Foundations of Hip Hop Lecture

History versus Historiography


Don't use plagiarized sources. Get Your Custom Essay on
Foundations of Hip Hop Lecture
Just from $13/Page
Order Essay
  • Historiography – the study/science of how history is represented


Approaches to Understanding History:


History as caused by Great People versus History as Structural Conditions


Ewoodzie (“Piko”) explains two approaches to Hip Hop History:

  • MATERIALIST (more sociological)

Break Beats in the Bronx (to some degree) balances both


Mixes socio-economic factors with aspects of Social Life.



Much of Break Beats in the Bronx Chapter 1 & 2 Overlaps with the Tricia Rose Reading from Black Noise


Tricia Rose’s BLACK NOISE (1994) – a perspective

  • The first comprehensive academic text on hip hop
  • I argue that this text has dominated hip hop studies to such a degree that (almost) everything since has either fallen in line with Rose’s analyses or quite consciously reacted against it
  • Particularly Rose’s second chapter explaining Hip Hop’s emergence within Post-Industrial New York


Roses says that “examining how musical forms are shaped by social forces is important because it brings into focus how significantly Technology and Economics contribute to the development of cultural forms” (p. 23)



Rose: Hip Hop Emerges in Postindustrial New York City

What does she mean by post-industrial?




  • Advances in Communication and Transport Technology allowed manufacturing jobs to move overseas displacing African Americans (and other working class people) who had migrated to Northern (Western and Midwestern) Cities looking for Work
    • Ewoodzie: poverty rose by 40% in top 5 U.S. cities, high poverty by 69%
    • This is a Social Class issue it but disproportionately impacts Black and Brown people



  1. Socio-Economic Data (mostly from Rose 1994)


  • 1975 a financially strapped city administration requested a federal bailout to prevent having to file for bankruptcy.

This was DENIED, led to the . . . Deregulation and Privitization of Public Services

    • Over 60,000 city workers lost their jobs.
    • Staggering Unemployment Rates
    • 25 percent of African Americans
    • 40 percent of Puerto Ricans



The Bronx as Abandoned

  • WHITE FLIGHT – move to communities in NJ, Long Island, and CT
  • Title I Slum Clearance Program = forced relocation of over 170,000 people.
  • Other Housing Programs aimed at Rehabilitating/Renewing the Bronx failed
    • Disproportionately affected people of color.
  • Cross Bronx Expressway – Displaced over tens of thousands of working class families
    • Commitment to Middle Class Suburbs
    • Ruptures Social Networks of Neighborhoods (precarity)


  • New York, according to John Mollenkopf had “been transformed from a relatively well off white-blue collar city into a more economically divided multi-racial white collar city,” with the vast majority of white collar professionals residing in the bedroom communities which surrounded the city.


1970s NYC Symbolism (also a reflection of economic crisis)

  • Late 1960s and 70s string of Arsons Throughout the City (a result of absentee landlords and insurance fraud schemes, and relocation reimbursement policies)
  • 1977 Citywide Blackout July 13 and 14th (extensive looting)
  • Citywide Trash Strikes
  • Presidential Visits – Jimmy Carter & Ronald Reagan


Associated Rises in Crime, Drugs, and Gang Activity (Ewoodzie p. 21)



Perry Hall: American Musical Innovation comes from the “Least Assimilated Sectors” of the Nation


Cuts to Public School Funding

  • Schools Cut to Music and ART Programs = artistic Vacuum:


GANGS as Social Organizations created a structure that, after the decline in gang activity, helped to facilitate hip hop’s emergence


Rose also says that emerged “in the twilight of America’s short-lived federal commitment to black civil rights” (p. 22)


Rose Refers to Hip Hop as “Black Urban Renewal” (p. 61)

What does this Mean?



  1. Emceeing – Oral Tradition of Rhyming/Storytelling
  2. Deejaying – Music Traditions/Priorities/Sensibilities
  3. Breaking – dance (and bodily movements)
  4. Graffiti – visual presentation (dress)


Why These Four? (Edwoodzie supplies some Answers)


To the Extent that Hip Hop can be thought of as a Youth Arts Movement  . .  

Is there a connection between struggle and Good Art?


  • Not Sure This is a yes or no question but to what extent and HOW?



Two ways of thinking about it . . .


  1. Forced Innovation: limitations spawn unforeseen creativities



  1. Semiotic of the City

We have to learn to read the social and physical signs and codes of the urban milieu—to understand the signals of status and power as written into physical landscapes, for example—in order to survive.


USE of SPACE: Hip Hop as a battle over space (claiming a space)

  • Graffiti is largely about claiming ownership of urban space
  • DJing – largely occurred in Public Spaces and included Sound Wars
  • Breaking is a battle over space
  • Rapping/Emcee?


Hip Hop Historian Jeff Chang says “the Blues had Mississippi, Jazz has New Orleans, Hip Hop has Jamaica”


  • 1965 Changes in Immigration Laws (the shift from nationality to family reunification as a basis for immigration)


  • Between 1966 and 1967 Jamaican immigration nearly quadrupled (from 2,743 to 10, 483). These numbers continued to rise to nearly 20,000 per year through the 1980s.


  • By the 1970s approximately half of the Jamaican-born U.S. population resided in the New York metropolitan area, with particular concentrations in Brooklyn, the Bronx, and Queens.


KOOL HERC (Clive Campbell) – Jamaican Immigrant

  • Parties that originated hip hop: Transplanted version of the Jamaican outdoor sound system
  • Soaking labels off his records
  • Sonic Experimentation inspired by Dub



Competing Positions:

  • Hip Hop—especially DJing and Emceeing are (fundamentally) Jamaican youth culture transplanted into an American context
  • Hip Hop Emerged (in part) through those young Jamaican immigrants trying to be as American as possible.



Ewoodzie Pages 7-10:


How Does ‘A Thing” get to be defined as a Thing?

  • Social Identities and what They Mean (Us versus Them)
    • NAMING?
  • Conventions (Prescribed) and Internal Logics (Guiding)
    • Steal spraypaint and markers
    • Stylistic Conventions Around What It Looked Like
    • Do Not Cover Others
    • Where Do You Write?
    • Mentorship (master writers and “baby writers)
  • Cultural Reproduction
  • Responsibility for the maintenance and legacy of The Thing (authenticity)


and taste our undisputed quality.