About 3 years ago, i contacted this magazine on Myspace about writing for them. The editor emailed me back and told me about this column called “What if?” The purpose of the column was to inspire writers to finish the sentence “what if” and create an elaborate piece that would engage the readers. Since publishing the original article, I have gone back and added 300 more words to the original piece of work. Coming from the East Coast, mainly DC.MD.VA aka DMV, I have experienced more culture and hip-hop than I experience now since i moved to Colorado. My speech, style, and mindset have been influenced by hip-hop. So i started imagining my life if hip-hop didn’t exist, and how would it affect me. A question that is constantly proposed daily, is hip-hop negative to the black community? So I decided to express my opinion.
What if hip-hop didn’t exist in our society? That would be detrimental to the Black Community as a whole. Hip-hop is a genre of music that has united blacks since the 1970’s. From the days of Dj Kool Herc and Afrika Bambaataa’s “Zulu Nation”, hip-hop has been a common voice for the blacks in our American society. Hip-hop is made up of four elements: Graffiti, Mcing, Djing, and Breaking. These elements are the foundations of the movement. Also recently, the rise of spoken word accents hip-hop. Without hip-hop, are community would be full of brick walls, with no shine. Pioneers graffiti artists of the 70’s wouldn’t be able to express themselves with backpacks filled with spray cans. Brothers would be walking around with spray cans, but no designs. Legends such as TAKI 183 would have never created influential masterpieces that flourished throughout the walls of Manhattan. Harlem would be like a cement cell with no walls.
The raging hunger for hip-hop was born in the 1970’s Bronx, but it has transcended into an international language. The roots of hip-hop have been considered a “talk of the past” but its influences are lyrical and rhythmic masterpieces. Dj Kool Herc is the true pioneer of hip-hop; he brought forth the sound that would aggressively change the world. The hip-hop industry all began with a young brother djing for his sister’s birthday party and discovering the magic behind “the break”. The break section is the musical baby that wakes up the crowd. Bboy’s become African warriors battling for respect, women’s hips begin to roll and create thunder, and the pulsating percussions bring the audience to life. Lockers dancing in carnival colors, ticking and moving on the beat, the colorful costumes of Zulu nation from Native American headdress to tribal African outfits brought forth an air of unification.
The break beat formulates the essence of a true hip-hop classic. Dj Kool Herc was able to captivate the crowds with his break beats and his claim to fame was having the loudest sound system in the Bronx. All hip-hop heads know you can’t enjoy the music without a bumping sound system. If hip hop didn’t exist, a boom box would be lying dead in the back alleys. Card board would just be fragments from grocery stores instead of platforms for new moves. Without hip-hop turntables wouldn’t be spinning grooves to move the body and the airwaves would be filled with pop and disco.In between the sounds of bombs dropping in Afghanistan, lyrical cries for help can be heard. Gunshots and shell casings are the beat in which the tumultuous story unfolds like origami. If hip-hop didn’t exist, blacks in Europe wouldn’t have the lyrical and electronic tracks, known as grime, to express their world.
Without hip-hop and Afrika Bambaataa’s Zulu Nation, collectively diverse hip-hop movement’s such as the Wu-Tang Clan wouldn’t exist. Zulu Nation provided the foundation for rappers, mc’s, breakers, dj’s, and hip-hop enthusiast to come together and celebrate universal culture. Afrika Bambaata wanted to focus on the solutions and not the problems, so he reformed his gang life and created The Universal Zulu Nation. By recruiting socially and politically aware rappers, Zulu Nation was able to influence the existence and definition of hip-hop.
So if hip hop didn’t exist, we wouldn’t have the birth of the Hip-Hop Summit which encourages youth involvement in the political. Urban youth would never have the chance to “Rock the Vote”. If hip-hop didn’t exist, the struggles in the black community would be silent cries. Without hip-hop Public Enemy would have never birthed the politically charged song “Fight the Power”. If hip-hop was dead, the voices of those in the struggle would remain invisible gun shots. The aspirations of being a rapper and giving back to the community would be the joke of the day. Tupac wouldn’t have been a “legendary poet” and Biggie wouldn’t have been our “street preacher”. If it wasn’t for hip-hop, Queen Latifah, Foxy Brown, Missy Elliot and MC Lyte would have never diversified women’s roles in music. Fighting political injustice with violence has been replaced with lyrical bullets, but if you take away the gun the bullets have no force. Hip-hop is the melody that sings the social commentary from the plight of those sleeping under bridges in America, to the soldiers returning from a war that shouldn’t have been fought.
Without hip-hop, “Poetic Justice” would have never been cinematic poetry. Without spoken word, the mics would be silent. Saul Williams would not have been able to live out the legacy of Gil Scott Heron. The stories of the streets would have never echoed in cafés. Coffee would just be coffee, without the ringing sounds of truth bouncing off the cup. “Def Poetry Jam” may have only been the flavor of something you spread on toast. If it wasn’t for hip-hop, spoken word would just be Shakespearean prose. It would be confined to the halls of white America and not express the struggles of brown people oppressed throughout the pavements of America’s racist streets. Thanks to hip-hop, spoken word rings like a war cry on open mics, splattered with words ringing out to the ears of those who truly understand.
If hip-hop didn’t exist, R&B and Neo-soul wouldn’t have a father. Jill Scott and Erykah Badu would be distant voices in an imaginary world called “The Family of Hip-hop”. Images of black people would be a thought and not a reality in media. If it wasn’t for hip-hop, there would have never been voice in the media for the black community. Black Entertainment Television (BET) would have never been the beginning and the end of controversial images within our community. The creation of BET has birthed TV One, Centric Television BET J, and VH1 Soul. Every day on the networks, a new sound, a new voice, a new dj, and a new movement can be seen and felt.
Because of hip-hop, the standard of beauty has changed. Without hip-hop, curvy women would never have the chance to “Rip the Runway” and be accepted in the modeling world. Through hip-hop the clothing industry has been allowed and forced to change the beauty standards. Hip-hop has educated the fashion community on the anatomy of a black woman. If hip-hop didn’t exist, black women would strive to fulfill European standards of beauty. Baby making hips would be seen as unattractive, brown skin would be seen as clots of dirt, and women of other races getting butt implants and collagen injections would be ridiculous. Our full lips speak the truth. America’s unrealistic expectations for beauty are projected into the sub-consciousness of colored women world-wide. The ideology of being a size 2, tall, having big breasts and blonde hair would have not been challenged if it wasn’t for hip-hop. Such pioneers as Sistah Soulja gave black woman something to reach for, which is incased within her beauty, intellect, and political activism.
The ample descriptions of the black woman’s anatomy have been the rise and controversy of hip hop.It opened up the dialogue for the truth to grow into more truth. Through the pros and cons, hip-hop is still positive image on a black woman’s body image. Show’s like BET’s “Rip the Runway” are an outlet for women and men who admire hip-hop and fashion. If hip-hop didn’t exist, curves wouldn’t be acceptable. Without hip-hop, we would all be wearing Abercrombie and Fitch, instead of Rocawear, Coogie,and Phat Farm. Run DMC would have been wearing flip flops instead of Adidas. Sneaker Con would be a giant room with empty tables if hip-hop didn’t exist.
So if it wasn’t for hip-hop turntables wouldn’t be spinning; walls of record stores wouldn’t be flooded with the hands of hungry Dj’s. Dj Tech N9ne would be unemployed, and our ears would not be blessed with cosmic scratching from intensive vinyls. Baltimore Club and Gogo would just be silence. As for our b-bboys, Crazy Legs would have just been legs, and Mr. Wiggles would have just stood still. Puertro Rican’s and Blacks would have never united to change the Bronx through hip-hop. The movie “Breakin” wouldn’t have existed and are streets would be filled with trash instead of cardboard. McDonalds wouldn’t have any dance moves to pimp in their commercials, and disco dancing would have lasted.
Without hip-hop, Krs1 would not have a temple, Jurassic 5 would not have been the birth child of east coast flavor, and Nelly wouldn’t have had a chance. Without hip-hop, Ghana would not have created hip-life, the cafes of Iraq would not have brothers there speaking about war over beats and rhythms from the hood. If hip-hop didn’t exist, the election of President Obama wouldn’t have been a force to reckon with. Hip-hop was the force that reached a generation through social networking. Hip-hop was the vehicle for the change that helped us elect the first black President, on top of 400 years of hearing “no”. Somewhere in the deep history of black America, from the clanging chains of slavery, to the taps of patented leather shoes of James Brown, from the cries of the darkest streets of America, and from the mother’s cries of a child that was lynched…hip-hop did exist. If we did not have hip-hop in the depths of our souls, in the appreciation of our culture, it would only be a thought. My pen would be…. silence.