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Hip-hop – subculture of the past and the present

For most people, hip-hop is associated mainly with the rap part. In fact, it is a cultural and art movement, that emerged in the 1970s as a forced struggle against the poverty and violence of the African-American ghettos of New York city and eventually became a subculture of urban youth around the world.

Word “Hip” translates as “fashionable”, “cool”, “advanced” and word “Hop” means “party” or “dance event”. Since hip-hop originated on the streets, it belongs to the street types of culture.

A bit about history

The birthplace of the still popular hip-hop culture is the Bronx suburbe. Being settled in the 60-ies and 70-ies predominantly by immigrants and African-Amrerican, it is more and more impoverished and turned into a ghetto. Black representatives of the upper and middle classes moved to the “white” areas. The remaining proletariat was isolated from the more affluent part of society.

As a result, the people of the Bronx came up with their own cultural entertainment – the legendary charity parties, held in old factory buildings, in parking lots and in the open air: in parks and on the streets. Such parties have become a platform for the development of a new cultural movement – hip-hop, whose adherents have come up with different ways to protest against the established order.

Components of the subculture

The main components of the new and old hip-hop schools are:

  • graffiti (graffiti writing);
  • rapping or emceeing (Mcing);
  • b-boying or breakdancing;
  • DJing.

Regarding the fifth important element of hip-hop direction, the opinions differ. Some believe that this is a special philosophy (street knowledge), others – hip-hop fashion, others – beatboxing. The followers of the subculture has their own slang.

DJing and turntables are techniques for manipulating sounds and creating unique music, using electric devices (or other audio sources) and DJ mixer, connected to a sound amplification system. Kul Gerk from Jamaica, one of the first hip-hop DJs, singled out a drum beat and created a continuous rhythm, using two identical records.

Other DJs continued to develop the Gerk’s method. Mixing in one or two different records, they created a unique piece of music. The sound effect of scratch (scratching), which occurs when manipulating the crossfader, has become one of the characteristic features of the hip-hop style.

In the early development of hip-hop as a new musical direction, DJs were the stars of the parties. The “Singers”, who now call themselves MCs, helped them to warm up the audience by shouting simple phrases or words (like “Raise your hands!”). Some were so creative, that they wrote short funny stories about their neighborhoods and DJs, and soon pushed the latter into the background.

The art of painting with spray paint developed from the so-called tagging. Young artists immortalized their names in the form of autographs and pseudonyms on the walls of houses and trains. Gradually, the inscriptions turned into stunning works of art. Despite this, graffiti is still often called “daub” and is considered as property damage.

New dance moves were invented at the first street hip-hop parties, where DJs entertained the audience with break beats. Breakdance has become a physical expression of protest and a way to resolve disputes without violence. Instead of fighting, residents of different streets gathered in groups and arranged “dance battles”. The winners were those, who owned their bodies better.

The concept of street knowledge refers to the study and use of the experience of previous generations. These are methods, phrases, codes, that you need to know in order to survive in poor urban areas, where there are dangers at every step.

Thanks to its active followers, hip-hop lives and continues to evolve. There are, for example, all new styles of graffiti and breakdance. However, unlike old school, this is no longer a movement of poor urban youth, but a mass phenomenon. There is a growing commercialization of the subculture, that is a fair criticism of the new school.