Letters To The Editor-April

Is Hip Hop Black Culture

Hip Hop is certainly in 1998-- a multi-cultural fusion of many different contributions made by several ethnic groups.....but that has all happened over time. Just as you have to respect the ancestors of your own family (ie: my ancestors are Sicilian, like it or not--I cannot deny my heritage) you must ALSO be prepared to honor and respect the ancestry of Hip Hop-- and it's ancestry is Black.

If you truly love Hip Hop, you will understand where it came from---and not try to "change the Story" to suit your own possible insecurities with trying to belong. You know what? It's OKAY that you have been influenced by black people. It's okay to acknowledge that this music is, at its core, Black. And it's okay to admit you are not alone-- today, people of almost EVERY ethnic group, are just like YOU. They are now part of that "Hip Hop Generation" who all started out listening to the same black pioneers back in the day. What's wrong with that?? Too many times in America, it seems like anything that starts out black and "crosses" into the mainstream, gets diluted in the mix as being a "multicultural" art form all along instead of what it really is: A Black art form that influenced a hell of a lot of people.

And another thing to remember about Hip Hop is-- if we are all to improve the image of Hip Hop culture-- and at this current point that responsibility is on EVERYONE regardless of their race--- Quit bastardizing it!! Quit selling it out. Have a little respect and a little understanding for what Hip Hop culture IS. People who grew up with it will TELL you....it's more than some stupid slogan on a soda can or radio station...it's a CULTURE. It's certainly rooted in the music.....but it's also dance, it's art, it's style, it's got it's own language, it's own rules, it's got leaders, legends, and new jacks.

Everybody is so busy claiming East Coast West Coast right now that they've straight up forgotten Hip Hop Culture as a whole is predominantly black culture, and you need to respect that too. If you are going to bank your radio station on "hip Hop"-- then fucking REPRESENT. Understand the enormity of what that statement represents. Hip Hop doesn't live wherever you put up your banners. It lives in the hearts and minds of the people who love this music more than anything. If hip hop culture is to be saved, it needs to get into the hands of more people who love it, not people who want to make money off it.

Michelle S
Program Director, 92.3 The Beat- Los Angeles.

Hey I just wanted to let you know the best breakdancers in the world are almost all white. Like SPINISTER or RAPID of DROPSQUAD or EASY-ROCK of RSC.

Dj Q-bert isn't black but he's still the best dj in the world! I've seen more Puertorican emcees than black emcees! My town is one of the breakdancing capitals of the U.S.A. because Aurora, Illinois has some of the best breakdancing crews known in this country! In this town I seen more Mexican or American people rockin' Wu-wear than any black people. And if you ask me I'll tell you that true hip-hop isn't about west side or east side it's all about unity and having fun so who cares what race you are?


I know Easy Rock, I've spoken at 2 B-boy summits. I knew the Piklz [DJ Q-Bert] from way back. I wrote about a lot of non-African Hip Hop cats in the past like DJ Robski (Philipino), Latin Crews like The DFTC. I did shows in Germany with crews like Die Crane. But ain't knowin'. Right now I'm makin big plans with writers like Leo (Philipino), they used to call him Blast 1. I build with writers like Scape 1(Puerto Rican), all the time. But , EFFECTS do not reflect ORIGINS.

All humanity contributes to Hip Hop now. But they also contribute to Rock, Blues, Gospel, and Jazz. That don't stop 'em from being African in origin, does it? And since when did Wu-Wear become the acid test for "downess". Oh, and Wu-Tang are all 5%. I encourage you yo hit up the 5% page and get the listing of all the heads who are pro-black Muslims. And you don't even KNOW what your listening to. Why can't YOU embrace African things? And who said anything about east/west? U did kid. Now you jussss gave me liscence to say it. Yes, that deadly word, too often heard....WESTSEEEHYYHEED!!!!!You went out, dun. Read a book.


Is Hip-Hop Black Culture? Well, I studied both the original article by NyceStylez (who I know from rec.music.hip-hop) and the response by The Bishop (who I know by reputation) and found they each had valid points. I also found a lot of inflammatory rhetoric designed to piss people on EITHER side of the debate off a hell of a lot. Let's get beyond that.

Anybody who has studied African history and the development of African-American culture during and after slavery will acknowledge that hip-hop is a "black art". The facts speak for themselves. Anybody who has participated in the world of hip-hop culture will also acknowledge that people from New York to London to Amsterdam to Tokyo are all showing love for hip-hop regardless of race or cultural background. Why? Hip-Hop is about self-expression and self-appreciation. It speaks to those who have an open ear; it displays itself to those who have an open eye.

Last time I checked, being open-minded wasn't a quality based on your amount of pigmentation or your lack of it. Back to the point: hip-hop is a black art which is dominated by black people. That's as it should be. In a country that has systematically practiced racism and abuses against black people for over 450 years, the hip-hop arts are no different than jazz, blues, the gospel, the urban poetry of the 1920's, and so on -- it is the people giving voice to what in their hearts and souls cannot be denied by any amount of discrimination.

Hip-Hop is not only an affirmation; it is also a celebration. That is why you can smile when you see a great burner, or dance when you hear a great song, or beam with pride when you hear Chuck D flip a middle finger to the government. Hip-Hop is joy itself. Last time I checked, enjoyment was not determined by your amount of pigmentation or lack of it. Nobody, least of all myself, wants to see Hip-Hop incorporated into the mainstream and watered down until it lacks all heart and soul; but I don't think it's dangerous to let white hispanic or asian people embrace a black art either if they TRULY love it. You have to love it enough to respect it even if somebody calls you a devil to your face.

You have to love it enough to accept looks of scorn for playing something other than a top 20 hit when you DJ a party. You have to love it enough to risk being thrown in jail for doing graffiti instead of sitting in your room spray painting stickers and slapping them on walls when you can get away with it. If you can't devote yourself to hip-hop without a "but" then don't bother, no matter what race you are. Love it without question. Love it for the joyous and beautiful thing that it is. Love it's black roots. Celebrate them!

Celebrate the triumph of hip-hop over the adversity of an oppresive culture. Celebrate the infectious way this culture has spread throughout the globe. Celebrate the fact that black white asian and hispanic people can party together under one roof in the name of hip-hop. It's like Chuck D said in the Tour of a Black Planet videotape (I'm paraphrasing): "Do you know why they hate us? Because we bring black people together and white people together to have a good time under one roof, and they don't like that." Hip-Hop *is* black culture, but it's also universal to anybody who accepts it's power and glory and would not attempt to redefine that for their own petty personal agenda. It will remain a black art, but it will also remain timeless in it's power. Chuck D's message isn't just a Message For the Blackman -- it's for everyone.

Hip-Hop Lyrics Archive --> http://OHHLA.com


I just read your article on the origins of hip-hop through Davey-D's email list. Many truths are included in your diatribe, but you fail to acknowledge the WHOLE truth. LOC is NOT the only non-African-American originated word associated with hip-hop. If you go back in hip-hop history for a moment, you'll run across words like "duckets" (originated in old-english), gat-slang used in the 50's by anglos, my father, who is 73 years old and of Jewish descent, claims that he and his childhood friends in the Bronx projects used the word "yo" to call to each other(originating from their mockery of the Russian/Polish immigrant language) way back in the 30's.

What about words like Papi and from latin descent? "No one can show me a hip-hop trend that is anything other than of African-American origin"-what's up with all these fools claiming "mafia" this, and "don" that?? That's a trend-Italian origin-right? Is Versace African-American? Is Nike an African-American company? Rich, upper class caucasians on the tennis courts were wearing Fila long before the song "My Fila's" came up and brought Fila into the picture.

The hip-hop nation needs to stick together as a WHOLE, no matter what race, coast, religion whatever... The same destruction outside forces tried to bring to our culture through the east coast-west coast division seems to echo in this race arena also. Why should we debate on the past and waste good energy that can be utilized to bring us toward a better future! This negativity that is evident in the ending of your piece ;
"Soldiers like myself, who were in this game when your mom'z was afraid to let you go to the Fresh Fest might wanna bust ya grill"
is what outside forces want to use to divide and conquer us!


Hi Davey ! Read your mail 'Is Hip Hop Black Culture', and this mail is more or less a reply to Adissa The Bishop Of Hip Hop's article 'A Response: Hip Hop Is Indeed Black Culture'

At first, let me put one thing straight: I'm not denying that the ROOTS of the Hip Hop culture is African-American, as well as the start of it. But did the black African masses create it ? As far as I'm aware, there are many blacks who are not Hip Hop. And especially among the AFRICANS, the people living in Africa. Probably many people there won't even have HEARD about Hip Hop.

What Adissa claims about 'acting black' I really can't be down with. (He wrote: ' ALL others who participate in Hip Hop culture MUST follow African American dress codes, slang words etc. in order to be "down". No one can show me a Hip Hop trend outside of using the Latin term loc (from loco) that is of ANYTHING other than African origin')

Firstly, Hip Hop when it was created reflected African American (from here: AA) urban reality. Will using AA dresscodes etc. mean using the style of clothes used in the seventies by the first Hip Hoppers, or does it mean that you have to dress and talk in the way the kids in the US ghettos do today ? About the slang, how does that go down with people not speaking English or an African language daily? I don't really feel for starting to use English or put in English words in my language to be 'down'.

Secondly, no blacks (or no thers in that case) acts the same. Therefore there is no 'acting black'. A black kid growing up in Bronx will have an entirely different reality from a black kid growing up in Oslo, Norway (where I come from) or in Nairobi.

Also, Hip Hop was (and still is) used to describe and express the reality and experiences of black people in the big cities of the US. But that don't mean that it will be natural for me to express a US black urban mentality. Rather, it's natural for me to use the culture to express MY reality as a Hip Hopping white guy in Oslo, Norway. Had I done anything else, it would just have been faking it.

Laslty, I want some answers on the 5% Nation. I see it as a theological question to debate over wether the black (or any other) man is God or not, and will not delve into that. But what was written in Adissas article about the white man being the true devil, (I'm sorry to say this) I see as nothing but ignorant and rascist. The evils done to blacks and other people of color by white people can not be denied and will allways stand in history as a big shame, but to label a big part of the humanity and the individuals born with faces having a specific colour seems pure rascism to me.

I'll try to examplify: If I reverse Adissas statement, and say that whites are the true Gods and blacks the true devils (of course I do NOT think so) how many would yell rascist at me then ? If I also reverse what I found on the net following the 5 % link on the Hip Hop Corner, on the page 'What We Will Achieve (http://sunsite.unc.edu.nge/achieve.com) under the part concerning 'Communiy Control: '...we are the Supreme Being in person...' and put that into a statement about whites, will it not stink of Nazism ?

That's in fact the odour I smell when reading it... (Supreme Being, translated to German, means ‹bermensch... anyone seen that word in their history books in the same chapter where Adolf Hitler is mentioned ?)

I'm not saying that the 5 % Natioin members are nazis or rascists, but I don't have a good feeling when reading some of the stuff I referred to.

Before I end this, I just wanna say one thing:


And I mean it, allthough some might not think so.
Oslo Phantom aka Havard Aslesen

Now THATS what I'm talkin' about!!! Nothin' like a lil research and thinking to make a debate real. Now, let us begin. First of all, I want to thank you for writing your letter. I thought it was well thought out, researched and honest. Most of the letters I got were from white people taking some kind of apologist stance for liking Hip Hop. But yours was dope, even if you still missed my point.

Has anyone ever heard of the saying "You can take the boy, outta the country. but you cant take the country outta the boy"? That is what I mean when I say that Hip Hop has soley African roots. I mean that our soujourn here in America (nearly 500 years) has'nt removed all of our cultural habits. You said " As far as I'm aware, many Blacks are not [into] Hip Hop". No question. Bu that does not stop the segment of African Americans WHO DID CREATE IT from being the ones who consiously or subconsiously manifested the legacy of African oral poetry through Hip Hop expression.

You also wrote "Probably many people [in Africa] there won't even have HEARD about Hip Hop". Wrong again. In the early 90's a group out of Africa came out called Zimbabwe Legit. And even now, especially in South Africa, Hip Hop is large. Lot's of kids break and do graf writing. In the 100th issue of the Source (January 1998) they hit up the Hip hop scene in Senegal west Africa. So PLEASE don't try it. NWA, ICE CUBE , BRAND NUBIAN AND PUBLIC ENEMY ARE LARGE IN THE MOTHERLAND.

As well I think you mis-understood my statement about African American slang and dress codes being the cornerstone of hip hop culture. What I mean is that the only words that become popular to use, the clothes, etc. only become popular if African Americans use them. One guy wirte me and pointed out that terms like "gat" and "Yo" are not of ebonic slang origin. Yes, but- WE African Americans put them into use and made them common terms around the world. And you are right, "No blacks [in whole] act the same" but, one must admit that all races have theri own social traits. and African American social traits correspond more naturally to Hip hop culture than any other.

Now, on to the 5% Nation of God and Earths. Phantom writes "I see [the theology] as nothing but ignorant and racist. Yes, it is very racist. It is what Mike Wallace and Sister Souljah called "The Hate that Hate Produced". But I DO NOT ENDORSE THIS KIND OF THINKING. I didn't make the facts, I just know them. The words I listed do come from the 5% theology. This theology came up from the same place Hip Hop really got it's first big push (all 5 burroughs in NY). I urge people to hit up (http://sunsite.unc.edu.nge/achieve.com) and go see the list of MC's who ascribe to this theology. Just as ONE CANNOT DENY THAT ALL RACES AND CULTURES HAVE CONTIBUTED TO MAKING HIP HOP WHAT IT IS TODAY, you cannot deny the 5% influence in it's early inception.

I am an othodox Muslim. Orthodox Muslims are of all colors the world over. We are African, Arab, Chinese, Philipino, Russian, German- the list goes on. My belief system is ver simple. Is is this : THERE IS NO GOD BUT ALLAH( which means all of all), AND MOHAMET IS THE LAST MESSENGER. I believe in Moses, Jesus, and all of the prophets. I beleive humanity is one, as is God. That is the basic belief of every true Muslim

I also believe all people ( Black , White , Brown, Yellow) have a divine spark in them, but they are no kind of god (this is my personal philosphy). In a book entitled Testimony, on Beacon Press I wote "I am not a believer in the devil philosphy.....But I won't try and deny that in the overall scale of history the Europeans deeds of evil by FAR, out the good". I invite anyone to real the work in whole and show me, my ignorance and racism. Most people should be able to get it at any bookstore. God is one, humanity is one, Hip Hop, is one. But Hip Hop came from one place, and one place only- Africa. And, on that note, I'm out.


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