Letters To The Editor-April

Is Hip Hop Black Culture pg#2

What's up. This is J.D., former Senior Editor of The Bomb Magazine.

I read both arguments regarding whether hip hop is a Black culture or "universal" as some label it. I agree with Adissa, although our opinons differ in a few areas. It is very true that hip hop as a music form is uniquely Black. Without going back in history, one can easily see the origins of both MCing and DJing. For those who aren't aware, let me break this down quickly and simply as I can.

Of the four primary elements of hip hop, graffiti came first in the '60s. In its modern form (yes, graffit originated in Egypt where travelers would scrawl their names and/or draw pictures to mark their passing) it was started by a Greek kid named Taki 183 in New York's Washington heights neighborhood. He was a bike messenger who took advantage of his widespread travels throughout N.Y. to bomb his name everywhere. Soon a crop of kids began imitating him and bombing too. The overwhelming majority of these new kids were ghetto Black and Latino youths. Graffiti evolved as an artform into piecing. Again, the vast majority of piecers were Black and Latino, although several whites were prominent in piecing. However, graffiti in its roots was completely dominated by Blacs and Latinos for many years.

DJing came next. The culture of the DJ as we know it in hip hop largely has its roots in Jamaica where DJs would set up their sound systems and throw block parties, battling for DJ supremacy in sound system and music selection. A system with intense bass and volume was essential for DJ respect. This is directly why bass is so important in hip hop. (Of course, one could trace the importance of bass back to Africa, but I'm keeping this in the present times and simple.)

Kool Herc is recognized as the DJ pioneer and creator of hip hop. He was Jamaican and brought the Jamaican cultural tradition of DJing to the Bronx. Two more Black Bronx DJs are crdited for creating the scratch and backspin, which was the precursor to a hip hop staple today: the loop. It is believed that Grand Wizard Theodore actually invented scratching but he was only 13 at the time and as such, his noteriety was not enough to get him credit for his achievment. Grandmaster Flash has popularly been credited with inventing scratching. Flash also invented the backspin, where the break of a song would be spun back to keep a particular hot part of a record playing over and over. This pattern IS hip hop now.

MCing came shortly after DJing. Again, Kool Herc was the pioneer in this field. While DJing, Herc would recite short raps. The idea of rapping was born from listening to artists such as Gil Scott Herron, a Black blues/soul/jazz musician and poet who threw ghetto smart political rhymes into all of his albums, The Last Poets who I guess could be considered the "Black Panthers" of poetry, and a popular Black New York radio jock named DJ Hollywood (correct me if I'm wrong on the name Dave) who recited little raps frequently over the air. Soon Herc had his own MC, Coke La Rock, and rappers began appearing everywhere throughout Uptown.

Breaking's history is much more complex, and I'm not knowledgable enough about it to write much. I do know it has influences Adissa mentioned Capoeria, an Afro-Brazillian martial art that encompasses much acrobatics. It also had origins in Black N.Y. disco clubs where dancers would bust offbeat moves to the offbeat breaks in songs. I'm sure there's other influences as well, but I don't know about them. Breaking was almost entirely Black and Latino up until movies such as "Breaking" dropped.

As you can see, hip hop was entirely created by Blacks. Its roots can be traced way back to Africa, but to simplify things, its modern roots can all be traced to New York's Black and Puerto Rican ghettos. Hip hop is a Black art form, a Black culture. To deny this is to deny history itself.

Cultural theft has taken place steadily throughout America's history. The theft has been perpetrated by whites on Mexicans, Chinese, Native Americans, and especially Blacks. Jazz, rock, R&B, and blues were all co-opted from Blacks for whites' use and financial profit. Jazz, once exclusively a lower class Black music, became popular for whites in the 1920s when all white jazz clubs opened up in plenty. Blacks, the creators of jazz, which had been looked down upon by whites until the '20s, were only allowed into these white jazz clubs as shoeshine boys, if even as that.

Blues, a music form dating way back into slavery, a music filled with the pain of mistreatment, was co-opted by whites into what is now a purely white music: country. Rock was an all Black music once too. Rock pioneers such as Chuck Berry, Little Richard, and others were all Black. There mud styles were looked upon as sinful and dirty by white society until a white person named Buddy Holly rerecorded a Little Richard album (which, by the way, had gotten banned by white radio and retail) and sold tons of copies. Rock has become entirely white now, like country. The newest form of music in this series of tragic cultural thefts looks to be hip hop.

The point of this article is not to deny anybody else's right to listen and participate in hip hop; it is to awaken people's consciousness to the true history of hip hop. It is to awaken people's consciosness that hip hop is indeed a Black culture and music and should be respected as such. Peace.


MAN, THANK YOU 4 THE LOVE. ONLY A CHOSEN FEW HAVE BEEN ABLE TO FEEL ME. Some of my Latin brothers have felt a bit shortchanged. But I could never diss Aztlan. Blacks and Lations run the ghettos. But when we are talkin' about core origins, Africa, and her peoples MUST get the props they deserve.


I read both essays and can't really totally agree with either. I think Hip Hop is "Black". I mean its definately Black dominated. True the majority of the music is purchased by White America and its desire to be "down" with this culture. But that's not to say they're trying to be Black. And its also not to say all blacks must listen to hip hop. Thats bull... so how can anyone say Hip Hop is Black Culture never less African poetry?

Your comment about Blondie... Wow I never heard that... I did see an amazing documentary on A&E a few years back that actually went into pretty good detail. It talked about the fact that the whole Hippie era was a stem off of Bob Marley's idiology. The long hair, laid back, herb smoking lifestyle was a reflection of reggaes influence on America in the sixties.

Rock started to borrow reggae's simple, repetative bass lines and even Blondie's Hear of Glass was originally written to be a reggae song!!! But the engineer (a white guy) felt that White America wasn't ready for this and in order for "Pop" radio to play it it had to be more commercial. It worked didn't it. If you listen to it again you can still hear the reggae in it. They went on to talk about the fact that DJ's in Jamaica would "rap" over instrumentals in the middle of a dance/party.

They mention several names but focused on the fact that Kool Herc brought this style to NYC with his DJ Grand Master Flash. And they'd do the same type of thing over disco/funk type records. This spread through out america and became Hip Hop. DJ's would use two records to make a loop and create a song out of it.  It even went into Afrika Bambaataa and all that... They talk about the first group to ever use a synthesised sound... some guys in Germany (I think) [Kraftwerk-editor's note] and then finally it worked its way into "Chicago House" and many of those pioneers.

Now I've been really elusive but the special mentioned many names I'd never heard of and have forgotten... but it was very informative and should be checked out. I guess we'll never know the whole story...who know's what some kids in some little town somewere could've been doing at that time... what's important I think is that A&E followed a line of evolution of music and obviously in doing so would've left out a lot of names of people who also contributed to Hip Hop. They talked a little about LA but I forget all that. Well I respect you for your work...love it...peace out.

Mike Gibson

I must say that i think the hiphop culture and especially the strenghts of our culture lie for big part in the fact that the culture consists of people of all races and colours who have a shared passion and through this passion accomplish a greater understanding of each other.And build a greater respect for eachother. The roots of the hiphop-culture are without a doubt in the black community, but the development of the culture lie with a broad spectrum of races. Especially here in Europe it has been a mixed culture since day one. This is part of my view on this topic. Peace out and i must say you got a cool news letter.

Laters, BAS.

Peace, greetings and blessings.

I was deeply moved, ecouraged and pleased with your response to the question "is hip-hop black culture". Just because you buy, listen to, manipulate, isolate, recreate and perpetrate something, doesn't necessarily make it yours. Yes you can share in the "wealth" of hip-hop culture, benefit from the progress of the hip-hop revolution, define yourself or your people by your words or phrases derived from hip-hop culture, you cannot claim responsibility for it's origin.

It's origin, like that of most African-american history that was made with the sweat of our brow. Who was the first rap act to break on MTV ? African-americans RUN-DMC. Who won the first grammy award for rap ? African- americans Dj Jazzy Jeff/Fresh Prince. Hell who are the pinnacles of rap america? African americans. No one can match our success. Anything that tries comes out watered down one hit wonders. Vanilla Ice ? Snow ? And these are the most recognized artist by media standards. (not to diss my hispanic or asian artist) Not to stray from my appreciation of your letter. But the truth hurts. Thank you for your information and truth my brother..... peace and blessings.


yo Dave, First, let me introduce myself as simply a college student who maintains hiphop and was inspired to reply to your first e-mail I got. I thank you for putting a well-made page on the web as a forum for all of us. Anyway...to the response...

The first writer wrote well, but did slight the Zulu origin of hiphop and the overall Black Roots of hiphop. I am not a head who sets out to school people on the documentation of hiphop and all the original players who created it. I can't drop a bunch of names of breakers and shit that were the forefathers and whatnot, but I recognize Kool Herc and Theodore as original innovators, and the Zulu Nation for the hiphop blueprint. Hiphop (not simply "rap"), I believe is embraced by the more intelligent peoples not only in the States, but is large over in Cuba, Japan, Germany, Sweden, and more I can't name. But the Hiphop Bishop was on point in his theories on the basis of Hiphop Roots in America and the African and Egyptian past it expanded on.

I'll speak to you more later Dave,



The essays were really interesting. NyceStylez comments were kinda bugged, though. There ain't no debate over the origin of Hip Hop. Originally, Hip Hop, like jazz was a black art form. A black art form with universal appeal, (the media sure can whip up some mass appeal!!) but nonetheless a black expression of a time and place in black culture. The fact that other cultures have in time embraced it is irrelevant. You can all drink the water from a well, but you can't change the water and ya can't change the well. Don't confuse the origin of something with the current state of its widened mass appeal.

He says, "Hip Hop is its own culture, so don't mix it with any other.", but also says,"Hip Hop was composed of different races, ethnic groups, styles, and cultures." For starters, contradictions like that REALLY suck. Secondly, "don't mix it with any other" ?!?! Why don't you open the door a little wider for those who possess such a seperatist, segragationalist, narrow-minded view of "mixing" cultures?

The Bishop of Hip Hop puts it straight, but he asks," Show me a Hip Hop trend ...of other than African origin." Bitch, Ho, Muthafucka, Lexus, Moet, Whateva tha fuck designer bullshit you think will raise your status in this here world, Jeeps, Jet Planes, $$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$, RECORD COMPANY, greed, automatic weapons, 40 oz of tha devils own, JIGGY, more $$$$$$$$$$$, and on and on and on!!!! I can think of a lot.

Unfortunately, this obsession with things material and shallow is of AMERICAN ORIGIN, my brother. Hip Hop is now unmistakenly an American phenomenon. Like two overlapping circles that share a common shared space, the cultures of Hip Hop and America (youth, pop, etc) have interacted and resulted in something that is both African and American.


Go Back To Black Culture Letters pg #1

Go Back Letter's To The Editor Directory

Go Back To Davey D Homepage

[home] [chat] [conferencing] [updates] [what it is]
[politics] [contests] [opinion] [links/photos] [media]

this site is produced by Davey D in association with eLine Productions