a blog with cultural bulimia.

Friday, October 10, 2003


CHECKLIST: #3. Listen
to music, happy or sad, whatever transports you, and sing if you want to.
I bought 2 new albums this week (I know, nouvelle idea - who buys albums nowadays? But i have this thing about actually owning the cd or book - hardcover - that fullfill me):
Erykah Badu's "Worldwide Underground" and Outkast's "Speakerboxxx/ The Love Below" (actually two solo albums, side by side).

I have these 3 cds playing constantly - on 'shufle' - and I can't get enough of them.
They are VERY distinct from each other yet they have a certain 'je ne sais pas' feeling about them.
Beyond the obvious connections -- Outkast's Big Boi and Andre 3000 released their first album back in 94 and reached the heights in 2000 with "Stankonia". Erykah Badu released "Baduizm," in 1997 and was immediatelly labeled the first lady of neo-soul. Andre 3000 and Erykah Badu where a couple for a while: they've written music together and share a son. (On "The Love Below," Andre 3000 sings: "We young in love / in short, we had fun / No regrets, no abortion, had a son / By the name of Seven, and he's 5, by the time I do this mix/ He'll probably be 6.") -- the music seems to 'make sense': the three of them reached the point they are today by sharing a commom cultural history, the same cultural references, and I want to call them Hip Hop.

Music critics would probably kill me for saying this but i think i'm safe as far as my 'readership' including one of them... But I want to call the cultural soup that would enable these 3 distinct works to appear simmultaneously, Hip Hop -- and that term is sooo open to interpretation. Still, 30 years after its start.

YOU DO NOT LIKE HIP HOP? How can you say that, you are such an intelligent person...

I think the main problem here is the very commom confusion there is in people's mind between the terms Hip Hop and Rap. Even further, Gangsta Rap. These are DISTINCT AND NON-INTERCHANGEABLE concepts.


In 2000, a show at the Brooklyn Museum of Art named "Hip-Hop Nation: Roots, Rhymes, and Rage" was presented in five sections examining the development of hip-hop. I'll borrow that format to 'arrange' all the information I gathered. This is a patchwork of things I read, things I borrowed and thoughts I have. Please forgive me If I fail to use quotation marks or give credit to some of the most erudite statements but listed bellow are all the sources I used to prepare for writing it - i am not publishing a scientific paper...
"Hip hop music reflects where you're from in it's purest form... One should be able to listen to a record and be able to have a good idea about what was going on at the time the record was made. TThe whole thing about hip hop being purely art is true to the degree that people who either hit a higher conscious level or were removed from the day to day stresses of living in the hood could afford to experiment and branch out."

1. The Block Party
Hip Hop is a lifestyle with its own language, style of dress, music and mind set that is continuously evolving. It is today a multi-cultural fusion of many different contributions made by several ethnic groups but it's ancestry is Black: it originated in the South Bronx section of New York City around the mid 1970s and thrived within the subculture of Black and Puerto Rican communities in New York.
Initially it consisted of four main elements: graffiti art, break dancing, dj (cuttin' and scratching) and emceeing (rapping). Nowadays because break dancing and graffiti aren't as prominent the words 'rap' and 'hip hop' have been used interchangeably, erroneously. Hip Hop is the culture from which rap emerged: Rap and Hip-Hop are not interchangeable.
If we make an analogy between Hip hop and skateboarding (two readily recognized features of popular culture) things might get clearer: Hip hop and skateboarding both came from a need for the young people to express their stifled angst and at the same time their creativity. Hip Hop has branched off into sub-genres such as gangster rap and conscious rap, while sports such as snowboarding and wakeboarding are derived from skateboarding.

2. The Roots
The beginnings of hip-hop are in the 1970s and early 1980s: hip-hop pioneers Kool Herc, Grandmaster Flash, Afrika Bambaataa, and Kurtis Blow. It's a 1970s New York phenomenon, born out of an atrophying economy and a unique Afro-Latino, pan-Caribbean urban creolization taking place in certain neighborhoods like the South Bronx and East Harlem. Those neighborhoods were sites of 'intense interaction and cooperation' between African American, Puerto Rican and West Indian youth where shared social and economic status paved the way for the jointly created, syncretic expressions we now call hip hop.

3. The Golden Era
The mid-eighties through 1990, hip-hop's most creative and influential period: The era produced the remarkable rhyme skills of Rakim and Slick Rick, the feminist flavor of Salt N' Pepa, MC Lyte, Monie Love, and Queen Latifah, the agitprop poetry of Public Enemy, and the gangsta soundtrack of N.W.A.

4. Controversy
Outrage and the Rise of Gangsta Rap: It's the period when the subculture of gangsta rap came to dominate radio airwaves and garnered the bulk of the media's attention. Such events as 2 Live Crew's infamous obscenity trial and the intense criticism of Ice-T's Cop Killer record (which was actually a rock song performed by his band, Body Count) marked hip-hop's arrival in mainstream America. By the mid-1990s, hip-hop would lose two of its major icons to tragedy: first Tupac Shakur, then The Notorious B.I.G. were the victims of still-unsolved drive-by shootings.
On Gangsta Rap: "The sexist, misogynist, patriarchal ways of thinking and behaving that are glorified in gangsta rap are a reflection of the prevailing values in our society, values created and sustained by white supremacist capitalist patriarchy. As the crudest and most brutal expression of sexism, misogynistic attitudes tend to be portrayed by the dominant culture as an expression of male deviance. In reality they are part of a sexist continuum, necessary for the maintenance of patriarchal social order. While patriarchy and sexism continue to be the political and cultural norm in our society, feminist movement has created a climate where crude expressions of male domination are called into question, especially if they are made by men in power. It is useful to think of misogyny as a field that must be labored in and maintained both to sustain patriarchy but also to serve as an ideological anti-feminist backlash. And what better group to labor on this 'plantation' than young black men."

5. Pop Goes the Culture
Towards the end of the 90s, the industry shifted gears from gangsta rap to a more mainstream-friendly, materialistic and sexual hip hop, one that continues to dominate the charts today -- hip-hop has become the dominant American young culture. Since MC Hammer and Vanilla Ice in the early 1990s, hip-hop has reigned over the pop charts, along the way influencing R&B performers (TLC, R. Kelly, Mary J. Blige), rock acts (Rage Against the Machine, Limp Bizkit, Kid Rock), and pop acts (Backstreet Boyz, Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera). Hip-hop's mainstream invasion has also transformed fashion, language, and the way that Madison Avenue markets to youth in America and the young world: Puff Daddy, Missy Elliott, Eminem, Will Smith, The Beastie Boys, Ultra-sexed rappers Lil' Kim and Foxy Brown, Jay-Z, the Fugees, Lauryn Hill, Wyclef Jean and others are the 'idols' of our comtemporary youth.
Because it is an outlet for angst and frustration, Hip Hop has been one of the main contributing factors that helped curtail gang violence and urban violence in general. And not only in the U.S. but all over the world: French hip hop, for example, has emerged as the voice of France's impoverished African and Arab minorities, expressing the rage and alienation of life in 'les cit'.
related reading
The History Of Hip Hop
Hip Hop Timeline Gateway to the Black World
Hip Hop Culture in France
Origin of the word 'Ghetto'
HipHopBR - Brazilian Hip Hop magazine
r e a l h i p h o p - Brazilian web site
History of Hip Hop in Brazil (in Portuguese)

But, on the three cd's that are the 'reason to be' of this posting, do not take my word for it. Listen to some samples and read some reviews via links bellow hear samples of the songs hear samples of the songs
album reviews
NYTimes: When Weird Works: Outkast and Erykah Badu.
Guardian Unlimited: Both albums are sublime. Taken together they're hip-hop's Sign o' the Times or The White Album: a career-defining masterpiece of breathtaking ambition.
NYMetro: Speakerboxx is all rollicking party music, full of bursting horns, huge choruses, and the sparse beats of the 808 drum machine. OutKast topped the U.S. album charts on Wednesday with its latest release, 'Speakerboxxx/The Love Below'.
E! Online: They boldly mix influences like Funkadelic, Curtis Mayfield and Sly & the Family Stone. ... 'She Lives in My Lap' is the best Prince song Prince forgot to make. Double the pleasure, double the fun? Definitely, definitely.