Friday, June 25, 2010

Black Music Month #19: Hip Hop Is More Than You Think It Is

Via The Marriage of a Dead Blog SING!

Me: To all the people who think Hip Hop is not a legitimate art form, not a part of history or treat Hip Hop like it is a monolithic entity (side-eyes Thomas Chatterton Williams), here is your response:

A friend of mine, who is a fellow music junkie, occasionally gives me heads up on weird shit he finds he thinks I might like to sample. He told me about this track the other night and I’ve only just gotten around to checking it out now. It’s pretty fucking awesome, no?
Anyway, whilst digging the fuck out of this track, I was browsing through the comments on Youtube, and came across one that enraged me.
“rap comes from this song yeaaaag”
Recently, when Banksy started pissing about in America, someone here linked to an article which quoted an unnamed art historian as saying graffiti was the greatest urban cultural movement “since Punk”.
Let’s just get one thing straight right here. What we understand as Hip Hop today began in the early 70’s. It grew up at the same time, if not before, Punk. Graffiti existed as a movement before Hip Hop became a defined, integrated culture. In reality, Punk is the most influential movement since Graffiti.
This is something that needs to stop. Just because White people didn’t hear about Hip Hop until the 80’s doesn’t mean it didn’t exist. White people need to stop looking down on Hip Hop. Just because it’s made by Black people doesn’t mean it’s anything less than mind blowingly innovative. I’m not joking here, or trying to get mad props by showing how”down with the black kids” I am, it is genuinely one of the most ground breaking genres of all time.
I don’t mean it in a political sense, though that is most certainly true (seriously, go read Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop by Jeff Chang if you want to see how Hip Hop evolved as a responce to White Oppression). But right now, I want to simply talk about it as a musical form.
Many people toyed with the idea of sampling before Hip Hop. The idea was first properly realised by Musique Concrete in the late 40’s. The bassline from the Doctor Who theme tune (universally acclaimed as one of the most influential pieces of electronic music ever) was made up of resampled recordings of an elastic band on a matchbox. Miles Davis made heavy use of looping and sampling for On The Corner. Steve Reich messed about with it for Come Out and It’s Gonna Rain.
But Hip Hop was the first time that it was treated as a normal concept. There was no chin stroking over intellectualism involved, just a bunch of people sitting around and going “hey, these 10 seconds are the best part of this song, let’s make it the whole song”. They didn’t have a studio filled with complicated equipment, they didn’t have a fancy college education grounding them in the tennents of music. Let’s be honest, they probably knew fuck all about French Advent Garde musicians, British Childrens TV shows or New York Hipsters. They literally just had 2 turntables and an ear for a decent hook. That was it. They took the most basic piece of equipment you could find - your average home stereo - and turned it into an instrument, THEN THEY ELEVATED IT TO AN ART FORM!
Seriously, I’m not entirely sure I can explain how ground breaking the concept of Hip Hop is to you. It’s just such a revolutionary idea it’s almost impossible to grasp. The entire history of human music was turned entirely on it’s head, just because a roomful of people in the Bronx wanted to dance.

No comments:

Blog Archive