Hip-hop Intertwines Class, Gender and Race

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Markedly, the hip-hop lifestyle is intricately intertwined with race, class, and gender. This argumentative essay looks into the context of them intertwining with the hip-hop culture. Moreover, it looks into the way hip-hop challenges people’s way of questioning and the ones responsible for the culture.
In the past thirty years, hip-hop has been of substantial influence on the behaviors of the adolescents. Evidently, Tupac Shakur is one of the artists, held by a vast portion of the urban youths in a excessive esteem, more than twenty years after his demise. Although it took a couple of years for the hip-hop cultural movement to be considered as worthy of academic attention, it is now the focal point of academic besides the school curriculum. Therefore, there is focus on the demographic and address the gap is greatly needed. Notably, the local popularity of the hip-hop, that was served at the dance parties and clubs, with a significant increase in both the break-dancers and the graffiti artists and also the importance of the MCs led to the creation of the culture.

Mostly, this culture was both defined and embraced by the youth, urban, and the working-class African-Americans. Thus, it is intertwined with the race since it brought together both the white and the blacks as they employed their talents in the work of art (Miller, 265). Further, it originated from the combination of the forms of music which were traditionally African-American. These include jazz, gospel, soul, and reggae. Its creation by the working class also makes the culture be intertwined by class since the African-American working-class like the Herc took advantage of the tools that were available like the vinyl records and the turntables for their invention of this particular form of music (Alridge & Stwart, 191). The type of music also shaped and also expressed the culture of the black in the New York in the initial years which brings another aspect of how it intertwines with the race.

Primarily, the hip-hop culture is expressed by urban youth mainly in six different manifestations: street entrepreneurs, street language, street knowledge and fashion, rap, and graffiti art. The expressions listed above are closely correlated with the concept of social identity. It is in turn related to race and identity (Kristler& Lee, 68). Graffiti in hip-hop culture traced its origin to the 1980s and 1990s when party invitations were sent in the form of flyers decorated with graffiti. Those invited to hip-hop parties had to belong to a particular social class; the dress code propagated by the urban youth was specific to a particular segment of the population. Later, hip-hop culture has evolved to encompass particular brands of clothing, for instance, FUBU and Rocawear, spoken words, hairstyles, and the black feminist body.

By definition, hip-hop pornography is the propelling of the conventions that are of the softcore hip-hop videos to the hard-core, extreme and the explicit. It may be said to be the perspective to which the gender is intertwined with the culture of hip-hop (Miller, 270). Recently, hip-hop pornography has been incorporated into the hip-hop culture. Hip-hop music is manifested in diverse genres such as gangsta rap, socially conscious rap, rap rock, among others. A cursory search of hip-hop artists on Google lists some leading musicians such as Jay Z, Tupac, Lil Wayne, Dr. Dre, Drake, Eminem, and Beyoncé among others; this is an illustration that hip-hop was and still is a medium of expression for African American culture (Alim, 165). Besides, another important factor is that most of the leading hip-hop artists in the US music industry are male; Nicki Minaj and Beyoncé are some of the exceptions.

The hip-hop culture derives its origins from Jamaican sound clash, funk, mambo and other cultural forms of expression from Latino and African American cultures. The cultural forms were modified to incorporate creative spirits, dance, and music that gave birth to hip-hop music – “Afrika Bambaataa” (Kristler& Lee, 69). It is also noteworthy that the hip-hop culture has been misrepresented by the media to be a preserve of minority groups such as African Americans in the US. The racial misconception has been perpetuated because the history of hip-hop culture has both Latino and African American roots.

The emergence of hip-hop culture among the urban youth was necessitated by the fact that most of the youth felt that they were alienated from the system (Miller, 271). Specifically, in the 1970s, the social landscape in the US underwent significant changes as the federal funding declined; subsequently, most of the African Americans and persons from Latin America experienced racial segregation and diminished economic empowerment. Given that race relations were still volatile at the time, the African Americans used hip-hop as a political instrument to counter the racial oppression, alienation, and other forms of marginalization that were propagated against minority groups. Besides, the culture helped to address the cultural politics and politics of literacy.

Based on the current target audience and favorite genres of hip-hop it can be deduced that music and culture derived from hip-hop are not specific to a particular segment of the population despite the fact that record labels primarily target sub-urban adolescents. The hip-hop culture seems to advocate for the advancement of a rogue way of life defined by tattoos, gang violence, objectification of women and sex and this has, in turn, influenced the audience. A case in point, artists such as Nicki Minaj and Lil Wayne often advance the objectification of women and sex in their songs. Such performances have a broad appeal among young men and adolescents. In a study conducted by Kistler & Lee (80), it was noted that viewing sexually explicit hip-hop videos caused male college students to have negative attitudes towards gender, consider rape as a standard issue and increase the chances of sexual pervasion. Sexual imagery in hip-hop music does not appeal to women, and therefore, it can be postulated that dirty rap and other genres of hip-hop music that advance sexual imagery are gender and age group specific.

Apart from the legitimate moral questions that pertain to hip-hop pornography, the genre of hip-hop culture provides a glimpse into the African American culture of mobility, mediation, self-representation, and labor (Alim, 172). Given that the genre serves as a tool for identity formation, consumption, survival, and work, it can be used to elucidate the postmodern desires of African Americans and other races. Besides, hip-hop pornography depicts historical racial and cultural practices; moral controversies, and what is considered expedient black sexuality. Hip-hop pornography bears some semblance to African traditional performances such as the reed dance in Swaziland where semi-nudity is regarded as part of black sexuality. It should be remembered that the forms of self-representation that are perceived to be a perversion of modern culture were perceived as usual before the advent of civilization, the Yanomami of Brazil is a case in point. In light of the current literature, it can be postulated that hip-hop pornography acts as a tool for racial and cultural self-identity that has defined human existence through all ages.

The thesis statement in the current argumentative essay was validated by Alridge & Stewart (194) who noted that the hip-hop culture has significantly influenced youth culture throughout the world. The widespread acceptance of the hip-hop culture in spite of the numerous cultural, racial, social class, and gender barriers were because hip-hop manifests the cultural, political, income disparities, and social realism of a large segment of the population. Besides, hip-hop culture conveys the message in a manner that such people understand best. The hip-hop appeal has further been buoyed by its clear-cut message and longevity that is mainly targeted to the youth. Therefore, it would be highly imprudent to presume that hip-hop culture does not relate to race, gender, and class.

Conclusion

Evidently, the hip-hop culture is significantly intertwined with race, gender, and class as this work affirms the fact that the above variables were moderated considerably by hip-hop. In particular, it is the historical context of the hip-hop that portrays the clear intertwined of the culture with both class, race and influenced the current genres within the culture. On the flip side, the gender crops in due to some of the sexual imagery that is propagated by hip-hop music bear similarities to cultural practices that were common in African and Latin American cultures. Therefore, beyond the confines of morality and religion, hip-hop cultural performances are a call to self-identity. The fact that the culture has been embraced by different races, gender, and social classes is an illustration that it appeals to what is inherently part of human culture and which cannot be erased by civilization, religion, nor racial boundaries. Besides, the growth and sustainability of the culture were attributed to its ability to manifest the cultural, political, economic, and social situations that most people can relate to at a personal level.

References

Alim, H. S. (2007). Critical Hip-Hop Language Pedagogies: Combat, Consciousness, and the Cultural Politics of Communication. Journal of Language, Identity & Education, 6(2), 161–176. https://doi.org/10.1080/15348450701341378

Alridge, D. P., & Stewart, J. B. (2005). Introduction: Hip Hop in History: Past, Present, and Future. The Journal of African American History, 90(3), 190–195.

Kistler, M. E., & Lee, M. J. (2010). Does exposure to sexual hip-hop music videos influence the sexual attitudes of college students? Mass Communication and Society, 13(1), 67–86. https://doi.org/10.1080/15205430902865336

Miller-Young, M. (2008). Hip-Hop Honeys and Da Hustlaz: Black Sexualities in the New Hip-Hop Pornography. Meridians: Feminism, Race, Transnationalism, 8(1), 261–292. https://doi.org/10.2979/MER.2008.8.1.261

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