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Hip-Hop losing its meaning in America, but still relevant globally


While researching through the Internet underground for links over the last week, I found two articles that both explored hip-hop from different angles that I thought deserved their own post. As a fan of music culture, I figured I would put them here, instead of burying them in yesterday’s link post.

Since its inception in the late 1970s, hip-hop has gone through many of the same cultural changes as rock ‘n’ roll. Both started as dance/party music (think Sugarhill Gang for hip-hop and Chubby Checker for rock) then went into their rebellious phases (Public Enemy, followed by much of the conscious rap scene of the early 90s/Bob Dylan and a lot of the folk/hippie rock of the late 60s).  Following their rebellious phases, both were homogenized by the mainstream and migrated into popular and commercial culture. As they moved to the center and towards popular acceptance, the messages in both rock and hip-hop changed drastically. For rock, this started with the 80s hair metal scene and it’s wildly excessive party scene. For hip-hop, it began with with the business-like sophistication of Jay-Z and optimistic feel-good raps of Kayne West and Lupe Fiasco.

Over at, “the Pop Off team — Jay Smooth of illdoctrine.dom and pop music writer Maura Johnston of” go in depth on the metamorphosis of hip-hop from media of the rebellion to theme song to Sex in the City 2. In introducing the broadcast, an NPR writer also brings up a god-awful, terrible, horrific, forehead-slapping commercial hip-hop based Toyota commercial (from a parody perspective though it is a lot like the vids I have seen from the Flight of the Concords guys).

Meanwhile, in other parts of the world, where the music and the message are still relevant, people are using break dancing in an attempt to motivate, unify, and encourage the youth of Uganda. Break dance sessions are bringing together kids whose lives have been absolutely destroyed by a continent at war. Using a music that by its roots was born in chants and hollers of the African tribes, break dancing and “b-boying” is giving Ugandan kids an outlet and promoting peace and cooperation through music.

BOUNCING CATS film trailer from nabil elderkin on Vimeo.

Maybe there will be a day when hip-hop in Uganda will be used to pitch mini-vans and sell movies about Manhattan socialites. Maybe that is the natural progression of popular music.

At least I’ll have the blues and death metal.

(By the way, while researching this post, I found Roger Ebert’s review of Sex in the City 2. Besides ripping off an absolutely classic introduction, he says there is more cleavage in the movie than at a pro wrestler’s wedding. I don’t get it.)


3 comments on Hip-Hop losing its meaning in America, but still relevant globally

  1. Hey, I ran into your blog while browsing through TampaBLAB. Interesting post. Lemme comment…

    I am definitely a fan of hip-hop… and rock too! I’m part of a dance group and I like to move to the beats, or listen to guys express themselves through rap…

    but PSHH IT sometimes I feel like hip-hop is dying (in America). I long for the days when there was some intelligence behind the music– whether from the lyrics, a unique beat, or the track as a whole. Although there are still some geniusus in the genre out there, I feel like the movement is mostly dead and has given way to mindless artists who merely seek the lifestyle… but maybe that’s also part of the next evolution of hip-hop

  2. Pyra, thanks for checking me out and taking a gander.

    As for hip-hop, I think the good stuff is underground now. There are some really good lyricists out there that aren’t getting signed. Guys like Jay Electronic and Aesop Rock come to mind. There are also a lot of really good underground producers out there too. My suggestion would be to find a few hip-hop blogs and follow them for a bit and see what they write about. Some do a great job digging up names you might have never heard of.

    Again thanks for swinging by! Feel free to come by anytime.

  3. I think it’s great that they don’t have to be poor and underground. If you can improve your life by showcasing your music for a commercial, it just means that people respect it.

    Earn your cash while you can! You have the rest of your life to be an artist — you don’t have to be a starving artist.

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