movement, “hip-hop.” Since that time “hip-hop” has served as a powerful voice and form of expression for young black audiences and has evolved into a culture with its own language, style of dress and mindset. The hip hop culture envelops not only music but also fashion and dance.
What makes hip hop’s evolution is the range of flavor the culture has to offer and what “hip-hop heads” thrive on is individuality and creativity, which is never more apparent than in hip-hop fashion. In fact, hip hop fashion is one of the top clothing industries in the world today. It is claimed to have begun in the African American community but has spread quickly into being a truly universal style for people of all ethnicities and sexes and a lynch pin of hip hop culture. Hip hop fashion is preferred by various celebrities such as 50 cent, Puff Daddy, Ja Rule and Sean Combs. It is often satirized by comedians such as Ali G. Hip hop fashion is a visible element of hip hop culture.
Hip hop dancing is evolving in many different directions today, heavily influenced by the evolution of hip hop music and its popularity in media, surrounded by heated debates on history and authenticity. Modern hip hop music gave birth to new styles of hip hop dancing partly inspired by the old school styles. Most of those styles focused on upright dancing as opposed to breakdance which is better known for its floor-oriented movements. To express one’s creative talent, hip-hop dancing is perhaps the best way in which impressions and expressions come from the soul.
Music has always played a key role in shaping minds and attitudes. Hip hop music sheds light on contemporary politics, history and race. The social influence hip hop music has on the hip hop cultural movement includes activities of dancing, associated slang, fashion and other elements. Hip hop music encompasses the written word, visual art, dance and rhythmic style with intricate beats. Music has no boundaries and no limits; anything worthy should be available through music, especially spirituality and religion. A big influence on the hip hop identity is its redeeming music.
Culture is the product of a current reality. The identity of a culture is created by the work and thought of human beings. It is the expression of a class or element of a particular class and is reflective of a certain period. The allure of Hip Hop culture as an organizing mechanism has arisen primarily because there is no existing political apparatus that adequately addresses the needs of young people and/or poor and working class communities; in a political vacuum. Culture, as a general matter, cuts to the core of how people articulate their beliefs, values and customs. Hip Hop culture is the most visible and vocal representative entity of its own identity.