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					HIP HOP CULTURE
BEING, RACE, AND RESISTANCE (STYLE)
CLASS NOTES
MARCH 29, 2006

Popular music‟s 1st Battle records: „Let‟s Go Out To The Programs‟ , Dixie
Hummingbirds, 1952

Wattstax, August 20, 1972, @ Los Angeles Coliseum, at the time, the 2nd largest
gathering of African Americans, in history, with the 1st being Martin Luther King Jr.‟s
‟63 March on Washington.

“The African approach to the arts ensured us all of a legacy. Self-expression through
mediums of music and dance is as much a part of the African as the melanin in the skin,
and the coil of the hair. The African-American is the most widely emulated musical
artist in the world today. Whatever is bought through the art of being is finally
incorporated into the mainstream, and the heartbeat is heard and felt in places that we
have never knew, or never knew existed. The children today all over the world are
learning how to get down, with the music turned up loud, dancing like a bunch of
Africans” (Abbey Lincoln, c 1985)

Books Shared

1) Malick Sidebe: Photographs. Published by Hasselblad Center, 2003
2) Back in the Day: Jamel Shabazz, Published by powerHouse Cultural Entertainment,
2001

Key concept: Hip Hop style reflects processes of fragmentation & reintegration.

Definition of Style

A noun, meaning:

   1) The manner in which something is done, expressed, or performed.

   2) A quality of imagination and individuality expressed in one‟s actions and tastes.

African Style as a Precursor to Hip Hop Culture Style

***Yoruba***

Yoruba, black Africa‟s largest population, creators of one of the premier cultures (the
culture of lifestyle of city dwellers) in the world.




                                             1
Yoruba are one of the most urban of the traditional civilizations of black Africa; their
urbanism is ancient, dating back to the Middle Ages. Between the 10th and 12th centuries,
nothing comparable in Europe.

Self-sufficient city-states characterized by both artistic and poetic richness.

The Yoruba assess all things aesthetically, and have great appreciation for freshness and
improvisation.

An entry in one of the earliest dictionaries of their language is „awewa‟ which means
knower of beauty, a connoisseur, and one who looks for the manifestation of pure
artistry.

Yoruba (often referred to as the primary coastal region for the extracting of peoples as
American slaves). Other cultures - Dahomey, Fulani, Mandingo – also greatly affected.
All ending up in The Americas – Haiti, Brazil, US.

The Yoruba religion worships spirits under God, and all of the spirits together embody
Ashe, the spirit to make things happen, or God‟s enabling light rendered accessible.
Ashe literally means „So be it” or “Make it Happen.” Also, Eshu, the spirit of
individuality and change.

Their word for cool or coolness is „Itutu‟. There is coolness in art, but human coolness is
a form of idealized action, in which character and coolness blend into each other. They
considered such coolness as the best way to represent one‟s self as a human being. And it
was a chill cool. No smiling, lips stay sealed.

Berlin conference of 1885, Europe divided Africa into colonized states (French, Belgium,
British, etc).

***Malick Sibide***

Based in the Bamako area of Mali.

Photographed the turbulence of youth during the period of decolonization.

Capturing a time that reflected both a love of their independence, as well as an
impatience with the nationalist state.

Sibide was of the first studio photographers in Africa to take the lighter/cheaper 35 mm
cameras outside, capture young people in the moment of house parties and picnics.

His predecessor, Seydou Keita, took more traditional in-studio, staged photos.

Sibide created a „new aesthetic‟ or what we would call „realism.‟




                                              2
3) Grins

Beginning in the 60s, the youth built their social networks in high schools through the
formation of crews and spaces (clubs) called „Grins‟. Through music and dress they
„broke‟ with conservative tradition.

Similar to graffiti tagging, they tied rock music group names to their community. A Grin,
for instance, could be called the Beatles of Bamako.

Grins always had a turntable, records (soul and rock), magazines, and were a place for
political discussions and enlightenment.

Political heroes in the US (Black Power Movement and Ali) and Africa (Toure/France,
Lumumba/Belguim, Nkrumah/England) but their artistic heroes were in the US (James
Brown)

Similar to post-gang graffiti tagging and writing, rival Grins were invited to parties and
picnics.

250 Grins in Bamako, alone.

Grins considered themselves rebels against traditional societies and controlled the way
they behave, dress, and think.

***„La Sape‟***

Early 70s formal movement, which stood for the Society for the Advancement of Persons
of Elegance).

Born and bred in Kinshasa, the capital of Zaire. Turned style into a kind of religion,
complete with high priests (best dressers), & deities (designers), and named roles.

Sapuers: The stylers

Deberquer: Making an entrance

Suivistes: Imitator

Taureaux: No style

Dances: Etutana and Ndombolo.

***Jamel Shabazz***
Photography book entitled “Back in the Day”. Jamel was born in Brooklyn in 1960. His
father, also a photographer, passed the skill on to Jamel at the age of 15.



                                             3
***Five Percent Nation***

Embraces the unity of humans and the One Primordial Power.

Started in 1964 by Clarence 13X Smith, a former student minister at Malcolm X‟s
Mosque No.7, of the Nation of Islam (NOI). Also an officer in the Fruit of Islam, the
paramilitary wing of the NOI, in charge of martial arts instruction.

„Five Person‟ comes from the Lost and Found Muslim Lessons, written in the form of
questions asked by Fard Muhammad, NOI founder, posed to Elijah Muhammad. For
example:

Question: Who are the five percent?
Answer: The poor righteous teachers, the 5% of the population who knew and understood
the true knowledge of God. Further, 10% have the knowledge but use it to exploit and
confuse the masses; and the remaining 85% are the exploited masses.

Clarence 13X studied the lessons, and realized that he was Allah, the original man as
well. When asked to leave the NOI because of a predilection to gambling, he took the
lessons and shared to knowledge of the lessons with NY youth. He enhanced the lessons
to include his own developed supreme mathematics and supreme alphabet. Clarence X‟s
new organization became known as The Five Percenters, or the Poor Righteous Teachers.
Key Five Percenters of the Hip Hop community:

Rakim Allah (Notes: Addressed further below:
Lakim Shabazz
Wu-tang Clan
Knowledge, from The Digable Planets
Divine Styler
Brand Nubian
Big Daddy Kane
Busta Rhymes

***Sports and Hip Hop***

Why not Baseball?

America‟s national pastime.
Big, wide, open spaces, with endless hours to watch
No longer consistent with contemparary ways and pace of life.
Large number of participants.
Individuality consumed.
Less and less appeal for young people.

Why not Football?



                                            4
Zenith during Cold War, military build-up/imagery, strategic formations, field generals,
etc.
Large number of participants.
Individuality consumed.
Less and less appeal for young people.

Why Basketball?
Suited to the urban environment.
Very little space needed to participate.
Apparatus can be easily approximated, or found in parks and playgrounds.
Can be played by one.
Individual creates over larger group participation.

Pre Hip Hop Growth

1966
All-black Texas Western, coached by white Don Haskins, beats all-white team, white
coached Adolph Rupp.

1970‟s
Watershed for the emergence of Black Popular culture in film, television, as well as
sports.

ABA (American Basketball Association) develops under radar, and nurtures plays who
bring a sense of style to the game:

DJ J./Palming
George Iceman Gervin/Finger roll

Players more self-assured, more militant.

ABA collapsed into NBA (National Basketball Association) in 1976

Spencer Haywood wins hardship case, allowing players to leave college early for cause.

Pre Hip Hop 80‟s
Reagan.
Reverse racism concept grows legs.
Al Campanis say‟s: Black don‟t have the neccesities to coach.
Jiimy the Greek say‟s: Blacks bred to excel in sports due to slavery.
B-ball pursues mainstream acceptance.
Great White Hope concept rebirthed (nee Jack Johnson vs. Jim Jeffries)
Pre-cursor: Bird vs. Magic in college
Real deal: LA vs. Boston 1980‟s series.
Magic reveals the concept of the one-band band (tip off, rebound, dribble, pass, score).
Magic‟s smiling star in contrast to Kareem‟s sullen, unsmiling, smoldering militant.



                                             5
Micheal Jordan enables the cult of the individual, I over team, and being „Large‟ as an
appeal to the corporate world.
Begins the establishment of a link to Hip Hip through Spike Lee‟s Mars Blackmon
commercials.
Georgetown, street ball attitude and style.
 Hip Hop 90‟s


***RAKIM ALLAH***
Born William Michael Griffin.

Three seven-letter words, with the seventh letter of the alphabet being “G”, for “God”.

Raised in Wyandanch, Long Island, also know as “CrimeDance Strong Island”. The
youngest of five children, raised in a family of musicians. His parents met at a nightclub
in Newark, NY, during a Sarah Vaughan performance. His aunt is Ruth Brown, and his
two older brothers played piano and saxophone.

Bred on jazz, picking up the saxophone in 4th grade. Learned music from the inside –
time signatures and patterns. Though his father gave him the nickname “Little Poppo” at
birth, Rakim came of adolescence during Hip Hop‟s mid-70‟s beginnings, and was
known as Kid Wizard, participating in all four aspects of the culture – dancing, writing,
MC, and DJing.

DJ Maniac was instrumental in helping Rakim to develop his MCing talents, initially in
performances with The Love Brothers. Rakim was one of the 1st-born Gods (i.e. Five
Percenters) of Wyandanch, taught the lessons by Raheem U-Alla Son of Allah. A
mixtape of his MC that he made with DJ Maniac was heard by Eric Barrier, aka Eric B.,
who was then engineering broadcasts for WBLS. When Freddie Foxxx failed to show up
for a session with Eric B. in 1985, Eric B. contacted Rakim, and the rest is history.

 “Eric B. is President” their debut single, was released in 1986 on Robert Hill‟s Zakia
label, also based in Wyandanch, and introduced Rakim with the classis verse “I came in
the door, said it before, never let the mic magnetize me no more”.

FIVE PERCENT NATION AFFILLIATION
In response to writer Robert Marriott, in a 1997 XXL interview, Rakim answers the two
questions “Who is God” and “What do you mean when you said you were born to be
Sole Controller of the Universe?”, Rakim responds thusly: “In Psalms (specifically Psalm
82) it says ye are all the children of the Most High. And when you do the knowledge of
life itself, we all come from one origin. So if we were born from the Most High, the
Bible also says we were made in his likeness. On that note, we deal with the science of
God. God itself means „Gomar Oz Dubar‟. „Gomar‟ means wisdom, „Oz‟ means
strength, and „Dubar‟ means beauty. So that right there lets you know that God is
physical, visual, something that can be seen. We are all mental and physical beings...we
are all God by nature.”



                                             6
The Five Percent Nation was started in 1964 by Clarence 13X Smith, a former student
minister at Malcolm X‟s Mosque No.7, of the Nation of Islam (NOI), and an officer in
the Fruit of Islam, the paramilitary wing of the NOI, in charge of martial arts instruction.
„Five Person‟ comes from the Lost and Found Muslim Lessons, written in the form of
questions asked by Fard Muhammad, NOI founder, posed to Elijah Muhammad. For
example: Question: Who are the five percent? Answer: The poor righteous teachers, the
5% of the population who knew and understood the true knowledge of God. Further,
10% have the knowledge but use it to exploit and confuse the masses; and the remaining
85% are the exploited masses. Clarence 13X studied the lessons, and realized that he was
Allah, the original man as well. When asked to leave the NOI because of a predilection
to gambling, he took the lessons and shared to knowledge of the lessons with NY youth.
He enhanced the lessons to include his own developed supreme mathematics and
supreme alphabet. Clarence X‟s new organization became known as The Five
Percenters, or the Poor Righteous Teachers.

***AFRIKA BAMBAATAA***

Background

Born in April 1957 (or 1960).

Born in Manhattan to parents of Jamaican and Barbadian descent.

Mother was a nurse.

Raised and grew up in SE Bronx.

As a kid, rode around on his bike tagging Bambaataa 117.

Bam always considered a music fanatic and the Master of Records.

Lived to the left of the Bronx Community Center and would put his speakers in his
window.




                                             7
Influences

Grew up with a Black Cultural and Black Liberation bent.

His uncle Bunchinji was prominent Black nationalist, and many of his family members
were Black Muslims.

Political parents, attuned to politics; Same time as “Say it Loud” and “Stand”.

Hung out at the nearby Black Panther Information Center.

Came of age during the time of the Vietnam War, Attica, and Kent State, Woodstock,
Flower Power.

1964 film “Zulu”, with Michael Caine, siege of Rorke‟s Drift.

Took name Bambaataa, meaning „Chief Affection‟.

The original Bambaataa was a late 19th Century Zululand leader, who led an anti-tax
revolt against the British colonial authority in South Africa.

Africans fighting for freedom.

Strong contrast to Tarzan.




                                             8
Gang Beginnings

Gangs started in the Bronxdale Project in ‟68.

Savage Seven, changed to Black Spades.

Bam‟s 1st gang, 1968, P.O.W.E.R. (People‟s Organization for War and Energetic
Relations), based more directly on the Black Panthers.

Began war against white gangs, which bought greater police focus.

Bam flipped to Spades and turned the Bronx River to Black Spades.

1st Division of the Black Spades founded in Bronx River in ‟69, while Bam was in Junior
High.

High School, bused to the all-white North Bronx‟s Stevenson High. Outnumbered, going
up against a variety of white gangs that merged into The Ministers.

South and Southeast gangs grew more violent.

One 92-day gang war gave East Bronx the name “Lil Vietnam.

‟73 gangs peeked (total of 315 gangs/19,503 members). Bam in 10th grade.

Even then, known for moving between gangs (Nomads, Javelins, etc)

Gang scene fading due to women (mother, sisters, girlfriends disdain and stronger police
crackdown).




                                            9
DJ Path

DJ‟d before Herc.

Influenced by radio DJs – Jocko, Eddie O-Jay, Gary Byrd, and Cousin Brucie.

Jive talk rapping, smoothed out during disco, re-energized with rap.

Mom was a nurse, always gone, so the party was always at Bam's house.

Started DJing in 70s, 2 home hi-fi systems and two flashlights.

Credits first Black Spades DJ to come out to the streets was Kool DJ D, brother Tyrone,
and Love Bug Starski, still playing disco.

Herc broke beats in the East Bronx when the West Bronx was still playing disco.

‟73 Herc‟s first party.

Bam was the Master of Records, Afrika Islam new how to build sound systems.

Bronx River Community Center was Bam‟s home base.

Between the intersection of the Cross Bronx and Bronx River Expressways.

Played odd records, taped commercials, de-tuning up-tuning.

Though the Bronx was rough, there was no trouble at a Bam party.

Graduated in 75; mom bought system.

Debut system in ‟76. (Same year as Flash)

Flash lifted vocals (interplay)

Influenced by Flash, Bam released “Zulu Nation Throwdown” in 1980.

Fab got him downtown to the newly opened Mudd Club in 1981, exposed to the
downtown music scene that was into punk and new-wave, but open to hip hop. Searched
for music that appealed to both - Kraftwerk.

Changed vocal sound from staccato interplay to more chant-based.

Released “Planet Rock” & “Looking for the Perfect Beat” in 1982. and established the
electro-funk sound, which became the basis for Miami Bass, techno, and even house.




                                            10
Community Organizer Path

1971, year of the truce, Bam formed The Bronx River Organization.

Motto: We are not a gang, we are a family. Do not start trouble, let trouble come to you,
then fight like hell.

1976 won a trip to Africa. Saw Black folks running businesses.

Formed the Universal Zulu Nation in 1975, out of original Black Spades.

St. Louis had the Zulu 1200s (artistic, cultural, and paramilitary).

Levi jackets replaced by b-boy casual.

Ski jackets, ski hats, and goggles.

Artistic centerpiece was Zulu King dancers.

Emblem – from New Orleans‟ oldest Black Mardi Gras group, the Zulu Krewe.

Zulu Nation chapters.

Preaches the gospel of the 4 basic elements of Hip Hop „DJing, MCing, B-boying, and
Graffiti Writing, and added a 5th, Knowledge, and bringing all the elements together as
one unit.

7 Infinity Lessons – just like 5 Percenter questions.

Infinity Question #1 – What is the job of the Zulu?
Answer – To survive life. To be open minded dealing with all walks of life upon this
planet Earth and to teach each other truth (knowledge, wisdom and understanding). To
respect those who respect them, to never be the aggressor of oppressor. To be at peace
with self and others.

Wanted people to deal in factology vs. beliefs.

Allowed the Bronx to reflect style and optimism.

People to walk with their heads up and reflect self-esteem.




                                              11

				
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