Thursday, August 7, 2014

The Global Hip Hop Community

According to Kjeldgaard and Askegaard (2006), "In the global hip community, lyrics are "real" reflections of the marginalized experiences of the artists and their audiences as they were for the 1970s U.S. innovators. In many ways, members of this culture feel more of a connection to their global hip-hop brethren, than to those with closer familial or proximate ties."
When people relate to and identify with others perceived to be like them (i.e., insiders, connective marginalities), there is the potential for a united voice to be used to advance political agendas. This is evident in the Black American conscious rap marked and marked as expressions of anger and social discrimination (Motley and Henderson, 2008).

For me, there is probably no better example of this "connection" than that of a funk song written and recorded by James Brown in 1968, "Say It Loud – I'm Black and I'm Proud." This song was both defiant and historic in its proclamation, "The song became an unofficial anthem of the Black Power movement." It also greatly accelerated black consciousness in a way that made socially disaffected youth feel inwardly and outwardly good about their "blackness" despite continuing inequality, racism, unemployment and the persistence of urban plight at the time in most major urban communities. 
In the song, Brown addresses the prejudice towards blacks in America, and the need for black empowerment. He proclaims that "we demands a chance to do things for ourself/we're tired of beating our head against the wall/and workin' for someone else". The song's call-and-response chorus is performed by a group of young children, who respond to Brown's command of "Say it loud" with "I'm black and I'm proud!"[3] The song was recorded in a Los Angeles area suburb with about 30 young people from the Watts and Compton areas.[4]
The lyrics "We've been 'buked and we've been scorned/We've been treated bad, talked about as sure as you're born" in the first verse of the song paraphrase the spiritual "I've Been 'Buked".

Several other Brown singles from the same era as "Say It Loud – I'm Black and I'm Proud", notably "I Don't Want Nobody To Give Me Nothing (Open Up The Door, I'll Get It Myself)", explored similar themes of black empowerment and self-reliance.
The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame included "Say It Loud – I'm Black and I'm Proud" as one of their 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll. In 2004 it was ranked number 305 on Rolling Stone magazine's list of the 500 greatest songs of all time. It inspired the title of a VH1 television special and box set, Say It Loud! A Celebration of Black Music in America.

Ethnographic researchers suggest that young people appropriate "imported" culture to help construct their ethnic-social identities (Androutsopoulos and Scholz, 2003; Kjeldgaard and Askegaard, 2006). Part of this culture includes popular music that can help establish ethnic, cultural, and generational group identities (Osumare, 2007; (Motley and Henderson, 2008).  

We would do well to ask ourselves, what is the present relationship that exists between the hip-hop music of African-Americans, the mainstream or "traditional collectives", and the hip hop audience that is typically found out there in the ever expanding outer margins of our economic, social, and political systems? I believe, that this subject is worth exploring in an effort to not only better listen to and understand but to also re-engage large numbers of youth in finding the ways and means for confronting and ultimately resolving the difficult and persistent dilemmas, concerns, and problems that they face on a daily basis.

Let me further add, that it has occurred to me that as people of color we ain't really free yet here in the United States.  Because to many young African American, Hispanic, Latino and Native Indian men and women are still either locked up, locked out or remain trapped in some form of substance abuse or addiction. - JD