The story of Hip-Hop chronicles the birth of a culture. A culture of self-awareness and self-sufficiency. A way of life created by children. An ignored, socially disrespected and unwanted group of minorities that became a very successful entertainment enterprise. The story is deep rooted in a survival of the fittest mindset.
This isn’t all about music. The elements don’t complete the story. That’s why there’s such an emphasis on “staying true to Hip-Hop”. People are claiming Hip-Hop simply because they speak slang and wear a fitted backwards. Back in the day that would’ve been non-cipher. Cultural awareness makes us stronger as a people. When you are a part of a culture, it is your duty to obtain knowledge of your culture.
“Each One Teach One” is our responsibility. It’s not enough to just make authentic Hip-Hop music. We should strive to be historians and upholders of the culture as well. When you know the reason for the season, it opens up a whole new world of creativity and appreciation for the art-form.
When seeking to better overstand your culture, you must first find out who originated it. Study all of their social behavior patterns, their arts, and their beliefs. Research works by authorities on your culture. If possible…seek out testimonials from people who were actually there…the people that lived it.
You then take all that you’ve learned, weigh it and weave this information into your own self-identity. If your mind, body and soul all comply, you SEAL the deal by paying homage. In short, that’s "Keeping it one hunnit” because you’re maintaining the legacy. At Soul Trust Records, we feel that it’s nice to do the elements, but if you REALLY claiming Hip Hop you need to study it’s other crucial aspects as well.
Through my research I’ve found that there are some key factors to be aware of when putting the story of Hip-Hop together:
1. Geography. Key moments and events of early Hip-Hop happened in different areas of The Bronx. Not just Sedgwick and Cedar. Many other sections gave major contributions to Hip Hop history.
2. Chronology. Hip Hop History needs a properly illustrated timeline. There are some significant events that took place at the same time, but in different places.
3. Environment. Hip-Hop didn’t spawn out of happiness. It is the product of a heavily pressured, negative atmosphere. Poverty, racism, sex, money, drugs, and violence were everywhere. Gangs were the law. Arson was ridiculous. This story is literally set to a backdrop of burning buildings.
4. Politics. The political policy of “Benign Neglect” was the catalyst for the decimation of The Bronx. The general attitude of most politicians at that time was to completely ignore The Bronx and let it burn. This is however a blessing in disguise. Had the politicians actually cared about The Bronx, Hip Hop might not have ever been born.
5. Misinformation. Whenever you research any culture’s history, there are usually disagreements about the facts. Arguments about who did what first, who achieved certain milestones or just generally romanticized information. Remember: People recall things differently. You must be careful and attentive in your search for the truth, not just in Hip-Hop, but in life.
Dead Prez could not have screamed it better. “It’s bigger than Hip-Hop”. There are crucial accomplishments, pivotal moments, and key people and events that truly define what Hip-Hop is really all about. If you really love this culture we call Hip Hop, you will do all you can to preserve it’s FRESHNESS!
So in the immortal words of GRANDMASTER YODA:
“Pay Homage You Must!”