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Hip-hop Culture and its Influence on the Youth

In this essay, we discuss regarding the process of the emergence of the hip-hop culture and the nature of its impact on the present day youth. Hip-hop culture has influenced the thinking pattern and behavior of the youth. In this essay, an attempt is made to review the positive and negative impact of the hip-hop culture on the younger generation who belong to the age group of 16-22 years.

Although, there are both positive and negative impact of hip-hop culture on the younger generation, we suggest that the hip-hop culture emerged due to the social reality of the present world and also that it has helped the marginalized younger generation to express their feelings of frustration and disappointment with the present social and economic situation particularly in the urban scenario. In other words, we suggest that hip-hop culture has benefited the younger generation rather than harming them. The origin of hip-hop culture can be traced to the African Kongo and such other kinds of African dance.

James Brown and George Clinton were one of the first artists who introduced the hip-hop dance to the modern world after 1969. The body movement in the hip-hop dance allowed freedom for the African Americans to move their body as they liked and they could express their frustration regarding their alienation from the mainstream American culture. (Perkins, 1996) In fact, it is suggested that hip-hop culture originated among the African Americans and later many young white Americans were influenced by the ideology of the hip-hop culture.

(Perkins, 1996; Morrell and Duncan-Andrade, 2002). The above study demonstrates that the two major races involved in hip-hop culture were the Black Americans and the White Americans. Perhaps the critics of popular culture envisaged the racial divide between the African American youth and the white American youth. However, in the present context, both African Americans and White Americans have become the part of this movement. Perkins (1996) argued that the hip-hop culture allowed the Black Americans to protest against the oppression of their culture and identity.

The hip-hop cultural forms such as rap music and dance has become very popular among the White youth of America. Bill Yousman (2003) argues that this phenomenon indicates that the White younger generation has been greatly influenced by the African American culture. Even during the earlier years before 1950 there were many instances where in the White younger generation accepted the Black cultural forms. In the 21st century, the White youth have become the largest consumers of the hip-hop culture.

Yousman suggests that always there existed fear regarding the potential domination of the African culture over the America. Thus, Yousman suggested that ‘blackophobia’ led to ‘blackophilia’, which means that the hip-hop culture became popular among the White population because the White youth wanted to establish their domination over the American popular culture. In the American society, ‘black’ is considered as ‘cool’ and the white people decided to imitate and dominate the hip-hop culture. Thus, there is some element of racialism in the hip-hop culture.

Yousman argues that, “…White youth adoption of Black cultural forms in the 21st century is also a performance, one that allows Whites to contain their fears and animosities towards Blacks through rituals not of ridicule, as in previous eras, but of adoration” (Yousman, p. 369). This strategy, according to Yousman, led to the White supremacy in the American society. Large number of the present day youth have been influenced by the hip-hop culture which refers to a medium of expression comprising music, dance, creativity, etc.

This culture includes rap music, break dance, dress, and particular language style, which is distinct from the language that is spoken by other members in the society. (Perkins, 1996) These various aspects distinguished it from other popular cultural forms. Hence, the dress, speech, and the behavior of the young people reveal their cultural affiliation. The hip-hop culture represents the voice of the urban working class people. In fact, those people who are influenced by hip-hop culture are called ‘hip-hop generation’.

The hip-hop culture became popular among the youth because in the real life situation they faced a crisis. Their feelings were expressed through the hip-hop music and other cultural expressions such as dance and dress. (Morrell and Duncan-Andrade, 2002 ; Yousman, 2003) Hip-hop culture consists of various rhymes and expression of feelings and frustration of the youth through music. Rapping is at the heart of this culture. Rap music now has become very popular among the youth. Rapping emerged during the 1970s. However, it was not given much importance until 1980s.

Even the MTV did not give much coverage for rap music and the other aspects of hip-hop such as aggressive behavior of the black youth and so on. However, later DJs realised the popularity of rapping and the hip-hop culture. Through the medium of Television, hip-hop culture has become known to the youth of not only America but also of all countries of the world. However, its impact is seen more among the urban youth although there might be similar impact on the rural youth as well. Hip-hop culture comprised street culture and youth protest. (Kitwana, 2002)

The impact of hip-hop culture is proved by the statement that, “As English Teachers at an urban high school in northern California, we witnessed the impact of Hip-hop music and culture on all our students. ” (Morrell and Duncan-Andrade, 2002, p. 88) The popularity of hip-hop culture is also indicated by the fact that hip-hop artists sold nearly 80 million CDs, albums, and other products related to hip-hop culture. Significantly, 70% of music albums were bought by the White American youth. Many corporations are trying to attract the attention of the younger generation by producing items relating to hip-hop culture.

The filmmakers have produced various films, which deal with the issues pertaining to the hip-hop culture. The young people belonging to different ethnic races were influenced by this culture. (Morrell and Duncan-Andrade, 2002 ; Yousman, 2003) Hip-hop culture has become popular among the young generation in the various other countries of the world. For instance, in Australia the large number of youth consumes the dance and music, which is a part of the hip-hop culture. The political groups have been suspicious of the cultural movements initiated by the youth of Australia.

However, many young people belonging to the working class became members of the hip-hop groups. In Australia, the youth were attracted towards hip-hop culture in order to avoid the real life experiences and to express their discontentment with the racialism that is discernible in the education and employment in Australia. Consequently, hip-hop culture has become popular among the ethnic youth of Australia. (Iveson, 1997) Nevertheless, the elders in the society have envisaged negative implications of popularity of hip-hop culture and they have tried to convince the younger generation that there is a need to respect the traditional values.

The youth believe that the world of elders is hypocritical and that it is not real, while the ideas, actions, and expressions of the youth are real. The elders wish to express their feelings through religion. The elders expected the youth to imitate them by going to the Church and by accepting the norms of the society. The hip-hop culture has become popular among the White American youth. This is because they are frustrated with their present economic conditions. They have taken to hip-hop culture because the hip-hop culture gives more importance to the expression of the reality. (Kitwana, 2002)

The youth believe that the hip-hop culture has exposed the weaknesses in the present society and the hypocrisy of the elders in the society. Hip-hop culture gave an opportunity to the youth to make the statement that they are independent in the society and that they are not bound by the normal rules and regulations framed by the elders. The youth are attracted to the hip-hop culture because they find the music and rhymes in the hip-hop very attractive. As we mentioned earlier, rapping is at the basis of hip-hop culture. The youth find it very easy to express their feelings by the use of the medium of rapping.

However, different hip-hop groups pursue different ideas and themes in their dance and music. This implies that there is confusion and even conflict of ideas among the different hip-hop groups. However, most of them work within the framework of constructing the real. (Kitwana, 2002) Another important feature of hip-hop culture is that the members of the hip-hop culture believe in certain principles. The hip-hop culture helps the oppressed people to resist the oppressive ideology and leads to improve the critical consciousness of the community.

Thus, in a way the hip-hop people believe that they have the responsibility of educating the exploited people. This indicates that there are few ideals and ideologies expressed by the leaders of hip-hop culture. These ideologies have tremendous influence on the actions and behavior of the younger generation. (Morrell and Duncan-Andrade, 2002) The above information and analysis implies that hip-hop culture was a radical movement which influenced the modern youth in America and the various other countries of the world. Scholars have studied these phenomena in the different regions like America, Australia, and Asia.

This demonstrates the nature of impact of this hip-hop culture on the modern youth. The major reason for the spread of the hip-hop culture is the rhythmic music that it represents. The use of modern technology such as television and films has also led to the spread of this culture in the different parts of the world. This movement questioned the existing social and economic institutions. (Kitwana, 2002) However, in spite of popularity of the hip-hop culture, scholars have discerned that there are some weaknesses in the hip-hop culture.

For instance, Neal (2002) argued that the leaders of hip-hop culture had limited objectives. They only expressed their feelings of frustration but did nothing to replace such an exploitative system. The different hip-hop groups did not have uniform political ideology or mission. The American youth influenced by the hip-hop culture remained silent when there were many incidents of violence against the marginalized groups, demonstrating that discrimination still existed in America. Since the American youth did not possess strong political ideology, the government authorities ignored them.

Further, there emerged difference between the earlier generation of African Americans who participated in the political movements and the African American youth, which became part of the hip-hop culture. The dance forms of the American youth gave importance to violence and they did not bother when there were few violent incidents. (Neal, 2002) Perhaps this gave shock treatment to the elder generation, as they possessed different values such as liberty and equality. Neal (2002) further argued that the hip-hop culture led to decline in the moral values among the younger generation.

Hence, they suggested that there is need to restrict the spread of this movement among the younger people. However, there were also few positive reflections regarding the hip-hop culture. Nevertheless, a great number of articles and books on popular culture have concentrated on the negative impact of the hip-hop culture on the younger generation. Some hip-hop rap songs consisted of few political messages, which called for aggression against the Police force and the existing administrative establishment. This naturally led to negative perceptions regarding the hip-hop movement. (Hill, 1999)

Yet, some scholars have challenged the theory that hip-hop culture had only negative impact of the society. For example, Watkins (1998) suggested that the media has exaggerated the negative impact of the hip-hop culture on the society. Hill (1999) argued that there has been deliberate attempt to sideline the positive values of the hip-hop culture. Thus, according to Hill, there has been deliberate propaganda in the popular newspapers and the journals condemning the popularity of the hip-hop culture among the present day youth. Few members of hip-hop culture were connected with the criminal activities like looting and murder.

This aspect is highlighted in the newspapers. However, the same newspapers do not highlight the fact that few non hip-hop musicians were arrested for their criminal activities. Thus, Hill argued that the press has misunderstood the real nature of the hip-hop culture and naturally, there is misrepresentation of this culture. One reason for this misrepresentation is the fact that until recently this culture was not popular among all the categories of the youth. The American black population consumed hip-hop culture. Some of them were known for their criminal activities.

Hence, importance was given to the fact that the members of the hip-hop group also committed criminal offences. This negative image has remained even today and consequently, this culture is not represented properly by the media. (Hill, 1999) The above argument of Hill is supported by Morrell and Duncan-Andrade (2002) who suggested that the media has played an important role in creating the negative image of the hip-hop culture and there is need for serious academic discussion regarding the nature of the impact of the hip-hop culture on the modern youth in America and other countries of the world.

The above analysis points out few limitations in the criticism against the hip-hop culture and there is need for balanced view regarding the impact of hip-hop culture on the youth. Morrell and Duncan-Andrade (2002) further argue that there are positive uses of the hip-hop culture. According to these scholars, hip-hop culture improved the creativity of the younger generation and hence attempt is made to incorporate few aspects of the hip-hop culture in the curriculum in the educational institutions.

Thus, Morrell and Duncan-Andrade suggested that those people who were the members of the hip-hop culture demonstrated better creative abilities when compared with those who were not the members of the hip-hop culture. The educationists believe that by teaching hip-hop culture and music, it is possible to develop critical consciousness among the students in the classrooms. The inclusion of the hip-hop culture in the school syllabus allows the students to acquire the debating and discussion skills. The study of this culture would develop the critical faculty of the students.

The students who studied the hip-hop culture were able to exhibit their creative abilities. (Morrell and Duncan-Andrade, 2002) In fact, Morrell and Duncan-Andrade argue that, “Hip-hop can be used as a bridge linking the seemingly vast span between the streets and the world of academics”. (Morrell and Duncan-Andrade, 2002, p. 89) This study by Morrell and Duncan-Andrade showed that by the proper use of hip-hop music and literature, it is possible to obtain positive results, which would benefit the younger generation studying in the educational institutions.

Although hip-hop culture was neglected initially, in the recent years the different groups of society have accepted the popularity of this culture. Different new albums have been composed and the sale of these albums confirms the popularity of this culture. The corporate world has used the medium of hip-hop culture to sell their products, which implies that the corporate people have realised that it is possible to increase their profits by selling the various items that are demanded by the members of the hip-hop groups.

Hence, now it is not possible to consider the hip-hop culture as the movement of the African Americans alone as this culture has influenced the other categories of population. For instance, the White Americans, Brazilians, Mexicans, Asians, Latinos, and the people belonging to different races and nationalities have embraced this culture. (Watkins, 1998) The African Americans originally initiated the hip-hop culture and initially it was not very popular among the youth. However, recently it has become very popular among the youth.

The media and many other social groups believed that the hip-hop culture led to few negative consequences. However, few scholars do not agree with this assumption and they argue that one can discern positive impact of the hip-hop culture on the youth. We would support the argument of the latter category of scholars as the hip-hop culture represented the real social and economic milieu of the modern youth and the media and the political leaders have exaggerated the negative consequences of the hip-hop culture.

Hence, we agree with the statement of Morrell and Duncan-Andrade that, Although the music is largely criticized by politicians, religious groups, and some women’s groups, …it is here to stay as it represents a resistant voice of urban youth through its articulation of problems that this generation and all Americans face on a daily basis. (Morrell and Duncan-Andrade, 2002, p. 88)

References

Hill, P. (1999). “Deconstructing the hip hop hype: A critical analysis of the New York Times’ coverage of African-American youth culture” Winfield B. and Sandra D. (eds. ), Bleep! : Censoring rock and rap music, Westport CT: Greenwood Press. Iveson, Kurt. (1997). “Partying, Politics and Getting Paid – hip hop and national identity in Australia”, Overland, Issue No. 147, pp. 39-47. Retrieved from http://www. cia. com. au/peril/youth/kurthiphop. pdf on 13-07-2005 Kitwana B. (2002). The hip hop generation: Young Blacks and the crisis in African American Culture, New York: Basic Civitas Books. Morrell, Ernest and Duncan-Andrade, Jeffrey M.

R.. (2002), “Promoting Academic Literacy with Urban Youth through Engaging Hip-hop Culture”, English Journal, July, pp. 88-92. Retrieved from http://www. learner. org/channel/workshops/middlewriting/images/pdf/W2ReadPromoting. pdf on 13-07-2005 Neal, Mark Anthony. (2002). Soul Babies: Black Popular Culture and the Post-Soul Aesthetic, New York: Routledge. Perkins, William Eric. (1996). Droppin’ Science: Critical Essays on Rap Music and Hip Hop Culture, Philadelphia: Temple University Press.

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