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Meaning of Hip Hop in the U.S.

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Meaning of Hip Hop in the U.S.

Photo: Antonio Rull Source Licence

Photo: Antonio Rull Source Licence

Photo: Antonio Rull Source Licence

Marcus Mahtemework, Staff Writer

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Hip hop has been given a pretty bad rap by society since its inception in the 1970s. The media has always painted it as an aggressive genre of music, catering only to disobedient black youth, criminals, and gangsters, and completely disregarding it’s empowering nature and celebratory tone towards black icons. When they hear talk of guns or conflict with police, opponents of this genre misinterpret the meaning of rap to be some kind of incitement to social rebellion. But, while many of these very critics choose only to selectively dissect rap songs in a negative light, they fail to understand the role of hip hop in African American culture – to represent black consciousness.

When hip hop and rap were first beginning to emerge, they were intended to act as a venue for African American MC’s to highlight prevalent social problems faced by blacks all around the country – the same problems ignored by right wing media outlets and denied by many conservative politicians. It is easier for white America to discount the words told by these perceived criminals and thugs than it is to question the federal government and its role in enforcing the socioeconomic stigma brought on by the “street” – a powerful, unconquerable enemy that leaves you trapped in its constraint, which is nothing more than a cycle of perpetual unhappiness and stagnation. However, for these very people who lack hope or a stronger identity, hip hop is meant to be a collective cultural movement that acts as a support system, as well as a loudspeaker. Hip Hop exhibits a ground level view of the distress many feel on a daily basis and a voice for the common man who lacks the power to speak his voice – or his life. Prominent rappers like Tupac, Ice Cube, and Biggie are not idolized because of their wealth, or the popularity they possess – rather, because of their power to convey information in a way where almost none can. These rappers, who are known for “keeping it real,” have positively embraced the responsibility to represent the black community in terms of voicing their struggles, but they also act as a beacon of light to the many black youths scattered across America who believe in the unfairness of the system.

Hip hop and rap music originated as nothing more than a form of resistance to the imposed subjugation of blacks to the system; a phenomena encouraged by presidents such as Nixon and Reagan and enforced willingly by many police departments around the country.  In a changing world where hip hop is starting to become a more commercial enterprise and where the popularization of drugs, women, and gangs are now celebrated by pop culture, many are once again questioning the validity and morals that are a part of this genre. To those that believe hip hop has no place in our world today, I would argue that the rhetoric employed in many rap songs serve the purpose of bridging gaps between those of differing economic classes, empowering the black youth, and illuminating truths about many of the covert, oppressive conditions plaguing our society.

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