Hip-hop is a musical genre and part of a wider culture of hip-hop. The hip-hop culture has several hallmarks to its characteristics; they include rapping, emceeing, freestyling, scratching among other attributes. Its origin can be traced back to rapping in 1970 Southern side of Bronx, New York. Rapping is usually assumed to be hip-hop in its individuality but the hip-hop culture is wider than most people think (Price, p. 8).
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Just like any other culture in the world, hip-hop is multifaceted with elements that include dress code, language, musical events, and other factors. The hip-hop culture has quickly spread to many parts of the world since its inception in 1970. The influence of Hip-hop can therefore be seen in America, Europe, Asia, Africa, Latin America, and other continents. However, hip hop has been assumed to be part of gangsterism, drug abuse, and violence among other ills of society. Needless to say, hip-hop, just like any other culture has its ups and downs but these attributes can be traced back to the struggle for African Americans under racism and oppression (Price, p. 67).
Hip-hop has therefore been widely used to express oneself and not necessarily propagate violence. It has been viewed by most of its followers as a movement and a medium to express opinions. In the past, hip-hop was used to speak against the brutality of police, racism, drug abuse, and other evils of society. However, hip-hop as a culture has been observed to evolve over the last few decades with most people now viewing it as a way of life as opposed to a medium to express oneself. This study seeks to analyze the impact of culture on society.
Freedom and Empowerment
Unlike the present-day commercial nature of hip-hop, the culture that existed in the 70s, 80s, and part of 90s revolved around speaking against societal ills like racism and police harassment. Popular rappers who championed this cause included 2 Pac Shakur, Notorious BIG, Wu-tang clan, Run DMC among other personalities. Hip-hop was able to bring to fore issues that wouldn’t be openly spoken in other forums. Racism for example was openly spoken through hip-hop music by rapping against the oppression of African Americans in America. To some degree, hip hop empowered the black youth to revolt against such societal oppression and encouraged the majority to live above it. The use of the term “hustle” is a manifestation of how hip-hop tried to empower the black youth amidst oppression from the white majority (Hess, p. 14).
Many companies have been observed to pay rappers for product endorsements. MC Donald for example has gone on record to pay rappers to promote Mc Donald food in their songs. Russell Simmons, a hip-hop mogul has also gone on record to promote the “Courvoisier” brand which was later followed by Busta rhyme’s song “Pass the Courvoisier”. News agencies like business weekly have also attested to the fact that product placement usually takes place in commercial hip-hop where endorsements are paid for (Hess, p. 21).
More companies have also joined the long list of corporations who want to line up behind influential hip-hop musicians for product endorsements. Some of such companies are sneaker companies, fashion houses, and automobile companies. The commercialization of hip-hop (product placements) is uniquely different from other product endorsements using celebrities like sports personalities because hip-hop can advertise a product subconsciously in its lyrics and videos. The popularization of brands such as Gucci is evidence of this phenomenon.
Many youths today have been noted to engage in risky and early sexual practices as a result of the influence of hip-hop. Many critics have attributed this to the fact that hip-hop portrays the woman as a sexual object in most of its videos and lyrics (Hess 16). The impact has been majorly strong on African American and Latino youth. A recent study done on African American households across 10 cities in America revealed that African American youth are becoming more sexually active at earlier ages than their counterparts in other races. This group has also been noted to suffer higher rates of HIV/AIDS than other racial groups. The study had been done in households that earn less than $25,000 annually (Hess, p. 17).
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As a result of the macho attitude depicted by hip-hop musicians, teenagers have been observed to imitate the same behavior with a motivating attitude of “using people before the tables turn on you”. Other motivating factors propagated by hip-hop are “getting something while there is still time”. Some derogatory terms in hip-hop lyrics to denote the woman as a “bitch” or “hoe” have also contributed to the lack of respect for women.
Hip-hop incorporates slang which affects the common English language; even to those who are not affected by the culture. This has greatly affected academic circles. Many American universities, for example, have been noted to do an English proficiency test, partly because of the influence of Hip hop on the English language, before admitting students. In addition, the use of the word “dis” for example, has been used in ordinary talk; almost sounding like an authentic English word but in a real sense, it isn’t (Hess, p. 45).
The influence has majorly been attributed to the success of hip-hop music in the commercial sector. The use of words like “homie”, “yo” “dilly” and other terms has been highly popularized by hip-hop. For example, hip-hop musicians like Busta Rhymes and Snoop Dogg have popularized sentences like “put your hand up to where I could see” which don’t necessarily make correct English sense.
Influence of Southern Hip Hop Culture
Southern hip-hop culture has greatly revolutionized present-day hip-hop music. It incorporates a more club-oriented beat than other earlier versions of hip-hop. The southern hip-hop movement can be traced back to southern cities such as Atlanta, Nashville, Houston, Louisiana, and New Orleans among others. Most Southern rappers usually recorded their music in mixtapes and on other low-level hip hop forums because of the failure to secure lucrative recording deals with major production houses (Hess). Southern hip-hop can therefore be denoted as a third-level genre of hip hop after West Coast and East Coast hip-hop music (Lewis, p. 49).
In the early 2000s, southern hip-hop came of age with the development of the “crunk” beat. The impact of this style of music in today’s hip-hop world is overwhelming, with older rappers, synonymous with older versions of hip-hop (East and West Coast) modifying their music to adapt to the new beat. Such rappers are the likes of Snoop Dog and Ice cube who were very vocal rappers in 1990s west coast music.
Southern hip-hop music has therefore highly commercialized hip-hop and gives it a whole new meaning. In the past, hip-hop was attributed to being the voice of the people (which it still is) but southern hip hop has introduced a “feel good” element to it; such that the music produced today is more “fun” oriented. It should however be noted that the southern style of music is a reaction to the hip-hop music that was developed by east coast and south coast rappers.
This new twist to hip-hop has been the very essence to which hip-hop survives today; though critics of the Southern-style have dismissed the music as lacking substance (Hess). Southern rap has also led to other sub-genres of hip-hop like snap music and new hip-hop dancing moves. It is now uniquely distinct with its sound and way of language than its lyrical content. Southern music has also been majorly characterized by the extravagant lifestyles of musicians. It has also revolutionized hip-hop to center on glamour, with manifestations of culture on cars, clothing brands, nightlife, and women (Neff, p. 51). Present-day hip-hop is now synonymous with these attributes. Popular southern rappers are the likes of Lil John, T.I, Lil Wayne, and Young Jeezy among others.
Hip-hop culture has had a tremendous impact on the youth today than any other culture (Hess 43). To attest to this, record sales of previous musical giants like Elvis Presley haven’t yet reached the levels hip-hop musicians have. Hip-hop moguls such as P Diddy and Jay Z have had a tremendous impact on the business world and have recorded tremendous sales across the globe. Hip-hop is therefore becoming more conspicuous in society than ever thought before. Various aspects of society have been affected by this influence including language, youth attitudes, and the business world among others. The list is endless. Hip-hop culture is also observed to be evolving with new definitions being arrived at every year. The development of southern hip-hop has also changed the face of present-day hip-hop to be more commercial. It would be interesting to observe how the culture is going to change in the next decade.
- Hess, Mickey. Hip Hop in America: A Regional Guide: Volume 1: East Coast and West Coast. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, 2009.
- Lewis, Craige. The Truth behind Hip Hop. New York: Xulon Press, 2009.
- Neff, Ali. Let the World Listen Right: the Mississippi Delta Hip-Hop Story. Mississippi: Univ. Press of Mississippi, 2009.
- Price, George. Hip Hop Culture. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, 2006.