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The fighting spirit of hip hop : an alternative ghetto experience Hull, Susan Hall 1988

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THE FIGHTING SPIRIT OF HIP HOP: AN ALTERNATIVE GHETTO EXPERIENCE By SUSAN HALL HULL B.A., U n i v e r s i t y of B r i t i s h Columbia, 1984 A THESIS SUBMITTED IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF MASTER OF ARTS THE FACULTY OF Anthropology i n GRADUATE STUDIES and S o c i o l o g y We accept t h i s t h e s i s as conforming to the r e q u i r e d standard THE UNIVERSITY OF BRITISH COLUMBIA October 1988 (£) Susan H a l l H u l l , 1988 In presenting this thesis in partial fulfilment of the requirements for an advanced degree at the University of British Columbia, I agree that the Library shall make it freely available for reference and study. I further agree that permission for extensive copying of this thesis for scholarly purposes may be granted by the head of my department or by his or her representatives. It is understood that copying or publication of this thesis for financial gain shall not be allowed without my written permission. „ , Anthropology and Sociology Department of v B J  The University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada D a t e O c t o b e r 1988 DE-6 (2/88) i i ABSTRACT T h i s s t u d y i n v e s t i g a t e s the e x p r e s s i v e youth movement h i p hop, a p r e d o m i n a t e l y b l a c k male s u b c u l t u r e d e f i n e d through p a r t i c i p a t i o n i n the c o m p e t i t i v e a c t i v i t i e s of g r a f f i t i w r i t i n g , r a p p i n g and b r e a k d a n c i n g . The g e n e r a l o b j e c t i v e i s to determine what i s b e i n g communicated through these e x p r e s s i v e forms, t o whom, how, and f i n a l l y t o suggest why i t i s bein g communicated. The e x t e n t t o which the encoded messages are c o n s i s t e n t w i t h r e p o r t s of the s u b c u l t u r e ' s g o a l s i s then d i s c u s s e d . I t i s a s s e r t e d t h a t h i p hop o p e r a t e s as an a l t e r n a t i v e i d e n t i t y management and p r o b l e m - s o l v i n g mechanism w i t h i n the b l a c k American g h e t t o . Drawing on t r a d i t i o n a l a s p e c t s of b l a c k c u l t u r a l i d e n t i t y and e x p r e s s i v e n e s s , h i p hop c r e a t e s a d i s t i n c t way of l i f e , r e f l e c t i n g a c o n s t r u c t i v e and o p t i m i s t i c p h i l o s o p h y , t o c h a l l e n g e the e x i s t i n g r o l e s of the s t r e e t h u s t l e r and gang member. Developed i n the i n n e r c i t y boroughs of New York C i t y i n the l a t e 1960's and e a r l y 1970's, h i p hop f u n c t i o n e d as a n o n - v i o l e n t means of p r o j e c t i n g a s e l f - i m a g e and of measuring s e l f - w o r t h . I t c o n t i n u e s t o be used t o c o n f r o n t fundamental i s s u e s i n a f i g h t t o overcome the r e s t r i c t i o n s of g h e t t o l i v i n g , p r o v i d i n g an e x p r e s s i o n of both an a e s t h e t i c and a c u l t u r a l s t y l e based on the p u r s u i t of e x c e l l e n c e . The f o c u s of the study i s a form and content a n a l y s i s of a s e l e c t i o n of r e c o r d e d r a p s , which p a r a l l e l s an i n t e r p r e t a t i o n of the messages conveyed i n the m u s i c a l form w i t h i i i assertions made by insiders regarding the functioning of hip hop. The thesis explores the hip hop male persona and worldview, his s o c i a l relations and his role in the community, as they are art i c u l a t e d in the raps. The results of this analysis are then applied to a discussion of hip hop g r a f f i t i and breakdancing symbolism. The study concludes that the three expressive forms are communicating the c u l t u r a l agenda of i t s members as well as providing the means through which to achieve their goals. It i s contended that within hip hop, members empower themselves through aggressive s e l f - g l o r i f y i n g imagery and role-playing, and that they apply this sense of greatness to motivating their community, out l i n i n g a strategy for coping with their existence by re-energizing i t and transforming i t into a positive experience. i v TABLE OF CONTENTS ABSTRACT i i LIST OF FIGURES v i ACKNOWLEDGEMENT v i i INTRODUCTION 1 C h a p t e r 1. OVERVIEW OF THE SUBCULTURE 20 1.1. EMERGENCE IN NYC IN THE 1970'S 20 1.2. BLACK AMERICA'S SOCIAL CLIMATE IN THE 1960'S AND 1970'S 22 1.3. ALTERNATIVE TO GANG VIOLENCE 24 1.4. SYMBOLIC REPRESENTATIONS 29 1.5. DIFFUSION AND ELABORATION 32 1.6. NOTE ON PUERTO RICAN INVOLVEMENT 36 C h a p t e r 2. RAP MUSIC: AN INTRODUCTION 40 2.1. EARLY DJING AND MCING 40 2.2. SOURCE MATERIALS AND DEVELOPMENT 42 2.3. RECORDED RAPS 45 C h a p t e r 3. RAP MUSIC: HIP HOP MALE PERSONA AND WORLDVIEW 49 3.1. POWER NAMES 49 3.2. SELF-DEFINITIONS 53 3.3. SELF-IMAGES AND ASSOCIATED VALUES 55 3.4. POWER SYMBOLS 59 3.5. CENTRAL METAPHORS OF CYNICISM AND OPTIMISM 60 3.6. DEFINING EXISTENCE AND REALITY 65 C h a p t e r 4. RAP MUSIC: HIP HOP SOCIAL RELATIONS 68 4.1. COMRADERY WITHIN CREWS 68 4.2. COMPETITIVENESS WITH MALE RIVALS 71 4.3. THE ROLE OF RITUAL INSULT 74 4.4. AMBIGUITY CONCERNING FEMALES 78 C h a p t e r 5. RAP MUSIC: HIP HOP ROLES 86 5.1. SOURCES OF SECULAR POWER USED BY HIP HOPPERS 86 5.2. PROBLEMS ADDRESSED BY THE SUBCULTURE . 90 5.3. CONSCIOUSNESS-RAISING AMONG BLACK YOUTH 95 5.4. PARALLELS TO BLACK PREACHING COMMUNICATION CONVENTIONS 101 5.5. NOTE ON FEMALE INVOLVEMENT 105 V Chapter 6. RAP MUSIC: HIP HOP PERFORMANCE 107 6.1. THE RECEIVERS OF RAP MESSAGES 108 6.2. EFFECTS OF PROMOTION TO A WIDER AUDIENCE 109 6.3. RAP AESTHETICS AND THEIR RELATION TO CULTURAL STYLE 114 6.4. EVALUATION OF A POOR PERFORMANCE 120 6.5. SUMMARY OF RAP ANALYSIS 123 Chapter 7. GRAFFITI: GETTING YOUR NAME UP 127 7.1. MOVING ONTO THE SUBWAY TRAINS 127 7.2. THE DEVELOPMENT OF STYLE 128 7.3. A SYSTEM OF COMMUNICATION 132 7.4. INDIVIDUAL COMPETITIVENESS AND COLLECTIVE COOPERATION 139 7.5. "ROCKING ALL CITY": AN AESTHETIC AND CULTURAL CONCERN 145 Chapter 8. BREAKDANCING: ROCKING WITH BODY LANGUAGE 149 8.1. BATTLING IN THE INNER CITIES 149 8.2. BREAKING AS CULTURAL CONTINUITY 152 8.3. ADDITIONAL SOURCES OF THE DANCE 159 8.4. AN ANALYSIS OF FORM: EXPRESSIONS OF MALE IDENTITY 161 CONCLUSION 173 BIBLIOGRAPHY 182 DISCOGRAPHY 189 LIST OF FILMS AND VIDEOS 192 Appendix I. SELECTION OF RAPS 193 Appendix II. GLOSSARY 223 vi LIST OF FIGURES Figure 1. PHASE 2: THE EVOLUTION OF A STYLE, 1971-1982 129-130 Figure 2. "SKY'S THE LIMIT" BY BILLY "WISE" BLAST, 1982 136 Figure 3. "BEYOND CONTROL", VALCUN, 1984 138 Figure 4. "LEE — SILENT THUNDER", 1982 140 Figure 5. "SHADOW", 1986 141 Figure 6. B-BOY WITH GUN ON NYC SUBWAY 143 Figure 7. NIGERIANS DOING HEADSLIDES 155 Figure 8. FLASHDANCING IN THE 1920'S 157 Figure 9. HANDSPIN 164 Figure 10. AIRPLANE 164 Figure 11. SPIDERWALK ON FINGER TIPS 167 Figure 12. HEADSPIN 169 9 v i i ACKNOWLEDGEMENT T h i s t h e s i s i s d e d i c a t e d to my son, Kenneth, f o r p u t t i n g up w i t h me a l l these y e a r s of s c h o o l . Thanks, Sweetie. I would l i k e t o ex p r e s s my g r a t i t u d e t o my graduate a d v i s o r s and t h e s i s committee members — M a r j o r i e H a l p i n , M i c h a e l Ames, Jean Cunningham and James P o w e l l , t o the UBC Museum of An t h r o p o l o g y s t a f f , and to f a m i l y and f r i e n d s , w i t h s p e c i a l thanks f o r t h e i r s u p port and a s s i s t a n c e when I needed i t the most t o David Asmodeus, Bob Walker, Dwight F e n l o n , Grace G o l i g h t l y and Kenneth H u l l . Thanks t o S a l l y Banes, Mickey D a v i d s o n , Robert Thompson and Susanne Lingmann f o r t h e i r a d v i c e and comments. And to my New York C i t y c o n t a c t s , e s p e c i a l l y the Shadow Crew, the I m p e r i a l K i n g s , the B r o n x v i l l e B r e a k e r s and the k i d s at the Fun House f o r s h a r i n g t h e i r l i v e s w i t h me. High Performance and the h i p hoppers of Vancouver know how much t h e i r encouragement has been a p p r e c i a t e d . Thanks guys. T h i s i s d e f i n a t e l y a (w)rap -- yo — I'm o u t t a here. 1 INTRODUCTION I t i s the i n t e n t i o n of t h i s s tudy t o i l l u s t r a t e t h a t h i p hop i s an e x p r e s s i v e youth movement which p r o v i d e s an a l t e r n a t i v e c u l t u r a l system f o r i t s members. The a l t e r n a t i v e i s d e f i n e d w i t h i n the American b l a c k g h e t t o s t r e e t c u l t u r e . Hip hop p r o v i d e s an a l t e r n a t i v e t o o t h e r e x i s t i n g o p t i o n s a v a i l a b l e t o young g h e t t o men f o r d e f i n i n g themselves -- namely membership i n s t r e e t gangs or o p e r a t i n g as s t r e e t h u s t l e r s and hoods. Thus, h i p hop i s a s u b c u l t u r e not so much of the mainstream ( a l t h o u g h i t i s t h a t too) but of b l a c k (and to a l e s s e r e x t e n t H i s p a n i c and wh i t e ) g h e t t o c u l t u r e . Hip hop tends t o r e o r g a n i z e p r e v a i l i n g norms, v a l u e s and b e h a v i o r , p l a c i n g them i n a new c o n t e x t , i n an e f f o r t t o s o l v e the problems of adjustment e x p e r i e n c e d by the group. Hip hop i s a new c u l t u r a l form w i t h i n g h e t t o c u l t u r e which emerged as an i n n o v a t i o n of e x p r e s s i o n developed i n a c u m u l a t i v e manner through mutual e x p l o r a t i o n and j o i n t e l a b o r a t i o n . As p a r t i c i p a n t s o f t e n put i t , " h i p hop i s a way of l i f e " and as such c o n f r o n t s the fundamental i s s u e s of l i v i n g . I t not o n l y p r o v i d e s a means of e x p r e s s i n g c e n t r a l c u l t u r a l c o n c e r n s , but a l s o a way of a d d r e s s i n g t h e i r problems. Problems addressed are both s t r u c t u r a l ones such as s o c i o - e c o n o m i c s , c l a s s and r a c e , as w e l l as e x i s t e n t i a l ones, such as what i t i s to be a male or how one f i t s i n t o the w o r l d . 2 P o s i t i v e i d e n t i t y c r e a t i o n and management i s the c e n t r a l problem c o n f r o n t e d by h i p hoppers. Hip hop p r o v i d e s an avenue f o r a c t i v e r o l e - p l a y i n g used to p r o j e c t an image and hence c r e a t e an i d e n t i t y , which i n t u r n must be m a i n t a i n e d through c o n t i n u a l a f f i r m a t i o n s of l e g i t i m a c y . Not o n l y does h i p hop c o n s t i t u t e the means of e s t a b l i s h i n g t h i s c u l t u r a l system, but i t a l s o a r t i c u l a t e s the s p e c i f i c s of the system, e x p r e s s i n g the p a r t i c u l a r s of a h i p hopper's s e l f - i m a g e and h i s c u l t u r a l concerns through i t s e x p r e s s i v e r e p r e s e n t a t i o n s — rap music, g r a f f i t i and b r e a k d a n c i n g . Indeed the v e r y a c t of e x p r e s s i o n , to a g r e a t e x t e n t , a c t u a l i z e s the e x p e r i e n c e . Through the use of a r g u m e n t a t i v e images and the p l a y of t r o p e s (Fernandez 1986) h i p hoppers attempt t o persuade themselves and o t h e r s of t h e i r i d e n t i t y . Whether through f i g u r a t i v e language or s y m b o l i c performance, c e n t r a l metaphors, which not o n l y c l a s s i f y but compel, are a s s e r t e d to empower members. Hence much of a h i p hopper's i d e n t i t y i s f o r m u l a t e d and managed through imagery which t r a n s f o r m s h i s e x p e r i e n c e of h i m s e l f . A l t h o u g h many of the c u l t u r a l themes e x p r e s s e d through h i p hop are c o n t i n u a t i o n s of e x i s t i n g b l a c k g h e t t o male c o n c e r n s , i n the p r o c e s s of s e a r c h i n g f o r a new way of b e i n g , an a l t e r n a t i v e s o c i a l r e a l i t y i s e x p e r i e n c e d . Hip hop i n v o l v e s a r e j e c t i o n of c e r t a i n a s p e c t s of the p r e v a i l i n g g h e t t o m e n t a l i t y -- ones which s t r e s s n e g a t i v i t y and apathy and which are o f t e n m a n i f e s t i n v i o l e n t and c r i m i n a l b e h a v i o r . 3 As an a l t e r n a t i v e h i p hop suggests a c r e a t i v e means of e s t a b l i s h i n g s e l f - e s t e e m and an image of s e l f - a s s e r t i o n and c o n t r o l . I t promotes a c t i v e p a r t i c i p a t i o n i n c r e a t i v e s e l f - e x p r e s s i o n as a means of combating the f r u s t r a t i o n s of g h e t t o l i v i n g and r a c i a l i n e q u a l i t y . W h i l e m a i n t a i n i n g the image and c u l t u r a l agenda of the g h e t t o "tough g u y 1 , h i p hoppers have t r a n s f o r m e d t h e i r f i g h t i n g s p i r i t i n t o a c r e a t i v e programme f o r s u c c e s s . D e monstrations of s k i l l s i n h i p hop a c t i v i t i e s a c t as an a l t e r n a t i v e t o d e m o n s t r a t i o n s of f i g h t i n g s k i l l s , w h i l e the s p i r i t t h a t moves them remains a g g r e s s i v e . By so t r a n s f o r m i n g , by r e d e f i n i n g themselves and t h e i r r e a l i t y , they have c r e a t e d a new sense of power. M o t i v a t e d by a s e a r c h t o g a i n power, h i p hop e x h i b i t s what Edmund Leach d e s c r i b e s as "a g e n e r a l motive i n human a f f a i r s " (1954: 10). Power, as i t i s used here r e f e r s both t o the most g e n e r a l d e f i n i t i o n , t h a t i s , "the a b i l i t y t o do, t o a c t , t o produce", as w e l l as t o "the a b i l i t y t o a s s e r t c o n t r o l or d i r e c t i o n over o t h e r s " ( F o l b 1980: 71). In g e n e r a l , h i p hop, i n p r o v i d i n g i t s members w i t h a d i s t i n c t i v e w o r l d v i e w , a s t y l e of l i f e , a means of a d d r e s s i n g s t r u c t u r a l e x i g e n c i e s and the s t a n d a r d s a g a i n s t which they can measure t h e i r own wor t h , f u n c t i o n s i n much the same way as o t h e r youth c u l t u r e s , c o r r e s p o n d i n g t o accounts g i v e n by Schwartz and Merten (1967), Hebdige (1979), Horowitz (1983) and Brake (1985) among o t h e r s . There i s however one major d i s c r e p a n c y between t h i s i n v e s t i g a t o r ' s p o s i t i o n on the n a t u r e of h i p hop and t h a t o f t e n h e l d r e g a r d i n g s u b c u l t u r e s i n g e n e r a l . Both Hebdige and Brake 4 see a s u b c u l t u r e p r i m a r i l y as a r e s i s t a n c e o r a l t e r n a t i v e t o hegemony. The e l e v a t i o n o f a c r i m e i n t o an a r t f o r m , o r o f d e v i a t i o n s i n t o s t y l e , f o r e x a m p l e , a r e h e l d t o be e v i d e n c e o f s u b v e r s i o n . B r a k e , i n p a r t i c u l a r , c l a i m s t h a t h i p hop c a n be s e e n a s y e t a n o t h e r e x a m p l e o f b l a c k c u l t u r e , w h i c h f o r him f u n c t i o n s t o o p p o s e t h e d o m i n a n t c u l t u r e . As w e l l , he s u g g e s t s t h a t g h e t t o s f o r m a s u p p o r t i v e c u l t u r e i n o r d e r t o make a d e n t i n hegemony (1985: 126). The l i m i t a t i o n o f t h i s t h e o r y i s t h a t i t v i e w s t h e s u b c u l t u r e s o l e l y as a r e s p o n s e t o t h e w i d e r c u l t u r e and f a i l s t o a c k n o w l e d g e an i n t e r n a l l y g e n e r a t e d a g e n d a . P a r t i c u l a r l y i n t h e c a s e o f h i p hop, w h i c h began as a r e s p o n s e t o t h e p r o b l e m o f gang v i o l e n c e , t h i s p o s i t i o n i s i n s u f f i c i e n t . A l t h o u g h t h e d o m i n a n t c u l t u r e may have p l a y e d a s i g n i f i c a n t p a r t i n t h e i n i t i a l c r e a t i o n o f t h e p r o b l e m s w i t h w h i c h b l a c k g h e t t o y o u t h have t o c o n t e n d , h i p hop c a n n o t be p r i m a r i l y v i e w e d as a p r o t e s t a g a i n s t t h e m a i n s t r e a m c u l t u r e . H owever, m o v i n g away f r o m s u b c u l t u r a l t h e o r y , t h e r e i s a n o t h e r a r e a w i t h i n w h i c h t o s i t u a t e t h e s t u d y o f h i p hop, one w h i c h i n some r e s p e c t s i s more c o n d u c i v e . V i e w i n g h i p hop as a t y p e o f r e v i t a l i z a t i o n movement f r e e s i t f r o m t h e o v e r e m p h a s i s o f t h e p r o t e s t - f u n c t i o n a r g u m e n t . What i s i m p o r t a n t i n a r e v i t a l i z a t i o n movement, as d i s c u s s e d by W a l l a c e (1956) and F e r n a n d e z (1969), i s t h e f u l f i l l m e n t o f i t s e l f i n t e r n a l l y . A t t i m e s o f c u l t u r a l s t r e s s and d i s c o n t e n t , c h a r i s m a t i c l e a d e r s emerge w i t h a v i s i o n o f r e i n t e r p r e t i n g and t r a n s f o r m i n g t h e c u l t u r e and a t t e m p t t o i n n o v a t e c o n s t r u c t i v e c h a n g e s . New c u l t u r a l r o l e s and i d e n t i t i e s d e v e l o p and e x i s t i n g e l e m e n t s 5 already carrying currency within the community are restructured. Leaders preach and teach, d i s t r i b u t i n g their personal power to effect an ideological conversion among their followers, and rout i n i z i n g the movement. R e v i t a l i z a t i o n movements may aim to produce changes in the individual's self-image and worldview, renewing self-respect and s e l f - s u f f i c i e n c y . An i n t e n s i f i c a t i o n of community, s h i f t s in vocabulary and key metaphors, and a general experience of a new r e a l i t y characterize these movements. As w i l l become apparent within my presentation, this general d e f i n i t i o n of r e v i t a l i z a t i o n movements also characterizes hip hop. I therefore propose that in some respects hip hop resembles a t y p i c a l youth subculture, while in others i t may be pr o f i t a b l y viewed in terms of a r e v i t a l i z t i o n movement. And, although these orientations d i f f e r in terms of their primary intention, they both substantiate the perspective taken in my study. A perspective of hip hop that views i t primarily as an identity management system is reinforced by examining the means used in constructing i t s expressive forms, for much of how these young men see themselves and their world is reflected in the aesthetic choices they make, as well as in those canons which are c u l t u r a l l y imposed on them. The expressions of hip hop hold p a r t i c u l a r a r t i s t i c value for their creators, a value which is related to their dominant c u l t u r a l values and ideologies. In i t s formulation hip hop draws on existing c u l t u r a l elements while appropriating and relocating signs in a new meaning system. Not only does i t i l l u s t r a t e the concept of 6 b r i c o l a q e (as a r t i c u l a t e d by L e v i - S t r a u s s ) , but i t a l s o e x h i b i t s a system of c u l t u r a l c o n t i n u i t y , e s p e c i a l l y i n r e l a t i o n t o b l a c k e x p r e s s i v e forms of music and dance. Hip hoppers are members of both a g h e t t o - s p e c i f i c c u l t u r e and the wider mainstream c u l t u r e and are concerned w i t h s e l f - p r o m o t i o n i n both a r e n a s . As Hor o w i t z (1983) has p o i n t e d out i n the case of American-Chicano youth c u l t u r e , w i t h i n h i p hop two d i s t i n c t , a l t h o u g h i n t e r t w i n e d , codes are i n o p e r a t i o n . One i s concerned w i t h the maintenance of p e r s o n a l power and honour among the peer group; the o t h e r w i t h a c h i e v i n g success i n mainstream terms through hardwork and d e t e r m i n a t i o n (what H o r o w i t z r e f e r s t o as s t r i v i n g t o a c h i e v e the American Dream). Communication and t r a n s a c t i o n s w i t h the mainstream dominant c u l t u r e a re e v i d e n t throughout the system. A s p e c t s of the mainstream are i n c o r p o r a t e d and r e s t r u c t u r e d to s e r v e the h i p hop agenda. And, as h i p hop moves beyond the g h e t t o and, through c o m m e r c i a l i z a t i o n and a p p r o p r i a t i o n , e n t e r s the realm of mainstream p o p u l a r c u l t u r e , both i t s messages and meanings a r e expanded and a l t e r e d , w h i l e r e m a i n i n g v i a b l e w i t h i n the g h e t t o . T h e o r e t i c a l O r i e n t a t i o n s For the most p a r t t h i s s tudy has been undertaken i n the s t a n d a r d f u n c t i o n a l or s t r u c t u r e / f u n c t i o n a l a n t h r o p o l o g i c a l t r a d i t i o n . In a s e a r c h f o r an u n d e r s t a n d i n g of what h i p hop i s , the i n v e s t i g a t o r has f o c u s s e d her a t t e n t i o n on the purpose i t s e r v e s , the r o l e i t p l a y s i n the l i v e s of i t s c r e a t o r s . As a c u l t u r a l system one of the t h i n g s h i p hop does i s to communicate 7 and therefore an attempt has also been made to unpack the par t i c u l a r s of what is being said. Thus the study not only asserts that one of hip hop's functions is to communicate, i t also constructs and interprets data i l l u s t r a t i n g the nature of what is being communicated and, indeed, much of what is being communicated i s i t s function. To the extent that the study is concentrating on the constructed representations of the subculture — rap, g r a f f i t i and breaking — rather than on group dynamics, s o c i a l interactions, behavioral codes and the l i k e , a symbolic approach i s also occasionally called upon. And, considering that the bulk of the analysis pertains to textual material, an inter p r e t i v e orientation is employed in order to reveal the significance of the images conveyed in the texts. As the messages being communicated through the expressive forms stand to reinforce the assertions made regarding the functioning of the system, they warrant decoding to ascertain their meaning. An a n a l y t i c a l approach which integrates evidence from no n - s c i e n t i f i c sources with findings from empirical research has been attempted. The present study i s , in part, modelled after the work of James Stewart (1980) in which he r e l i e s on information embedded in black folk culture to cross-check ex i s t i n g data on the sharing phenomenon as i t appears in black contemporary families. Stewart's analysis of the music of soul singer M i l l i e Jackson suggests that such material can be r e l i e d on as evidence and that this expressive form is capable of accurate simulations of c u l t u r a l experiences. 8 As w i t h a l l a n a l y s e s of c u l t u r e the p r e s e n t study i s based on a s e r i e s of u n d e r l y i n g assumptions. B r i e f l y , t h e n , c u l t u r e i s h e l d to be a system of m e a n i n g f u l and p a t t e r n e d i d e o l o g i e s , b e h a v i o r and symbols t h a t i s c o n s t a n t l y b e i n g a c t e d out and e v o l v i n g . A h i g h degree of c o n s i s t e n c y o p e r a t e s between i t s v a r i e d components and l e v e l s and i t s e x p r e s s i o n s are n e i t h e r i s o l a t e d nor i n d i v i d u a l , but r e c u r r i n g and shared themes. Both c u l t u r a l v a r i a b l e s (e.g. b e i n g b l a c k ) and s t r u c t u r a l c o n d i t i o n s (e.g. l i v i n g i n the g h e t t o ) are f a c t o r s which determine the c o n t e n t of the group c u l t u r e . F o l l o w i n g a n t h r o p o l o g i s t James Fernandez (1986), i t i s assumed t h a t c u l t u r a l performances, ( i . e . d e f i n e d staged e v e n t s ) s e r v e to enact a c u l t u r e ' s c e n t r a l metaphors i n an e f f o r t to e f f e c t the i d e a l p e r s o n a l i t y and community. They c o n s t i t u t e a l e n s through which to view fundamental i s s u e s of a p e o p l e ' s l i v e s and s o c i e t y . A l t h o u g h t h e s e metaphors, o f t e n m u l t i v o c a l , g e n e r a l l y a r i s e i n f a n t a s y , they can m o t i v a t e s o c i a l a c t i o n , f o r example, by s u g g e s t i n g a s t r a t e g y f o r d e a l i n g w i t h a g i v e n s i t u a t i o n . F i n a l l y a r t (or e x p r e s s i v e r e p r e s e n t a t i o n ) , l i k e l anguage, i s a form of communication and, l i k e language, encodes a c u l t u r e ' s dominant i d e o l o g i e s as w e l l as r e c o r d s s h i f t s i n t h o s e i d e o l o g i e s . As J a n e t W o l f f has suggested (1981: 6 1 ) , a r t , as a s o c i a l p r o d u c t , reworks the i d e o l o g y i n t o an a e s t h e t i c a l l y a c c e p t a b l e form or s t y l e as the e x p r e s s e d i d e o l o g y i s mediated by both the c o n d i t i o n s of p r o d u c t i o n and the e x i s t i n g a e s t h e t i c c o n v e n t i o n s . There not o n l y e x i s t s u n i f o r m i t y between a e s t h e t i c 9 and c u l t u r a l s t y l e s ( G e e r t z 1973) b u t a l s o b e t w e e n t h e f o r m and t h e c o n t e n t o f t h e e x p r e s s i o n , o r as L e a c h p u t s i t (1954: 12), " l o g i c a l l y a e s t h e t i c s and e t h i c s a r e i d e n t i c a l " . U l t i m a t e l y , a g a i n as L e a c h t e l l s u s , " i t i s t h e a n t h r o p o l o g i s t ' s t a s k t o t r y t o d i s c o v e r and t o t r a n s l a t e i n t o h i s own t e c h n i c a l j a r g o n what i t i s t h a t i s s y m b o l i z e d o r r e p r e s e n t e d " ( i b i d . ) . Methods and O b j e c t i v e s The f o l l o w i n g c h a p t e r s p r e s e n t an a n a l y s i s o f t h e e x p r e s s i v e f o r m s w h i c h r e s u l t f r o m t h e t h r e e p r i m a r y a c t i v i t i e s p a r t i c i p a t e d i n by members o f t h e h i p hop s u b c u l t u r e . A l t h o u g h h i p hop h a s become a w o r l d w i d e y o u t h movement t h i s s t u d y p r i m a r i l y f o c u s e s on t h e New Y o r k C i t y s i t u a t i o n , e x p l o r i n g i t s s i g n i f i c a n c e w i t h i n i t s o r i g i n a t i n g and p r e d o m i n a n t l o c a t i o n . E v e n t h o u g h much o f what i s p r e s e n t e d may be r e l e v a n t t o a s s i m i l a t e d o r m i d d l e - c l a s s A m e r i c a n b l a c k s , t h e c o n c e r n h e r e i s w i t h t h e "home o f h i p hop". Hence, r e f e r e n c e s t o b l a c k c u l t u r e c a n r e a d " b l a c k g h e t t o c u l t u r e " . S i m i l a r l y r e f e r e n c e s t o t h e g h e t t o a r e t o be r e a d " n o r t h e r n U n i t e d S t a t e s b l a c k g h e t t o s " . Due t o l a c k o f s u f f i c i e n t d a t a a c o m p r e h e n s i v e e t h n o g r a p h y o f t h e s u b c u l t u r e w i l l n o t be a t t e m p t e d . R a t h e r t h e e x p r e s s i v e f o r m s , as r e p r e s e n t a t i o n s o f i t s c o m m u n i c a t i o n s y s t e m , a r e c h a l l e n g e d t o s p e a k on b e h a l f o f t h e i r c r e a t o r s . U n f o r t u n a t e l y , a s t u d y w h i c h f o c u s e s p r i m a r i l y on an a n a l y s i s o f e x p r e s s i v e f o r m s c a n n o t p r o v i d e c o n c l u s i v e e v i d e n c e f o r t h e e x p e r i e n t i a l a s p e c t s o f t h e s u b c u l t u r e . N e i t h e r t h e e x p e r i e n t i a l 10 s t a t e of a c t i v e p a r t i c i p a n t s nor the messages r e c e i v e d are s y s t e m a t i c a l l y r e c o n s t r u c t e d h e r e , a l t h o u g h they are r e f e r r e d t o a t t i m e s . Thus, f a r l e s s a t t e n t i o n i s g i v e n to the a c t u a l r e a l i z a t i o n s of t h e i r day to day l i v e s than to the e x p e c t a t i o n s f o r the i d e a l e x p e r i e n t i a l s t a t e which i s b e i n g t r a n s m i t t e d . I t i s not my i n t e n t i o n t o r e l a t e t h i s d i s c u s s i o n of h i p hop to g e n e r a l t h e o r e t i c a l p e r s p e c t i v e s i n a n t h r o p o l o g y or o t h e r s o c i a l s c i e n c e s . No doubt the s t u d y would g a i n f u r t h e r r e l e v a n c e t o the a n t h r o p o l o g i c a l e n t e r p r i s e i f i t were to be l o c a t e d w i t h i n the s t u d y of f o l k l o r e , v a l u e s , w o r l d v i e w , symbolism, et c e t e r a . Such a t h e o r e t i c a l c o n t e x t u a l i z a t i o n , a l t h o u g h u n q u e s t i o n a b l y of v a l u e , goes beyond my immediate g o a l . B e f o r e broader i s s u e s can i n t e l l i g i b l y be d i s c u s s e d the r e a s o n a b l e f i r s t s t e p , i t would seem, i s t o s o r t out some of the e s s e n t i a l a s p e c t s of the s u b c u l t u r e , i n and of i t s e l f . The e x i s t i n g p u b l i s h e d l i t e r a t u r e on h i p hop i s e i t h e r d e s c r i p t i v e i n n a t u r e or i n s i d e r s ' a c c o u n t s of the phenomenon, p r i m a r i l y d i s c u s s i n g i t s r e l a t i o n s h i p to gangs and gang v i o l e n c e . Beyond t h i s , and a s i d e from David Toop's attempt to t r a c e the h i s t o r i c a l r o o t s of rap music w i t h i n the American b l a c k music i n d u s t r y , and R o b e r t Thompson's (1986) o u t l i n e of the v a r i o u s f o r m a l s i m i l a r i t i e s between h i p hop and the music and dance of A f r i c a n and A f r i c a n - i n f l u e n c e d c u l t u r e s , no o t h e r s y s t e m a t i c e f f o r t s have been made to a n a l y z e the p r o d u c t s of t h i s movement. P r e v i o u s r e s e a r c h e r s have r e s i s t e d imposing an encompassing p e r s p e c t i v e on t h e i r d a t a ; hence the aim of the 11 present study i s to begin the task of moving beyond description and towards interpretation. To the investigator's knowledge th i s study i s the f i r s t attempt at extracting evidence concerning the nature and meaning of the subculture from a "thick description" of i t s expressive forms, and developing from this a general understanding of i t s functions. Although other studies are suggestive of theoretical implications, and have provided much of the evidence for the current work, the systematic construction of the role of the hip hopper and his c u l t u r a l agenda, and the l i n g u i s t i c , aesthetic and formal conventions of hip hop are o r i g i n a l to this investigation. Nor has hip hop previously been contextualized within a survey of black c u l t u r a l and expressive traditions to the extent to which i t has been done here. My systematic compiling, transcribing, summarizing, and analyzing of a body of raps, and my sorting out of recurring themes and patterns both in l y r i c a l content and musical structure constitute the major contribution of this work to the study of hip hop. F i n a l l y , by observing the re l a t i v e s i m i l a r i t i e s of content and structure among a l l three expressive forms, a s i g n i f i c a n t contribution is provided to an understanding of c u l t u r a l production, lending support to the notion that d i s t i n c t a r t i c u l a t i o n s do express a shared configuration of cu l t u r a l t r a i t s . 12 The a v a i l a b l e d a t a r e g a r d i n g the n a t u r e of h i p hop and the s i g n i f i c a n c e of p a r t i c i p a t i n g i n i t i s f i r s t p r e s e n t e d . T h i s i s f o l l o w e d by the a n a l y s i s of the e x p r e s s i v e forms. I n t e r p r e t a t i o n s of the messages conveyed i n the forms are in f o r m e d by the s o c i o - h i s t o r i c a l d a t a on h i p hop and to some e x t e n t c o n s t i t u t e v e r i f i c a t i o n of i n f o r m a n t s ' c l a i m s . The approach taken i n p r e s e n t i n g t h i s m a t e r i a l i s an e c l e c t i c one. J u s t as the system under i n v e s t i g a t i o n i s m u l t i d e t e r m i n e d , the st u d y combines h i s t o r i c a l , i d e o l o g i c a l and s o c i o l o g i c a l p e r s p e c t i v e s , w i t h an a n a l y s i s of form and c o n t e n t . A d e d u c t i v e approach was used i n e x p l o r i n g the phenomenon and the r e s u l t i n g s t u d y a t t e m p t s t o b a l a n c e an a c c o u n t i n g of the phenomenon w i t h an a c c o u n t i n g f o r , p r e s e n t e d i n a d i a l e c t i c a l f a s h i o n , s h i f t i n g between o b s e r v a t i o n s and i n t e r p r e t a t i o n s . The e x t e n s i v e use of m a t e r i a l on g e n e r a l b l a c k e x p r e s s i v e n e s s , a e s t h e t i c s , l i n g u i s t i c s and c u l t u r a l v a l u e s s e r v e s a t w o - f o l d purpose. F i r s t i t h e l p s i n the c o n t e x t u a l i z a t i o n of h i p hop w i t h i n i t s c u l t u r a l h e r i t a g e and s e c o n d l y i t a s s i s t s i n the a c t u a l i n t e r p r e t a t i o n of meanings. I t i s o n l y , f o r example, by r e c o g n i z i n g t h a t t r a d i t i o n a l l y b l a c k e x p r e s s i v e forms have s e r v e d to b a l a n c e two complementary agendas w i t h i n the c u l t u r e — i n d i v i d u a l c o m p e t i t i v e n e s s and c o l l e c t i v e c o o p e r a t i o n -- t h a t we can b e g i n to understand a system l i k e h i p hop which s i m u l t a n e o u s l y p r o j e c t s f o r i t s members an image of the d e s t r o y e r and the peacemaker and can combine r i t u a l i n s u l t w i t h g o s p e l p r e a c h i n g . 13 Working from a place informed by informants' accounts and descriptive material, acquired both from first-hand experience and popular l i t e r a t u r e , the investigator has "constructed a r e a l i t y " of hip hop based on what Geertz refers to as taking your best guess (1973:20). And again following a Geertzian t r a d i t i o n , the investigator has t r i e d to remain f a i t h f u l to the native point of view, taking into account the available statements of their intentions and explanations. Although concepts and terminology used in the interpretation may be unfamiliar to the actors, they do correspond to statements made by participants and i t is intended that the overal l picture portrayed here is one that members of hip hop would recognize. It is not far, for instance, from the emic statement "hip hop i s about being yourself" to the e t i c assertion that hip hop provides an avenue for identit y management; nor from "what we're doing is trying to give kids something better to do" to hip hop operates as a problem-solving mechanism. This study was in part modelled after the approach outlined by Michael Brake (1985: 19). Brake suggests that in the study of youth subcultures an investigator should examine: 1 - i t s h i s t o r i c a l development and i t s relation to the wider socio-economic structure. 2 - the d i s t i n c t style and imagery being portrayed and attempt to suggest how these r e f l e c t the solutions to problems addressed by the subculture. 3 - s o c i e t a l reaction to the subculture. 4 - the development of the moral concerns of members, noting l e v e l of committment in re l a t i o n to status passages. 14 5 - the r e l a t i o n of the s o c i a l structure to values, norms, symbols and action. 6 - changes in the subculture, be they thematic, formal, or boundary s h i f t s . With the exception of point number three, this model was considered in presenting the material on hip hop. The sources used in compiling this reading of hip hop vary from how-to books and videos to popular s e l f - c h r o n i c l e s written by hip hoppers themselves and from documentary and docu-drama films to s o c i o - h i s t o r i c a l readings by s o c i o l o g i s t s and art h i s t o r i a n s . V i r t u a l l y a l l are descriptive in nature and r e l a t i v e l y interpretation-free. This material is reinforced by an understanding of hip hop formulated through observations and personal interaction with members of the subculture. Contextual material on black culture comes from a wide range of scholarly f i e l d s including anthropology, l i n g u i s t i c s , sociology, psychology, musicology, popular and urban culture studies. The investigator's informants were New York City participants met during an eight week f i e l d t r i p in the summer of 1985. Being invited to "hang out" with them amounted to attending rap parties, learning dance moves from them, acting as look-out for g r a f f i t i writers and informally talking to them about and observing their a c t i v i t i e s . To a lesser extent the study has been informed by an involvement over the past three years (1985- 1988) with l o c a l Vancouver and Washington state groups. Although these members of the subculture have been 15 unable to contribute to an understanding of the New York City phenomenon, they have provided insights concerning the experiential and aesthetic realms. The general objective of this study is to determine what i s being communicated through the expressive forms of hip hop, to whom, how, and f i n a l l y to suggest why i t is being communicated. The s p e c i f i c objectives are to i l l u s t r a t e : 1 - that hip hop constitutes both an expression of and a means through which to construct and manage identity for young ghetto males, providing an alternative to existing black male ghetto i d e n t i t i e s and 2 - that part of this identity consists of formulating a s p e c i f i c s t y l e of l i f e and worldview, as well as addressing c u l t u r a l concerns and 3 - that the construction of a hip hop identity draws on past roles and tra d i t i o n s within i t s c u l t u r a l heritage and maintains the status quo of a number of fundamental community norms and values, while questioning others; as well as incorporating much of mainstream culture and 4 - that, although differences do exist, there is a high degree of consistency in the aesthetic and c u l t u r a l content of a l l three hip hop a c t i v i t i e s which appear to form a gestalt of symbolic representations. 16 Overview I n c h a p t e r one a s o c i o - h i s t o r i c a l a c c o u n t i n g o f t h e d e v e l o p m e n t o f t h e c u l t u r a l s y s t e m , p r o v i d i n g a v a i l a b l e e t h n o g r a p h i c d e t a i l s and s o c i a l c o n t e x t , i s g i v e n . The c h a p t e r o u t l i n e s h i p hop's i n i t i a l f u n c t i o n as an a l t e r n a t i v e means o f m a n a g i n g s e l f - i m a g e and c o m m u n i t y c o n c e r n s , as w e l l as d i s c u s s e s i t s s u b s e q u e n t d e v e l o p m e n t s . F i n a l l y , j u s t i f i c a t i o n f o r s u b s u m i n g P u e r t o R i c a n i n v o l v e m e n t i n h i p hop u n d e r A m e r i c a n b l a c k e x p r e s s i v e n e s s i s p r o v i d e d . C h a p t e r s two t h r o u g h s i x f o c u s on h i p hop r a p m u s i c . T h i s s e c t i o n c o m p r i s e s t h e p r i n c i p l e c o n t r i b u t i o n t o t h e s t u d y o f h i p hop by t h e i n v e s t i g a t o r . The s y s t e m a t i c and d e t a i l e d a n a l y s i s o f r a p m u s i c was s e l e c t e d as t h e c o n c e n t r a t i o n f o r t h i s s t u d y b e c a u s e o f t h e t h r e e e x p r e s s i v e f o r m s i t p r o v i d e s t h e most e x p l i c i t and a c c e s s i b l e f o r m u l a t i o n o f h i p hop. And, a l t h o u g h r a p s a r e t h e p a r t i c u l a r c o m m u n i c a t i o n g e n r e o f h i p hop DJs and MCs, much o f what i s a r t i c u l a t e d t h r o u g h them i s r e p r e s e n t a t i v e o f a l l o f h i p hop. One h u n d r e d and s e v e n t y - f i v e r e c o r d e d r a p s , r a n g i n g f r o m 1979 t o 1987, t h e m a j o r i t y f r o m t h e 1984-85 p e r i o d , w e re t r a s c r i b e d by t h e r e s e a r c h e r f o r a n a l y s i s . (A s e l e c t i o n o f f i f t e e n r a p s r e p r e s e n t i n g t h i s r a n g e , as w e l l as i l l u s t r a t i n g c e n t r a l t h e m e s , i s i n c l u d e d i n a p p e n d i x I . ) S e l e c t i o n c r i t e r i o n f o r t h e s a m p l e was r e s t r i c t e d t o t h o s e r a p s o r i g i n a t i n g i n New Y o r k C i t y and a v a i l a b l e t o t h e i n v e s t i g a t o r . Raps t h a t have been i d e n t i f i e d by h i p h o p p e r s as b e i n g h i s t o r i c a l l y s i g n i f i c a n t 17 and/or a e s t h e t i c a l l y superior ( i . e . "a important rap", "a good rap") were targeted. This want l i s t was compiled using popular l i t e r a t u r e sources written by insiders, primarily Rappin by Grandmaster Blaster (1984), Breakdancinq by Mr. Fresh and the Supreme Rockers (1984), Breakdancinq by Curtis Marlow (1984) and Breaking and the New York City Breakers by Michael Holman (1984). In addition, the discographies provided by hip hop researchers David Toop (1984), Steve Hager (1984) and Nelson George (1985b) were referred to. The content of these l i s t s , to a great extent, overlaps with the participants' l i s t s and indeed were compiled by these authors according to the preferences of their informants; hence they attempt to r e f l e c t an insider's perspective. These raps were act i v e l y sought out by the investigator, who was successful in procuring most of the highly recommended c l a s s i c raps ( i . e . those repeatedly reported by insiders as being s i g n i f i c a n t ) , as well as many of the less renowned suggestions. F i n a l l y , the material dating after 1985 (publication date of sources) was recommended to the investigator by informants both from New York City and l o c a l l y . Most are twelve inch singles or albums released on small underground record labels such as Fantasy, Sultra, Pro, Tommy Boy, Sugarhill and Def Jam. Although a few are recordings of l i v e performances, most are studio produced. Especially commercial raps, that i s , those released by larger recording companies and reportedly geared towards the mainstream audience, were excluded as being unrepresentative of the subculture. 18 Generally, the o v e r a l l themes and aesthetics do not appear to have changed s i g n i f i c a n t l y over time; however, on a number of occasions developments are noted. A body of raps, covering the temporal range and produced by a single rap crew (namely Grandmaster Flash), was examined s p e c i f i c a l l y for any marked deviations over time, but none were discovered. Thus, although a diachronic perspective i s considered, for the most part the sample i s discussed synchronically. Chapter two introduces the reader to rap music, giving a brief description and h i s t o r i c a l account, and discusses the effects of recording on the a c t i v i t y . The s i g n i f i c a n t portion of the analysis, found in chapters three through six, is a construction of the investigator's, inferred d i r e c t l y from the raps themselves. Thus, unless otherwise indicated, a l l material and quotes included are based on or originate with the sample raps and are only occasionally supplemented, for interpretation purposes, with outside material. Referencing of the raps may appear somewhat arbitary, as indeed i t i s . For the most part, however, when more than a single li n e i s quoted i t is referenced appropriately and often even these are designated by performer and year. However, due to concerns over cumbersomeness, short phrases, often included to add "colour" as much as evidence, have not been referenced. A l l raps referred to in this section, however, are l i s t e d in the discography. The analysis of the rap music consists of a content analysis of the l y r i c s , noting recurring themes and patterns within the texts. Both e x p l i c i t and i m p l i c i t messages are 19 examined. The textual interpretations are informed by ethnographic and contextual material, both on the subculture and on black culture in general. And, to a lesser degree and by no means systematically, a st r u c t u r a l analysis of the language and music, noting the construction techniques and conventions, is u t i l i z e d to complement some findings. F i n a l l y , chapters seven and eights attempt to p a r a l l e l the analysis of rap music in addressing hip hop g r a f f i t i and breakdancing respectively, (although these are not systematic studies of representative samples). By providing ethno-historical data alongside interpretations of content and form the analysis of rap is reinforced. And, conversely, the results of broadening the context of our view of rap music and unpacking i t s messages as s i s t s in understanding the symbolism of the g r a f f i t i and dance. Although each expressive form has i t s own unique t r a i t s and emphasis, the material presented does suggest a consistency of agenda among the three a c t i v i t i e s , which share central metaphors and aesthetic canons. Taken together they provide a graphic picture of the fighting s p i r i t of hip hop and t e s t i f y to i t s role as an alternative ghetto experience. 20 CHAPTER ONE OVERVIEW OF THE SUBCULTURE 1.1 Emergence i n New York C i t y i n the 1970's Hip hop i s a p r e d o m i n a t e l y male youth s u b c u l t u r e which i n v o l v e s p a r t i c i p a t i o n i n t h r e e h i g h l y c o m p e t i t i v e and e x p r e s s i v e a c t i v i t i e s -- g r a f f i t i w r i t i n g , rap D J i n g and MCing, and br e a k d a n c i n g . The t h r e e a c t i v i t i e s began emerging i n the i n n e r c i t y boroughs of New York C i t y , p a r t i c u l a r l y i n the.South Bronx, i n the l a t e 60's and e a r l y 70's. A l t h o u g h each a c t i v i t y has a d i s t i n c t h i s t o r i c a l development, they a l l drew on and e l a b o r a t e d e x i s t i n g a s p e c t s of b l a c k g h e t t o c u l t u r a l i d e n t i t y and by the mid 70's had been subsumed under the term 'hip hop' (the term f i r s t appeared i n a s c a t - s t y l e rap by DJ Hollywood and S t a r s k i ) (George 1985a: x v i ) . At the g r a s s r o o t s l e v e l most h i p hoppers are from low income f a m i l i e s , are between the ages of 12 and 19 and are e i t h e r American b l a c k s or P u e r t o R i c a n s . Members j o i n l o o s e l y o r g a n i z e d groups c a l l e d "crews" which p a r t i c i p a t e i n o n l y one or two or a l l t h r e e of the a c t i v i t i e s . For example, the r a p p i n g crew UTFO ( U n i t e d Teens For O u r s e l v e s ) a l l r a p , breakdance and w r i t e g r a f f i t i . The core group c o n s i s t s of t h r e e r a p p e r s , Kangol K i d , Dr. Ice and the Educated Rapper and one DJ, Mixmaster I c e . As w e l l t h e r e i s a group of g i r l s , the UTFO C h e e r l e a d e r s , who p r o v i d e background c h a n t s of support ("Go K a n g o l , go Kangol") and s i m u l a t e audience response ( f o r i n s t a n c e i f the rapper r e q u e s t s a l l the l a d i e s i n the house t o say "Owww", they come back "Owww"). 21 As a s t r e e t c u l t u r e and a r t i s t i c movement h i p hop's i m p e t u s came f r o m t h e e f f o r t s o f a h a n d f u l o f h i g h l y m o t i v a t e d and c h a r i s m a t i c l e a d e r s . One s u c h i n n o v a t o r , A f r i k a B a m b a a t a a , i s r e p o r t e d t o have been r e s p o n s i b l e f o r b r i n g i n g t h e t h r e e a c t i v i t i e s t o g e t h e r and p r o v i d i n g much o f t h e e n c o u r a g e m e n t n e e d e d t o keep t h e movement f r o m d y i n g o u t ( G e o r g e 1985b: 9 ) . B a m b a a t a a , a y o u t h gang l e a d e r and M u s l i m who t u r n e d t o d i s c j o c k e y i n g , had a v i s i o n o f p r o v i d i n g a new s o u r c e o f s e l f - i m a g i n g , s t a t u s a c h i e v e m e n t , and c u l t u r a l p r i d e t o g h e t t o m a l e y o u t h — one t h a t s t r e s s e d c r e a t i v e , r a t h e r t h a n d e s t r u c t i v e , f o r m s o f e x p r e s s i o n . B a m b a a t a a , who t o o k h i s name f r o m a 19th c e n t u r y Z u l u c h i e f , a d m i t s b e i n g i n f l u e n c e d by M a r t i n L u t h e r K i n g and M a l c o l m X, as w e l l as by t h e c o n s c i o u s n e s s -r a i s i n g l y r i c s o f James Brown. He e x p l a i n s t h e s e m i n a l i n s p i r a t i o n f o r h i s v i s i o n t h i s way: I g o t t h e i d e a when I s e e n t h i s m o v ie c a l l e d Z u l u w h i c h f e a t u r e d M i c h a e l C a i n e . I t was s h o w i n g how when t h e B r i t i s h came t o t a k e o v e r t h e l a n d o f t h e Z u l u s how t h e Z u l u s f o u g h t t o u p h o l d t h e i r l a n d . They were p r o u d w a r r i o r s and t h e y was f i g h t i n g v e r y w e l l a g a i n s t b u l l e t s , c a n n o n s and s t u f f . . . . W h e n t h e B r i t i s h t h o u g h t t h e y ' d won t h e n e x t t h i n g you s e e i s t h e w h o l e m o u n t a i n f u l l w i t h t h o u s a n d s o f Z u l u s and t h e B r i t i s h knew t h e y was gonna d i e t h e n . B u t t h e Z u l u s c h a n t e d — p r a i s e d them as w a r r i o r s and l e t them l i v e . So f r o m t h e r e t h a t ' s when I d e c i d e d one o f t h e s e d a y s I hope t o have a Z u l u n a t i o n , t o o ( i n Toop 1984: 57) . And in 1974 he did establish an organization called the Zulu Nation with an estimated membership of 10,000 in the Bronx and Manhattan. The organization's e x p l i c i t aim was to promote g r a f f i t i , rapping and breaking as alternatives to street gang fi g h t i n g (Mr. Fresh and the Supreme Rockers 1984: 11). 22 An example of h i s commitment to n o n - v i o l e n c e i s e v i d e n t i n a s t o r y he t e l l s of a dance p a r t y he was MCing i n 1982 at the Bronx R i v e r Community C e n t r e . A f i g h t had broken out o u t s i d e the h a l l and as the crowd grew ten s e and moved towards the doors t o get i n v o l v e d , Bambaataa demanded t h a t they s t a y where they were. "There a i n ' t n o t h i n ' g o i n ' on out t h e r e . No v i o l e n c e . . . no v i o l e n c e . . . no v i o l e n c e " . He began p l a y i n g a p o p u l a r James Brown tune, stopped t o t a u n t "You l i k e t h a t ? — M u s i c , t h a t ' s what I'm t a l k i n g about". He resumed p l a y i n g the r e c o r d and the crowd began to dance, i g n o r i n g the scene o u t s i d e (Hager 1984: i x ) . 1.2 Black America's S o c i a l Climate i n the 1960's and 1970's To f u l l y a p p r e c i a t e h i p hop i t i s h e l p f u l t o p l a c e i t w i t h i n the wider s o c i a l and c u l t u r a l c o n t e x t t h a t p r e v a i l e d i n New York's i n n e r c i t i e s d u r i n g the time of i t s emergence. The s i n g l e most p r e v a l e n t o c c u r r e n c e i n B l a c k America i n the 1960's and e a r l y 1970's was the movement towards c i v i l r i g h t s and b l a c k power. And a l t h o u g h c o n c r e t e g a i n s may have been made f o r the m i d d l e c l a s s b l a c k f a m i l y , the lower c l a s s e s f e l t l i t t l e e f f e c t ( Bonnett 1980: 48). A f t e r the 1966 summer of b l a c k power r i o t s and l o o t i n g , the movement and i t s l e a d e r s d i s s i p a t e d , l e a v i n g the g h e t t o s e x p e r i e n c i n g a sense of gloom. A s s a u l t s , r o b b e r i e s and rapes r e p o r t e d l y i n c r e a s e d , f e a r of a w h i t e b a c k l a s h was g r o w i n g , the war on p o v e r t y was b e i n g overshadowed by the Vietnam War, the e l e c t i o n of a c o n s e r v a t i v e c o n g r e s s and f u n d i n g c u t b a c k s a l l c o n t r i b u t e d to an atmosphere of d e s p a i r (Hannerz 1969: 22). 23 A c c o r d i n g t o b l a c k h i s t o r i a n s (Bonnett and Hannerz among o t h e r s ) by the end of the 60's hope f o r a b e t t e r l i f e was v e i l e d i n d i s a p p o i n t m e n t s . A l t h o u g h the g h e t t o man's c o n c e p t i o n of h i s s e l f and p o t e n t i a l had improved through the c o n c e r t e d e f f o r t s of b l a c k c o n s c i o u s n e s s r a i s e r s , w i t h o u t commensurate improvements i n h i s s o c i a l c o n d i t i o n , r a c i s m , poor s c h o o l i n g , h o u s i n g and employment s h o r t a g e s c o n t i n u e d t o thwart h i s new found optimism. I n t e r e s t i n g l y , t h i s change i s echoed i n the realm of s t r e e t language. For example, a s h i f t i n meaning of the word ' u p t i g h t ' s i g n i f i e s the p r e v a i l i n g mood. In the 60's u p t i g h t had a p o s i t i v e c o n n o t a t i o n of " t o g e t h e r n e s s " , but by the 70's i t s more g e n e r a l use was as a n e g a t i v e r e f e r e n t t o " t e n s e n e s s and n e r v o u s n e s s " ( F o l b 1980: 208). One of h i p hop's f o u n d i n g members, K u r t i s Blow, c l a i m s t h a t the c o n d i t i o n s i n New York C i t y ' s g h e t t o s c o n t r i b u t e d to the need to c r e a t e a p o s i t i v e way of s a y i n g " I am somebody" and t o f i g h t growing apathy by means r e l e v a n t to t h e i r l i v e s . Growing up i n Harlem i n the s e v e n t i e s was wack. B l a c k p e o p l e a l l a c r o s s the c o u n t r y were b e g i n n i n g to get a l i t t l e p i e c e of the American Dream e x c e p t , i t seemed, i n Harlem. People were poor, jobs were s c a r c e , drugs were everywhere and the cops weren't as c o o l as Kojak. Upwardly m o b i l e b l a c k s ? The f o l k s I knew were s t r u g g l i n g t o keep i t t o g e t h e r even w i t h a n i n e - t o - f i v e and another job on the s i d e . T.V., movies, magazines and newspapers seemed to be about n o t h i n g but how w e l l b l a c k s were d o i n g somewhere e l s e . For those of us s t i l l l i v i n g i n Harlem, t h i n g s j u s t got worse. The few b l a c k s who were making i t were l e a v i n g Harlem and those of us who were l e f t , p a r t i c u l a r l y the young p e o p l e , f e l t a l i e n a t e d from the w h i t e f o l k s ' s o c i e t y we saw on "The J e f f e r s o n s " . I t j u s t d i d n ' t seem r e a l t o us, because i t wasn't ( i n George 1985a: x i ) . 24 1.3 A l t e r n a t i v e to Gang V i o l e n c e One assertion which is made repeatedly both by participants and analyists of hip hop is that i t developed as a replacement for street gang a c t i v i t y and as such constitutes a s h i f t in the self-imaging mechanism towards more constructive means of prestige display and status evaluation. Kurtis Blow, a breakdancer and rapper discussing the relationship to gangs explains that: at that time there were lots of gang wars. The Puerto Ricans and blacks would fight against each other. There were gangs l i k e the Savage No Mads, Black Spades, and you also had the Peace Makers. I was in the Peace Makers. A l l these gangs used to fight against each other. These were l i k e the baddest gangs that would ever walk the face of the earth. In those days the gang wars were r e a l l y serious. It was dangerous back then. We would also breakdance against . the other gangs. We used to go to neutral parties and just dance against each other. That would be a form of gang fightin g (in Marlow 1984: 81). Frosty Freeze, another hip hop member, sees the transformation this way: Breaking came about as a way of i n s u l t i n g people by way of body language rather than k i l l i n g . Instead of saying " I ' l l beat you up" they might say, " I ' l l go against your moves and you go against my moves. If I can take you out, then you can't do this or that (in The Daily News, June 29, 1982, pg. M4). Or this from Fred, a former gang member turned g r a f i t t i writer: Instead of taking arms, we took paint. There's some violence in the art...But i t has to be expressed. If there hadn't been g r a f i t t i , there would have been a lot more violence (in Castleman 1982: 107). It should also be noted that this notion of using creative, non-violent means of competition i s not without precedence. In addition to the African dances mentioned in Chapter Eight, such phenomena as Inuit throat singing and i n s t i t u t i o n a l i z e d joking 25 relationships, as well as Helen Codere's discussion of the Northwest Coast Indian potlatch, also lead credence to the idea. Reasons given by ex-gang members turned hip hoppers for the decline of violent gangs include police crackdowns and imprisonment, fear of k i l l i n g s , drug abuse, strong disapproval by g i r l f r i e n d s and families and, simply, "the sign of the times" (Holman 1984: 61; Hager 1984: 10; Toop 1984: 58). Those who remained in gangs apparently refocussed their attentions onto business ventures such as drug dealing, theft and extortion (Campbell and March 1978a: 69). For those that l e f t , hip hop f i l l e d the gap. The substitution is expressed as a natural development. Gangs t r a d i t i o n a l l y used g r a f i t t i as t e r r i t o r i a l markers and to intimidate r i v a l s ( H a g e r 1984: 13); competing through dance and music competency has a long history in black ghettos in general and in the gang i n s t i t u t i o n in p a r t i c u l a r (Hazzard-Gordon 1983b: 247-252); and much of the display of aggression which provided opportunities for status management, testing power and proving oneself that occurred within the gangs was in the form of verbal exchanges (Short 1968: 19; M i l l e r 1968: 141). What occurred was a re-emphasis. As the more violent aspects of gang l i f e subsided, these other a c t i v i t i e s were promoted and developed in turn furthering the dismantlement of the gangs. Subway g r a f f i t i is a case in point. As more and more figh t i n g gang members were drawn to the a c t i v i t y i t competed with their gang a f f i l i a t i o n s . The r i g i d i t y of gang t e r r i t o r i a l 26 confinement interfered with spreading one's name throughout the c i t y . Hence many l e f t the gangs to form writing crews who remained in group formations to ensure safe passage and presumably retain c o l l e c t i v e s o l i d a r i t y (Castleman 1982: 91). One means of assessing this perspective of transfer i s to determine whether or not a reduction in violent gang a c t i v i t y did occur in New York City in the mid 70's. An extensive research project on American gang violence conducted under the supervison of Walter M i l l e r concludes that: For New York, then, the past decade (1965-1975) was characterized by a fi v e year period during which neither predatory nor violent a c t i v i t i e s by gangs were recognized as serious problems; a two year period of rapid growth in the numbers of p o l i c e - i d e n t i f i e d gangs and their spread from the Bronx to other boroughs, accompanied by an upsurge in l e t h a l violence often related to inter-gang combat; and a recent period during which the most l e t h a l forms of gang a c t i v i t y have declined s u b s t a n t i a l l y , while the number of gangs, gang members and gang-member involvement in other forms of crime have remained at a high l e v e l , in some instances increased (1975: 57). These periods correlate to the br i e f period of optimism experienced in the ghetto during the c i v i l rights movement, the subsequent time of reported disillusionment and f i n a l l y the emergence of hip hop. That the e x p l i c i t intention for developing hip hop a c t i v i t i e s was to reduce violent fig h t i n g does not however mean that hip hoppers were not involved in fi g h t s . Indeed as the currency of these a c t i v i t i e s as ego g r a t i f i e r s became greater disputes over challenges could i n c i t e violence (Castleman 1982: 52). As Macho of the Rockwell breaking crew admits: "We won the 27 t r o p h y b u t t h e o t h e r c r e w d i d n ' t want t o a d m i t we won....They w a n t e d t o f i g h t . S e e, b r e a k i n g i s n o t o n l y b r e a k i n g . T h e r e ' s a l o t o f f i g h t i n g , t o o " ( i n Hager 1984: 86). I n d e e d t h e b a l a n c e b e t w e e n s e r i o u s n e s s and what m i g h t be t h o u g h t o f i n t e r m s o f p l a y i s a d e l i c a t e one. A t one l e v e l p l a y i s d i s t i n c t f r o m r e a l i t y o r s e r i o u s n e s s , y e t f o r p l a y t o o p e r a t e s u c c e s s f u l l y t h e r e must be a r e c o g n i z a b l e r e l a t i o n s h i p b e t w e e n i t and t h e s o - c a l l e d r e a l w o r l d . H i p hop i s c h a r a c t e r i z e d by what G e e r t z (1973) r e f e r s t o a s deep p l a y i n w h i c h e x t r e m e commitment, o f t e n i n v o l v i n g r e a l r i s k s , i s demanded. P l a y i s an i m p o r t a n t way o f d i s t i n g u i s h i n g o n e s e l f p u b l i c l y and may f u n c t i o n as a means o f c o n t a i n i n g v i o l e n c e : i t i s most e f f e c t i v e when, as B a t e s o n (1972: 40 i n Abrahams 1976) e x p r e s s e s i t , t h e t h r e a t o f i n c u r s i o n s f r o m t h e r e a l w o r l d a r e c o n s t a n t . " T h a t i s , i n t h e most s u c c e s s f u l k i n d s o f p l a y , t h e most c o n s t a n t message must be t h e d e e p l y a m b i v a l e n t one: t h i s i s p l a y — i s t h i s p l a y ? " . N o n e t h e l e s s w i t h i n h i p hop t h e e x p r e s s e d i d e a l was t o p r o m o t e n o n - v i o l e n t r e s o l u t i o n s and t o t h i s end t r u c e s and c o l l a b o r a t i o n s were a c t i v a t e d t o r e d u c e t e n s i o n . As an a l t e r n a t i v e s y s t e m h i p hop was r e q u i r e d b o t h t o r e t a i n t h e r e c o g n i z a b l e c h a r a c t e r i s t i c s u s e d t o m e asure t h e s u c c e s s f u l s t r e e t man w h i l e c r e a t i n g a d i s t i n c t i o n b e t w e e n h i p h o p p e r s and gang members. Thus e x h i b i t s o f c o o l , a s s e r t i v e n e s s , t h e a b i l i t y t o d i s p a r a g e o t h e r m a l e s , w i n f e m a l e s , d r e s s s t y l i s h l y and p o s s e s s s t r e e t s m a r t s r e m a i n e d t h e c r i t e r i o n f o r j u d g i n g r e p u t a t i o n s ( H o r o w i t z 1983: 90). The i m p o r t a n c e p l a c e d on t o u g h n e s s ( d e f i n e d i n t e r m s o f s t r e n g t h , e n d u r a n c e , p h y s i c a l 28 p r o w e s s , f e a r l e s s n e s s and e m o t i o n a l d e t a c h m e n t ) was t r a n s f e r r e d f r o m t h e gang i n s t i t u t i o n t o h i p hop ( M i l l e r 1968: 154). The s t r e e t f a m i l y s t r u c t u r e i n w h i c h p e e r s p l a y a p r i m a r y r o l e i n s o c i a l i z a t i o n c o n t i n u e d . H i p h o p p e r s speak o f t h e r e l a t i o n s h i p o f o l d e r and y o u n g e r b o y s i n t e r m s o f " f a t h e r " and " s o n " , f o r i n s t a n c e ( i n S t y l e Wars 1982). To s i g n i f y a d i f f e r e n c e , h o w e v e r , t h e f o r m a l h i e r a r c h y and f o r c e d i n s c r i p t i o n among gan g s was r e p l a c e d by a l o o s e l y o r g a n i z e d d e m o c r a t i c s y s t e m w i t h v o l u n t e e r m e m b e r s h i p and l e a d e r s h i p i n f o r m a l l y b a s e d on c h a r i s m a and t a l e n t . A l t h o u g h s o f t d r u g s ( a l c o h o l and m a r i j u a n a ) a r e r e p o r t e d l y u s e d , d r u g use i s n o t a norm nor a f o c a l a c t i v i t y as i t was f o r g a n g s , e s p e c i a l l y f o r b r e a k d a n c e r s , who a v o i d i t as i t i n t e r f e r e s w i t h p e r f o r m a n c e ( H a g e r 1984: 34). A code o f b e h a v i o u r was d e v e l o p e d t h a t s t r e s s e d h o n o u r a b l e y e t n o n - v i o l e n t c o m p e t i t i o n and p r o t e c t i v e p r o m o t i o n o f u n i q u e s t y l e s i n e x p r e s s i o n . R i s k - t a k i n g , f o r e x a m p l e , i n t h e gang c o n t e x t i n v o l v e d f a c e t o f a c e c o n f r o n t a t i o n , armed r o b b e r y as w e l l as t h e t h r e a t o f i m p r i s o n m e n t . H i p Hop r e m a i n e d a h i g h r i s k e n t e r p r i s e — t h e p h y s i c a l r i s k s i n b r e a k d a n c i n g and n e g o t i a t i n g l i v e w i r e s i n subway t u n n e l s ; " r a c k i n g " o r s t e a l i n g p a i n t s ( a l t h o u g h n e v e r b l a t a n t l y o r w i t h f i r e a r m s ) , n o t t o m e n t i o n t h e a r t i s t i c r i s k s i n v o l v e d i n c r e a t i n g a new s t y l e w i t h i n a p u b l i c f o r u m . F i n a l l y t h e i n t r o d u c t i o n o f a c l e a n a t h l e t i c l o o k v i s u a l l y d i s t i n g u i s h e d h i p h o p p e r s f r o m t h e t o u g h , s c r u f f y a p p e a r a n c e o f gang members s p o r t i n g c h a i n s , b o o t s , j e a n s and " c o l o u r s " (Holman 1984: 132). 29 1.4 Symbolic R e p r e s e n t a t i o n s Indeed to uncover the u n d e r l y i n g s e l f - i m a g e t h a t h i p hoppers are c o n s t r u c t i n g f o r t h e m s e l v e s , t h e r e i s no b e t t e r p l a c e t o look than at s t y l e s of d r e s s . The b-boy (another term f o r h i p hopper) s t y l e s t r e s s e s a c t i o n c l o t h e s and a f r e s h , f u t u r i s t i c e n e r g e t i c l o o k . J o g g i n g s u i t s , hooded s w e a t s h i r t s , b a s e b a l l caps and Kangol hats dominate t h e i r a t t i r e . The most i d e n t i f i a b l e mark of t h i s look are brand name sneakers worn w i t h f a t , c o l o u r f u l l a c e s , which have become the i c o n of the s u b c u l t u r e , a l o n g w i t h the infamous g h e t t o b l a s t e r or "boom box" — both e s s e n t i a l t o o l s of the t r a d e . As a p o s s i b l e throwback t o gang c o n v e n t i o n j a c k e t s are o f t e n i n s c r i b e d w i t h p e r s o n a l or crew names ( g e n e r a l l y p a i n t e d on by the g r a f f i t i w r i t e r s ) and nameplate n e c k l a c e s and b e l t b u c k l e s a l s o d i s p l a y t h e i r s t r e e t or performance names. Members of the Zulu N a t i o n , now d i s b a n d e d , wore an i d e n t i f y i n g i n s i g n i a . In the e a r l y phases of the movement the most s u c c e s s f u l r a p p e r s p e r f o r m i n g i n n i g h t c l u b s and i n c o n c e r t s developed a much f l a s h i e r w i l d look to promote the image of awesome power. The members of the S o u l s o n i c F o r c e , f o r i n s t a n c e , t y p i c a l l y appeared garbed as an I n d i a n w a r r i o r , a k n i g h t , a c e n t u r i o n and an A f r i c a n w a r r i o r — a l l s u i t a b l y c o o l e d out w i t h shades and g o l d c r e a t i n g a s c i - f i t w i s t to the image ( F l i n k e r 1985: 55-56). Even f o o t b a l l s h o u l d e r pads were added to exaggerate t h e i r h e r o i c p r o p o r t i o n s ( i b i d . : 7 5 ) . A c c e s s o r i e s , such as studded w r i s t bands, were borrowed from punk f a s h i o n to enhance t h e i r tough l o o k . 30 As h i p hoppers f u r t h e r e s t a b l i s h e d themselves w i t h i n the b l a c k e n t e r t a i n m e n t i n d u s t r y , the look was upgraded t o s i g n i f y t h e i r s u c c e s s . E x p ensive brand name s p o r t s u i t s , such as F i l a and A d i d a s , appeared and the con s p i c u o u s d i s p l a y of g o l d j e w e l r y i n c r e a s e d . S e v e r a l o n e - i n c h g o l d c h a i n s w i t h huge s o l i d g o l d charms of Adidas runners or gun "peace symbols" are the most r e c e n t symbols of h i p hop. Amateurs, s t i l l p e r f o r m i n g on the s t r e e t s , have d i f f i c u l t y k e e p i n g up w i t h the expenses but by " s p o r t i n g " fake g o l d and c o p i e s of d e s i g n e r sportswear they are a b l e t o m a i n t a i n the a p p r o p r i a t e image. A c c o r d i n g to the i n v e s t i g a t o r ' s i n f o r m a n t s , the a s s o c i a t i o n i s s u f f i c i e n t t o i n s u r e s t a t u s . No one i s r e a l l y f o o l e d but everyone s u p p o r t s the c u l t u r a l f i c t i o n . What i s b e i n g e x p r e s s e d i s a deep d e s i r e and b e l i e f i n an image of s u c c e s s . P l a y i n g i t c o o l a l l o w s f o r t h i s t y p e of s u s p e n s i o n of r e a l i t y i n the name of s a v i n g f a c e and l o o k i n g good. Body s t a n c e s , or poses, have a l s o been i n t r o d u c e d and are used g e n e r a l l y by a l l members as w e l l as b e i n g i n c o r p o r a t e d i n t o the breakdance v o c a b u l a r y . Poses t h a t s t r e s s male toughness and v i r i l i t y a r e the norm — arms c r o s s e d t i g h t l y h i g h a c r o s s the c h e s t , c h i n up and o u t , head cocked t o one s i d e , f e e t w i d e l y s e t ; hands cupped around the g e n i t a l s ; the f a c e c o n t o r t e d i n t o a scowl w h i l e f l a s h i n g the Zulu peace s i g n ( i n d e x and p i n k y extended) ( C h a l f a n t and P r i g o f f 1987: 8 ) . To r e i n f o r c e group i d e n t i t y h i p hoppers have developed t h e i r own i n - g r o u p l e x i c o n drawing on e x i s t i n g b l a c k v e r n a c u l a r and c o m p r i s i n g an e l a b o r a t e b a t t l e metaphor to emphasize the 31 c o m p e t i t i v e a s p e c t o f t h e i r r i t u a l w a r f a r e . T r a i n s a r e "bombed" o r " d e s t r o y e d " ; " t o y s " o r " s u c k e r s " a r e " t a k e n o u t " o r " c u t " and " k i n g s " o r " m a s t e r s " " b u r n " or "blow away" r i v a l s w i t h " d e f " ( d e a t h ) moves. An e x i s t i n g d u a l i t y o f m e a n i n g i n a g g r e s s i v e l a n g u a g e l e n t i n s e l f t o t h i s f o r m o f s y m b o l i c w a r f a r e . The t e r m s ' t o c u t ' and ' t o b l o w away', f o r e x a m p l e , can mean e i t h e r t o l i t e r a l l y a s s a u l t someone o r t o i m p r e s s i n c r e d i b l y t h r o u g h a c u l t u r a l p e r f o r m a n c e (Brown 1972; F o l b 1980). H i p hop r e d e f i n e d o t h e r t e r m s t h a t o r i g i n a l l y o n l y r e f e r r e d t o p h y s i c a l v i o l e n c e , s u c h a s ' t o b u r n ' , a d d i n g t h e p e r f o r m a t i v e m e a n i n g . The o v e r a l l o b j e c t i v e i n t h e c r e a t i o n o f t h i s s e l f - i m a g e i s t o d e v i s e a means o f d e m a n d i n g r e s p e c t and e x p r e s s i n g i n t e g r i t y . A c c o r d i n g t o f o r m e r h i p h o p p e r and c r e w manager M i c h a e l Holman, a c t i n g o r l o o k i n g c o o l e l i c i t s r e s p e c t on t h e s t r e e t s and on t h e s t r e e t s " r e s p e c t i s p a ramount t o s u r v i v a l . . . . I n o r d e r n o t t o be messed w i t h on t h e s t r e e t s one must a l w a y s p r o j e c t t h e image o f p ower, s t r e n g t h and c o o l " ( Holman 1984: 132). ' C o o l 1 , t h e m a i n t a i n i n g o f s e l f - c o n t r o l and c o m p o s u r e u n d e r p r e s s u r e , as w e l l a s ' s o u l ' o r ' h e a r t * a r e c o n c e p t s w h i c h h a v e c a r r i e d o v e r i n t o h i p hop and r e m a i n v i s i b l e ; h o wever t h e e t h o s o f h i p hop i s most a c c u r a t e l y c h a r a c t e r i z e d by two o t h e r v e r n a c u l a r t e r m s -- 'bad' and ' f r e s h ' , b o t h of w h i c h a r e u s e d t o e x p r e s s c u l t u r a l v a l u e s and a e s t h e t i c c o n c e r n s . 'Bad' i s a l i n g u i s t i c i n v e r s i o n o f t h e common u s a g e , r e f e r r i n g t o t h a t w h i c h i s g o o d , i m b u i n g i t w i t h t h e t o u g h image i t may need t o r e t a i n c u r r e n c y on t h e s t r e e t . As w e l l 'bad' 32 denotes b e h a v i o u r and a t t i t u d e s , such as " r a c k i n g up" spray p a i n t s , which i n mainstream terms are h e l d t o be bad y e t are admired w i t h i n the s u b c u l t u r e . 'Fresh' a l o n e e p i t o m i z e s a l l t h a t i s new and r i g h t w i t h i n h i p hop, s i g n i f y i n g at the c u l t u r a l l e v e l the move to r e d e f i n e themselves i n a p o s i t i v e , c o n s t r u c t i v e manner. A c c o r d i n g t o music c r i t i c N e l s o n George (1985a: x v i i i ) , t h e i r use of ' f r e s h ' s i g n i f i e s t h a t which i s i n n o v a t i v e , o p t i m i s t i c , a r r o g a n t and p o s i t i v e i n s p i r i t and r e j e c t s t h a t which i s b l a t a n t l y i m i t a t i v e or s t a g n a n t . As Mr. Fresh h i m s e l f puts i t "the Zulu N a t i o n means to k i d s t h a t they w i l l get more from t h e i r d a n c i n g , s i n g i n g and p a i n t i n g than from f i g h t i n g . I t means b e l i e v i n g i n y o u r s e l f so much t h a t i n s p i t e of a l l odds a g a i n s t you, you can a c h i e v e something w o r t h w h i l e and get somewhere i f you s t i c k w i t h i t " (Mr. Fr e s h and the Supreme B r e a k e r s 1984: 11). And t h a t ' s f r e s h . 1.5 D i f f u s i o n and E l a b o r a t i o n A l t h o u g h h i p hop began as an i n t e r n a l l y c o n s t r u c t e d movement i n the Bronx i t q u i c k l y spread throughout New York C i t y , the e a s t c o a s t , a c r o s s t o Los Angeles and e v e n t u a l l y became a worldwide youth s u b c u l t u r e w i t h f o l l o w e r s from a l l s o c i o e c o n o m i c and e t h n i c backgrounds. The p r o c e s s of d i f f u s i o n i n v o l v e d a p o p u l a r i z a t i o n and c o m m e r c i a l i z a t i o n which n e c e s s a r i l y i n c l u d e d a r e l a t i o n s h i p w i t h the mainstream c u l t u r e — the mainstream making i t s p r e s e nce f e l t w i t h i n the h i p hop c u l t u r e and v i c e v e r s a . 33 In the early stages of i t s development the mass media played a key role in the continuation of the subculture. A r t i c l e s on the phenomenon in the newspaper and on t e l e v i s i o n helped maintain the momentum of the enterprise while a r t i c u l a t i n g the p a r t i c u l a r s . Indeed the construction of a cohesive image through the media documentation no doubt influenced the forthcoming expressions. And, as hip hop evolved, media recognition and success in mainstream terms became prized sources of fame and esteem, reinforcing the existing predisposition towards performative entertainment. Hip hop became very caught up in sophisticated merchandizing of consumer goods to ghetto kids by tying products to hip hop stars, primarily breakdancers. On their part hip hoppers blatantly appropriated from mainstream popular culture, half mocking, half celebrating i t as they converted i t to f i t their needs and gave i t new meaning. By 1980 what had been exclusively a street culture was also becoming an entertainment business. Street dancers and rappers began competing for night club bookings, recording contracts and spots on T.V. shows. G r a f f i t i a r t i s t s began to organize legitimate public art projects, were painting movie backdrops and album covers and were being asked to exhibit their works on canvas in prestigious g a l l e r i e s . The stakes shifted and a d i s t i n c t i o n between professionals and amateurs emerged. The ensuing debate over whether the changes would destroy the street movement began. Yet, as b i c u l t u r a l c i t i z e n s , that is members of both a 34 g h e t t o - s p e c i f i c and t h e m a i n s t r e a m c u l t u r e ( H a n n e r z 1969), t h e s e s h i f t s i n e m p h a s i s were g e n e r a l l y a c c e p t e d q u i t e n a t u r a l l y and t h e two p o l e s o f t h e c o n t i n u u m were n o t v i e w e d as m u t u a l l y e x c l u s i v e . And, l i k e a t h e l e t e s o r o t h e r b l a c k e n t e r t a i n e r s , a h i p h o p p e r c a n s u c c e s s f u l l y m e a sure h i m s e l f a g a i n s t t h e m a i n s t r e a m y a r d s t i c k w h i l e r e m a i n i n g c o m m i t t e d t o much o f t h e g h e t t o - s p e c i f i c image o f m a s c u l i n i t y . F o r e x a m p l e , g r a f f i t i w r i t e r s , u s i n g p u b l i c s p a c e , have a l w a y s had t o b a l a n c e t h e i r d e s i r e f o r p e e r r e c o g n i t i o n w i t h e f f o r t s t o w i n o v e r t h e g e n e r a l p u b l i c . The New Y o r k C i t y B r e a k e r s a l t h o u g h t h e y welcomed t h e o p p o r t u n i t y t o t o u r t h e w o r l d p e r f o r m i n g , s t r e s s t h a t w henever t h e need a r o s e , " l i k e i f someone made a f o o l o f u s " , t h e y w o u l d do b a t t l e , s t r e e t - s t y l e , i n o r d e r t o p r e s e r v e t h e i r h onour ( W a t k i n s and F r a n k l i n 1984: 82). I n t h e summer o f 1984 t h e i n v e s t i g a t o r was w i t n e s s t o a c a s e i n p o i n t . K T e l I n t e r n a t i o n a l s p o n s o r e d a b r e a k d a n c i n g c o m p e t i t i o n i n V a n c o u v e r w h i c h i n r e a l i t y d i d n o t r e s e m b l e an o r i g i n a l b a t t l e . P e r f o r m e r s d i d n o t da n c e f o r e a c h o t h e r b u t t o w a r d s a p a n e l o f j u d g e s . The p e r f o r m a n c e s were e v a l u a t e d a c c o r d i n g t o a p r e s c r i b e d c r i t e r i o n , n o t a u d i e n c e a p p e a l . Among t h e c o m p e t i t o r s was one c r e w , t h e Dynamic R o c k e r s , f r o m New Y o r k C i t y . The r e s t were r e c e n t l y f o r m e d l o c a l g r o u p s who had n e v e r e x p e r i e n c e d t h e h o n o u r - r i d d e n b a t t l e s o f t h e s t r e e t g e n r e . When t h e w i n n e r s were a n n o u n c e d a S e a t t l e c r e w came o u t a h e a d o f t h e New Y o r k e r s . W i t h i n moments t h e e n t i r e mood and s i g n i f i c a n c e o f t h e e v e n t s h i f t e d . We were no l o n g e r w a t c h i n g a f o r m o f 3 5 e n t e r t a i n m e n t but a s t r u g g l e to r e s t o r e l o s t honour. The New York dancers removed t h e i r showy costumes and took over the s t a g e , t h r o w i n g out a c h a l l e n g e to the w i n n e r s . The S e a t t l e group was c o m p l e t e l y out of i t s element and s i m p l y c o u l d not dance w i t h the s p o n t a n e i t y and a g g r e s s i o n t h a t the c h a l l e n g e r e q u i r e d . And, as they say, the crowd went w i l d . The judges were f o r c e d to change t h e i r d e c i s i o n and the Dynamic Rockers r e t u r n e d t o New York w i t h t h e i r p r i d e , r e p u t a t i o n and manhood i n t a c t . Bambaataa's dream of a g h e t t o youth who c o u l d b e t t e r h i m s e l f through a r t i s t i c e x p r e s s i o n became a dream of freedom from the l i m i t a t i o n s of the g h e t t o through "making i t " i n h i p hop (Marlow 1984: 70; N a d e l l and S m a l l 1984: 12). What o c c u r r e d was a r e f o c u s i n g of the p r o b l e m - s o l v i n g agenda and c o n s e q u e n t l y of meaning ( a l t h o u g h not n e c e s s a r i l y of form) from r e s o l u t i o n s of gang v i o l e n c e to a r t i c u l a t i o n s of c u l t u r a l p r i d e and p e r s o n a l achievement. The commercial phase i n h i p hop development p r o v i d e d a s o l u t i o n t o economic r e s t r i c t i o n s i n h e r e n t i n g h e t t o l i v i n g and was promoted as a l e g i t i m a t e anwser to t h e i r f i n a n c i a l problems. Indeed the re-emphasis, as the immediacy of the gang problem waned, no doubt h e l p e d keep the movement v i a b l e . And, u l t i m a t e l y , even i f commercial s u c c e s s was not a c h i e v e d , i t was f e l t t h a t by s i m p l y b e i n g i n v o l v e d and committed to h i p hop a r t s the mind and s p i r i t were f r e e d from t h e i r bonds. 36 1.6 Note on Puerto Rican Involvement A l t h o u g h h i p hop i s , to a g r e a t e x t e n t , a s u b c u l t u r e c o n s t r u c t e d and m a i n t a i n e d by American b l a c k male g h e t t o d w e l l e r s , i n New York C i t y a s i g n i f i c a n t membership i s made up of P u e r t o R i c a n y o u t h s . Hip hop a c t i v i t i e s , by c r o s s c u t t i n g t e r r i t o r i a l and e t h n i c r e s t r i c t i o n s i n the p u r s u i t of e x c e l l e n c e , broke down the b o u n d a r i e s between the two groups. T r a d i t i o n a l l y , b l a c k y o u t h , f o r example, l i s t e n e d t o funk music w h i l e P u e r t o R i c a n s p r e f e r r e d d i s c o . Once e s t a b l i s h e d , rap and b r e a k i n g were p i c k e d up and e l a b o r a t e d by P u e r t o R i c a n s and the two groups teamed up t o make the b e s t crews p o s s i b l e (Holman, 1984: 56). P u e r t o R i c a n s not o n l y p a r t i c i p a t e i n h i p hop but are a c t i v e i n d e t e r m i n i n g i t s c o n t e n t . I t i s not w i t h i n the scope of the p r e s e n t study to s y s t e m a t i c a l l y a n a l y z e the P u e r t o R i c a n - b a s e d components of h i p hop, but i t i s w o r t h w h i l e t o address the q u e s t i o n of whether P u e r t o R i c a n c u l t u r e , both i n P u e r t o R i c o and i n New York C i t y , e x h i b i t s any r e l e v a n t c h a r a c t e r i s t i c s t h a t might suggest a c o m p a t i b i l i t y w i t h the A f r o - A m e r i c a n o r i e n t a t i o n s t h a t l e a d to h i p hop. Oscar L e w i s , i n h i s c o n t r o v e r s i a l work La V i d a (1965), p r e s e n t s a view of P u e r t o R i c a n c u l t u r e w i t h i n the c o n t e x t of the l a r g e r phenomenon of a c u l t u r e of p o v e r t y . In summary, the dominant c u l t u r a l s t y l e of P u e r t o R i c a n s , as p r e s e n t e d by L e w i s , i s e x p r e s s i v e i n n a t u r e as i s the case w i t h American b l a c k s . P u e r t o R i c a n slum d w e l l e r s . . . show a g r e a t z e s t f o r l i f e , e s p e c i a l l y sex and a need f o r e x c i t e m e n t , new e x p e r i e n c e s and a d v e n t u r e s . T h e i r s i s an e x p r e s s i v e s t y l e of l i f e . They v a l u e a c t i n g out more than t h i n k i n g o u t , 37 s e l f - e x p r e s s i o n more than s e l f - c o n s t r a i n t , p l e a s u r e more than p r o d u c t i v i t y , s pending more than s a v i n g , p e r s o n a l l o y a l t y more than i m p e r s o n a l j u s t i c e . They are f u n - l o v i n g and e n j o y p a r t i e s , d a n c i n g and music ( x x v i ) . P u e r t o R i c a n s , a people of mixed S p a n i s h , C a r i b b e a n b l a c k and I n d i a n a n c e s t r y , p o r t r a y a L a t i n American e t h o s . One a s p e c t of t h i s ethos t h a t i s p a r t i c u l a r l y r e l e v a n t to the s t u d y of h i p hop i s the male i d e o l o g y of machismo which e x p r e s s e s m a s c u l i n e s e l f - c o n f i d e n c e . A P u e r t o R i c a n boy i s "encouraged t o e x p r e s s machismo through a g g r e s s i o n , freedom of movement, f e a t s of s t r e n g t h , v e r b a l and m e c h a n i c a l s k i l l s , s e x u a l prowess, the defense of h i s honour and t h a t of h i s f a m i l y , r e s p o n s i b i l i t y f o r h i s s i s t e r s ' v i r t u e and h i s mother's good name, r e f u s a l to do women's work, gambling and d r i n k i n g " ( i b i d . : 60). Thus a P u e r t o R i c a n macho man i s i n s t i l l e d w i t h v i r t u e s q u i t e s i m i l a r t o those of b l a c k American g h e t t o males. Both groups of men share i n a b e l i e f t h a t r e c o g n i t i o n comes i n the form of w i n n i n g a r e p u t a t i o n as b e i n g a g g r e s s i v e i n the s t r e e t s e t t i n g , t h a t u l t i m a t e l y f a t e w i l l determine t h e i r d e s t i n y , t h a t peer groups form an i m p o r t a n t extended f a m i l y system, t h a t h a v i n g ' h e a r t ' or courage i s the key to s e l f - r e s p e c t and t h a t s t y l e of p r e s e n t a t i o n , e s p e c i a l l y through smart c l o t h e s , can make the man. A c c o r d i n g to a s t u d y conducted by s o c i o l o g i s t John Horton (1972), b l a c k s and P u e r t o R i c a n s are both p r e s e n t - o r i e n t e d , as a r e most people who l i v e r e l a t i v e l y p o w e r l e s s l i v e s , y e t they s u r v i v e i n p a r t by f a n t a s i z i n g about a b r i g h t e r f u t u r e ( 1 9 ) . E x c e r p t s from a P u e r t o R i c a n immigrant's account of l i f e i n New York C i t y g r a p h i c a l l y e x p r e s s e s the common i d e o l o g y . 38 Hey w o r l d — h e r e I am. H u l l o w o r l d — t h i s i s P i r i . T h a t ' s me. I wanna t e l l y a I'm h e r e — you bunch o f m o t h e r - j u m p e r s -- I'm h e r e and I want r e c o g n i t i o n , w h a t e v e r t h a t m u d d e r - f u c k i n ' word means ( i x ) . . . . I ' m t o u g h , v o i c e w i t h i n s a i d . I hope I'm t o u g h enough. I am t o u g h enough. I ' v e g o t mucho c o r a z o n , I'm k i n g w h e r e v e r I go. I'm a k i l l e r t o my h e a r t . I n o t o n l y c a n l i v e , I w i l l l i v e , no punk o u t , no d i e o u t , w a l k b a d , be down, c o o l b r e e z e , smooth (Thomas 1970: 48). An a f f i n i t y t o w a r d s s t r e e t c u l t u r e , p a r t i c u l a r l y i n t h e f o r m o f d a n c e and m u s i c , i s a l s o s h a r e d by A m e r i c a n b l a c k s and P u e r t o R i c a n s . P u e r t o R i c a n m u s i c , a l t h o u g h i n f l u e n c e d by S p a n i s h s o u n d s , i s c l e a r l y b a s e d on A f r i c a n r h y t h m s ( M a r r e and C h a r l t o n 1985: 77). A t r a d i t i o n o f s o c i a l commentary t h r o u g h s t r e e t m u s i c was b r o u g h t t o New Y o r k C i t y where o r i g i n a l , h e a v i l y macho s a l s a b e a t s were s p e e d e d up t o f i t t h e modern, u r b a n p a c e ( i b i d . : 70). A c c o r d i n g t o Roseman, P u e r t o R i c a n s i n New Y o r k C i t y have c o n s c i o u s l y d e v e l o p e d t h e a t r i c a l means o f c r e a t i n g a new e t h n i c i d e n t i t y . By c o m b i n i n g t r a d i t i o n a l h i s t o r y , A f r o - A m e r i c a n e l e m e n t s , and t h e i r new e x p e r i e n c e s o f an u r b a n e n v i r o n m e n t , t h e y h a v e a t t e m p t e d t o t a k e c o n t r o l o f t h e i r i m a g e - m a k i n g m a c h i n e r y (1980: 45). P a r t i c u l a r l y i n t h e l a t e 1950's and e a r l y 60's when l a r g e numbers o f P u e r t o R i c a n i m m i g r a n t s were e n t e r i n g t h e p r e d o m i n a n t l y b l a c k n e i g h b o u r h o o d s , r e l a t i o n s b e t ween t h e two g r o u p s were s t r a i n e d . A l t h o u g h more r e c e n t l y s e c o n d and t h i r d g e n e r a t i o n P u e r t o R i c a n s have been e s t a b l i s h i n g f r i e n d s h i p s w i t h b l a c k A m e r i c a n s , r i v a l r i e s r e m a i n i n s t i t u t i o n a l i z e d i n g a n g a f f i l i a t i o n s and o t h e r s e p a r a t e s o c i a l o r g a n i z a t i o n s ( C l a r k 1981: 69) . 39 One s i g n i f i c a n t a r e a t h r o u g h w h i c h t o o b s e r v e t h e e m e r g i n g r e l a t i o n s h i p b e t w e e n b l a c k s and P u e r t o R i c a n s i s t h a t o f l a n g u a g e . Due t o p r o x i m i t y and t h e above m e n t i o n e d c u l t u r a l a f f i n i t i e s , H i s p a n i c s l e a r n i n g E n g l i s h a d o p t b l a c k v e r n a c u l a r s p e e c h ( S i l v e r m a n 1975: 331). T h i s i s e s p e c i a l l y t r u e o f P u e r t o R i c a n c h i l d r e n who i n t e r a c t w i t h b l a c k s i n s c h o o l and on t h e s t r e e t s . S i l v e r m a n ' s s t u d y i s p a r t i c u l a r l y h e l p f u l i n t h a t i t c o n s t r u c t s a s e t o f d e f i n i n g c h a r a c t e r i s t i c s f o r t h e P u e r t o R i c a n g r o u p who e x h i b i t e d t h e most p r o f i c i e n c y i n b l a c k E n g l i s h . T h i s g r o u p were t e e n a g e b o y s who w e re a s s o c i a t e s o f b l a c k s , b u t a l s o w e r e p h y s i c a l l y b i g g e r and s t r o n g e r t h a n o t h e r P u e r t o R i c a n b o y s , more p h y s i c a l l y and v e r b a l l y a g g r e s s i v e and more a c t i o n - o r i e n t e d (348). T h i s g r o u p c o u l d w e l l c h a r a c t e r i z e m e m b e r s h i p i n s t r e e t g a n g s o r i n h i p hop. We must be c a r e f u l n o t t o o v e r - e m p h a s i z e t h e p a r a l l e l s b e t w e e n P u e r t o R i c a n s and A m e r i c a n b l a c k s , h o w e v e r , f o r t o do s o i s t o be g u i l t y o f l e v e l l i n g t h r o u g h g e n e r a l i t i e s . C l e a r l y P u e r t o R i c a n h i s t o r y and c u l t u r a l h e r i t a g e , r e l i g i o n and so f o r t h s e p a r a t e them f r o m b l a c k s i n New Y o r k and a s s i m i l a t i o n i s by no means u n i f o r m . N o n e t h e l e s s , a s h a r e d s e n s i b i l i t y t o w a r d s a g g r e s s i v e e x p r e s s i v e n e s s and common f o r m s o f m a s c u l i n e d i s p l a y i n d i c a t e s a c o m p a t i b i l i t y o f t h e v a l u e s and a e s t h e t i c s t h a t c o m p r i s e h i p hop -- an e x p l i c i t b l a c k - L a t i n s y n t h e s i s . 40 CHAPTER TWO RAP MDSIC: AN INTRODUCTION 2.1 E a r l y DJinq and MCinq Rapping, or b l a c k s t r e e t t a l k , has been t r a n s f o r m e d w i t h i n h i p hop i n t o a form of m u s i c a l chant performed by MCs accompanied by DJs who have d e v i s e d an e n t i r e l y unique m u s i c a l sound based on the m a n i p u l a t i o n of phonographic r e c o r d s and r e c o r d i n g equipment. As w i t h o t h e r e x p r e s s i v e forms of h i p hop, rap music began i n the South Bronx of New York C i t y i n the e a r l y 1970's and was promoted as a v i a b l e avenue f o r i d e n t i t y c r e a t i o n and problem s o l v i n g ; a c o n s t r u c t i v e means of g a i n i n g s t a t u s and r e p u t a t i o n i n the community. Both s e l f - r e s p e c t and r e s p e c t from o t h e r s were a c h i e v e d through e x h i b i t s of competency i n rap music. M o b i l e dance p a r t y DJs who worked p a r k s , s c h o o l s , community c e n t r e s and house p a r t i e s developed t h e i r m i x i n g s k i l l s i n o r d e r t o compete w i t h o t h e r DJs i n promoting the h o t t e s t dance music. The m u s i c a l breaks i n r e c o r d s , the i n s t r u m e n t a l s e c t i o n i n which heavy p e r c u s s i o n and bass l i n e s dominate, were s e l e c t e d out and s p l i c e d t o g e t h e r or p l a y e d over and over a g a i n t o extend t h e i r l e n g t h (Toop 1984: 12). A f r i k a Bambaataa, o r i g i n a t o r of the Zulu N a t i o n , began as a DJ. He e x p l a i n s t h a t the o b j e c t i v e of b r e a k - b e a t music was to s t i m u l a t e e n t h u s i a s i m , to s u r p r i s e and d e l i g h t the crowd. In a c o n t e s t of "bugging o u t " an a u d i e n c e , "whoever c o l l e c t e d the most dancers around h i s system was d e c l a r e d the winner" ( i n Hager 1984: 34). 41 In an e f f o r t to add excitement DJs joined up with MCs (often l o c a l j i v e - t a l k i n g radio announcers) who rapped over the music short catch phrases popular on the streets as well as rhymes and personal or s o c i a l commentaries. An MC would talk about the s k i l l s of the DJ hoping to win over the crowd. As one participant, Phase, expresses i t : "It was a l l about taking a guy out, burning him. The big phrase was 'I'm gonna turn this party out'" (in Toop 1984: 37). Stimulated by competition and growing popularity (by 1975 hip hop DJs were the culture heroes in the Bronx) more and more elaborate sound t r i c k s were developed in addition to the roles of MC rappers becoming more sophisticated. Short improvisations were augmented with longer written rhymes. Kool Here, one the f i r s t hip hop rappers, for instance, took phrases " l i k e what was happening in the streets, what was the new saying going around the high schools, l i k e 'rocking my mellow' and 'to be beat y ' a l l ' and just elaborated on that" ( i b i d . : 69). Short narratives, drawing on personal experiences or comments on current a f f a i r s were developed. Raps incorporated clever turns of phrase, popular quotes, references to well-known songs, cl i c h e s and c u l t u r a l images -- a l l executed with perfect timing of word significance to rhythmic or musical intensity (Friedland 1983: 27). Sound equipment — mixers, drum machines, echo chambers, mutliple turntables -- became instruments to be played in the search for funky beats. "Scratching", the rhythmic backcueing of a record for accent, for example, was added to a 42 DJ's s k i l l s as was "punch p h r a s i n g " , t h r o w i n g out a v o c a l l i n e , drum s l a p , bass l i n e or horn on one t u r n t a b l e w h i l e k e e p i n g the beat g o i n g on a n o t h e r . 2.2 Source M a t e r i a l s and Development The a c t u a l p r o c e s s of c o n s t r u c t i n g the m u s i c a l component i l l u s t r a t e s a most c r e a t i v e a b i l i t y to c r e a t e something new from e x i s t i n g m a t e r i a l s . At an a r t i s t i c l e v e l t h i s i n n o v a t i v e n e s s p a r a l l e l s at the c u l t u r a l l e v e l the h i p hop s e n t i m e n t of d e s i r i n g an a l t e r n a t i v e way of l i f e w i t h i n the l i m i t a t i o n s of the g h e t t o . DJs a p p r o p r i a t e r e c o r d e d m u s i c , r e d e f i n i n g i t . a n d making i t d i s t i n c t l y t h e i r s , j u s t as g r a f f i t i w r i t e r s a p p r o p r i a t e and t r a n s f o r m p u b l i c space, a s s e r t i n g t h e i r i d e n t i t i e s on i t and b r e a k d a n c e r s a p p r o p r i a t e movements from the mass media, t r a n s f o r m i n g them i n t o s t a t ements of t h e i r p e r s o n a l s u p e r i o r i t y . In a s e a r c h f o r s u r p r i s i n g mixes DJs broke down m u s i c a l b a r r i e r s . A f r i c a n , L a t i n American, heavy metal r o c k , Japanese e l e c t r o n i c s , c l a s s i c a l , pop, punk, even c o u n t r y r e c o r d s were s c r e e n e d f o r funky beats and o f t e n combined i n a s i n g l e t r a c k . They decomposed mainstream music and r e c o n s t r u c t e d i t i n t o an e n t i r e l y unique m u s i c a l form which r e f l e c t e d t h e i r c u l t u r a l s t y l e . Rap music has no m u s i c i a n s per s e , the sound i s c r e a t e d from e x i s t i n g music as m u s i c a l a c r o b a t s m a n i p u l a t e i t almost beyond r e c o g n i t i o n . C o m p e t i t i o n s p u r r e d DJs to g y m n a s t i c h e i g h t s , u s i n g f e e t , heads, noses, t e e t h and tongues to s p i n r e c o r d s . 43 T h i s m u s i c a l cut and p a s t e draws h e a v i l y on p o p u l a r c u l t u r e . I d e n t i f i a b l e fragments of p o p u l a r music l y r i c s , TV shows and movies were l i f t e d d i r e c t l y and i m p l a n t e d i n t o the music. The c u t s , f o r example, blended t o g e t h e r i n Grandmaster and the F u r i o u s F i v e s ' "Wheels of S t e e l " (1981) mix i n c l u d e " E i g h t Wonder" by the S u g a r h i l l Gang, " B i r t h d a y P a r t y " by Grandmaster and the F u r i o u s F i v e , "Monster Jam" by Sponnie Gee, "Good Times" by C h i c , "Another One B i t e s the Dust" by Queen and "Rapture" by B l o n d i e . These segments, however, are g i v e n new meanings i n t h e i r new c o n t e x t s . The phrase " I fought the law" from the song of the same name, f o r i n s t a n c e , was i n s e r t e d i n t o a ra p , but i n s t e a d of the o r i g i n a l c o n c l u s i o n "and the law won", the rapper a s s e r t s , "and I won", t h e r e b y c l e v e r l y i n v e r t i n g the n a t u r a l o r d e r of t h i n g s i n an uncommon a s s e r t i o n of power through s e l f - d e c l a r a t i o n . The music r e p r e s e n t s an a r t i s t i c c r e a t i o n t h a t not o n l y a p p r o p r i a t e s p o p u l a r c u l t u r e but a l s o i n t e g r a t e s elements from i t s b l a c k m u s i c a l background. A r t h i s t o r i a n and A f r i c a n i s t , R obert Thompson ( p e r s o n a l communique February 6, 1986) has t r a c e d f i v e d i s t i n c t c u l t u r a l groups which c o n t r i b u t e d to the m u s i c a l environment f o r i t s development: b l a c k immigrants to New York C i t y from Barbados, Cuba and J a m a i c a , as w e l l as P u e r t o R i c a n s and b l a c k Americans. One example of t h i s s y n t h e s i s i s suggested i n the f a c t t h a t American r a d i o j i v e DJs i n f l u e n c e d Jamaican s t y l e t o a s t i n g , which i n t u r n , v i a K o o l Here, a Jamaican immigrant, e n t e r e d the h i p hop scene (Toop 1984: 39). T h i s m u s i c a l f u s i o n p a r a l l e l s the c u l t u r a l f u s i o n and peacemaking between t r a d i t i o n a l l y r i v a l f a c t i o n s t h a t the movement c l a i m s t o 44 h a v e . p r o m o t e d . MC r a p p e r s i n t h e i r p r o c e s s o f e l a b o r a t i o n and s e a r c h f o r u n i q u e s t y l e s e x p e r i m e n t w i t h v o i c e i l l u s i o n s ( a g a i n p a r a l l e l i n g t h e i l l u s i o n s c r e a t e d i n g r a f f i t i and b r e a k i n g ) . R a p p e r s l i t e r a l l y t r a n s f o r m t h e m s e l v e s i n t o s o u n d e f f e c t m a c h i n e r y , i m i t a t i n g drum m a c h i n e s ("human b e a t b o x i n g " ) , r e c o r d s c r a t c h i n g and e ven TV r o b o t s ( " t r a n s f o r m i n g " ) . A g a i n m u s i c a l t r a n s f o r m a t i o n s may s i g n i f y t h e t r a n s f o r m a t i o n o f t h e ego and t h e c o m m u n i t y w h i c h i s t h e b a s i s o f h i p hop. What o r i g i n a l l y were p a r t y r a p s , e x p l i c i t l y done t o s t i m u l a t e d a n c i n g ( b o t h s o c i a l d a n c e , and b r e a k d a n c i n g — w h i c h d e v e l o p e d a l o n g s i d e r a p m u s i c ) , a l s o c o n t a i n e d s t r o n g e l e m e n t s o f b r a g g i n g and s e l f - a g r a n d i z e m e n t , as w e l l as s o c i a l commentary. " T h i s i s n o t an u n u s u a l c o m b i n a t i o n f o r t r a d i t i o n a l l y t h e d a n c e p a r t y has been an a r e n a f o r s o c i a l i z a t i o n and ego d i s p l a y and e v a l u a t i o n among b l a c k t e e n s ( C l a r k 1974). E v e n t u a l l y , a l t h o u g h o v e r l a p c o n t i n u e d , t h e t h r e e o r i e n t a t i o n s became known as t h r e e d i s t i n c t t y p e s o f r a p s : p a r t y r a p s , b a t t l e r a p s , and message r a p s . B a t t l e r a p s a r e a d i r e c t c o n t i n u a t i o n o f t h e e x i s t i n g c o m p e t i t i v e t a l k t h a t o c c u r s i n b l a c k v e r n a c u l a r . A s y s t e m o f s t r e e t r h e t o r i c f o r m u l a t e d a r o u n d s t y l i s h t a u n t i n g and b o a s t i n g i s an a c k n o w l e d g e d s o u r c e o f s t a t u s i n b l a c k g h e t t o s and has a l o n g h i s t o r y o f use f o r g a i n i n g c o n t r o l and m a n i p u l a t i n g o t h e r s (Abrahams 1976). " T h e r e i s a s t r o n g d e s i r e i n r a p r e c o r d s f o r p e o p l e t o s o u p t h e m s e l v e s up. B i g f a n t a s i e s — f o l k s i n t h e i r t e e n s t a l k i n g a b o u t my c a r , I'm a m o v i e s t a r , I ' v e g o t a l l t h e women i n t h e w o r l d " ( H a g e r 1984: 92). 45 Message r a p s a r e s e r i o u s and aimed a t b o t h e x p r e s s i n g c o n c e r n s o f g h e t t o l i v i n g and a s s e r t i n g e t h n i c p r i d e . "The p e r s o n a p o r t r a y e d i n t h e s o n g was t h a t o f a t y p i c a l S o u t h B r o n x r e s i d e n t p r e s s e d t o t h e p o i n t o f d e s p e r a t i o n by h i s e n v i r o n m e n t " ( i b i d . : 93). R e p o r t e d s o u r c e s o f i n s p i r a t i o n i n c l u d e s o u l m u s i c , l i k e James Brown's s o n g , "Say i t L o u d , I'm B l a c k and I'm P r o u d " o r "Get up, Get I n t o I t , Get I n v o l v e d " as w e l l as The L a s t P o e t s , an e x - c o n b l a c k m i l i t a n t g r o u p who r e c o r d e d r a d i c a l and r a c i a l p r i s o n t o a s t s t h a t were v e r y p o p u l a r i n t h e B r o n x ( i b i d . : 46). As r a p p e r B r o t h e r D e x p r e s s e s i t , message r a p s " a r e d e d i c a t e d t o t h e u p l i f t i n g o f b l a c k p e o p l e and t o t h e a c q u i r i n g o f k n o w l e d g e and s k i l l s " ( i b i d . : 92) . As i s t h e c a s e w i t h t h e m u s i c a l component o f r a p , MCs a l s o draw on p o p u l a r c u l t u r e as a s o u r c e o f i n s p i r a t i o n , b u t u l t i m a t e l y t h e r a p s a r e r o o t e d i n b l a c k e x p r e s s i v e t r a d i t i o n s . Rap's f o r b e a r s s t r e t c h back t h r o u g h d i s c o , s t r e e t f u n k , r a d i o D J s , Bo D i d d l e y , t h e bebop s i n g e r s , Cab C a l l o w a y , P i g m e a t Markham, t h e t a p d a n c e r s and c o m i c s , The L a s t P o e t s , G i l S c o t t - H e r o n , Muhammed A l i , a c o p e l l a and doo-wop g r o u p s , r i n g games, s k i p r o p e r h y m e s , p r i s o n and army s o n g s , t o a s t s , s i g n i f y i n g and t h e d o z e n s , a l l t h e way t o t h e g r o i t s o f N i g e r i a and t h e Gambia (Toop 1984: 19). 2.3 Recorded Raps I t was n o t u n t i l 1977 t h a t t h e f i r s t r a p was r e c o r d e d and n o t u n t i l t h e 1980's t h a t t h e p r a c t i c e became a s i g n i f i c a n t a s p e c t i n t h e d e v e l o p m e n t o f t h e m u s i c ( i b i d . : 15). T h e r e i s no d o u b t t h a t t h e r e c o r d i n g i n d u s t r y i n f l u e n c e d t h e d i r e c t i o n o f t h e m u s i c and t h e s u b c u l t u r e . A c c e s s t o s o p h i s t i c a t e d e q u i p m e n t a l l o w e d DJs t o p r o d u c e e v e n more c o m p l e x s o u n d s . U s i n g 46 synthesizers and computer sampling, for example, gave them a technical freedom that appealed to their s e n s i b i l i t i e s and promoted the use of music especially created for raps in addition to the mixing of existing records (George 1985b: 3). Even so recorded raps remained the products of black ghetto youths and to a great extent were no more than "polished versions of the kind of thing every kid on the block.was doing" (Toop 1984: 93). Recorded performances not only limited the spontaneity and improvization of l i v e performance but also encouraged a single s t o r y - l i n e format, rather than a series of short rhymes (George 1985: 18). And, as Bambaataa, who encouraged this new phase in the music, suggests, "while hip hop culture w i l l never escape i t s i d e n t i f i c a t i o n with the inner c i t i e s , i t is very much in touch with our computerized world" (in i b i d . : 8 ) . As with a l l facets of hip hop, access to mainstream fame and fortune e a s i l y became incorporated into the competitive system as an additional evaluation of prestige. Grandmaster Caz, in claiming that "the way rap evolved is from people trying to outdo each other", attributes both a r t i s t i c excellence and recording contracts as the accepted means of outdoing someone (in Hager 1984: 49). The competitive nature remained intact by devising a delayed "answer record approach" in which rapping crews challenge each other through direct c a l l and response (similar to the lag inherent in g r a f f i t i b a t t l e s ) . Rappers ac t i v e l y sought out this new opportunity to g l o r i f y and distinguish themselves. And, indeed, success in mainstream terms of f i n a n c i a l gain and media recognition, f u l f i l l s the mandate of 47 h i p h o p , p r o v i d i n g e v i d e n c e t o members t h a t t h e movement was s u c c e s s f u l i n a f f o r d i n g some o f i t s members a p o s i t i v e new means o f e v a l u a t i n g t h e m s e l v e s . T y p i c a l l y , when t h e w h i t e - d o m i n a t e d r e c o r d i n g i n d u s t r y a p p r o p r i a t e s a b l a c k - b a s e d m u s i c i t becomes w h i t e - w a s h e d , o f t e n h a v i n g i t s r a w n e s s removed f o r m a r k e t i n g t o m a i n s t r e a m a u d i e n c e s . However, t h i s i s n o t g e n e r a l l y t h e c a s e f o r r a p . A l t h o u g h a s m a l l p e r c e n t a g e o f n o n - b l a c k m a i n s t r e a m e r s may have p i c k e d up on i t and a few a t t e m p t s have been made t o c o m m e r c i a l i z e i t f o r t h e l a r g e r m a r k e t , f o r t h e most p a r t r a p i s e x p l i c i t l y m a r k e t e d t o t h e b l a c k a u d i e n c e and hence has n o t been o v e r l y t a m p e r e d w i t h (Toop 1984: 100). As t e s t i m o n y t o t h e r e t e n t i o n o f i t s raw q u a l i t y i s t h e f a c t t h a t r a p s a r e r e p e a t e d l y b anned f r o m t h e a i r waves f o r b e i n g t o o v i o l e n t . P r o d u c e r s o f r e c o r d e d r a p s a r e g e n e r a l l y f i r s t g e n e r a t i o n DJs and MCs, l i k e Bambaataa and K u r t i s B l o w . I t a p p e a r s t h a t c o n t r o l o f t h e m u s i c and i t s d i r e c t i o n , however i n f l u e n c e d by t h e r e c o r d i n g i n d u s t r y , has t o a g r e a t e x t e n t r e m a i n e d i n t h e hands o f i t s c r e a t o r s . I n s i d e r s v i e w i n g t h e e v o l u t i o n o f r a p , r e c o g n i z e i t as a n a t u r a l p r o g r e s s i o n , w h i l e a c k n o w l e d g i n g i t as a s h i f t i n f o c u s t h a t may have e f f e c t e d i t s s t r e e t e x p r e s s i o n and p o s s i b i l y l e a d t o a l o s s o f h e a r t . The way r a p i s now - i t i s n ' t t h e way i t was t h e n . Whereas t h e n i t was j u s t p h r a s e s ; t h e MC w o u l d s a y l i t t l e p h r a s e s l i k e , " t o t h e e a s t s i d e , make money. To t h e w e s t s i d e , make money." Or, " t o t h e r o c k , r o c k , r o c k , t o t h e r o c k , r o c k , r o c k . " I n '77-'78 I was w i t h t h e M a g n i f i c e n t S e v e n . We was p l a y i n g i n t h e s t r e e t s . Rap, t h e n , was o n l y a s t r e e t t h i n g . A t t h a t t i m e , e v e r y t h i n g was h a p p e n i n g a t o n c e . B - b o y i n g was h a p p e n i n g a t t h e same t i m e as D J i n g and r a p p i n g came o u t . E v e r y t h i n g was s t r i c t l y c o m p e t i t i v e . 48 The groups that came out was in s t r i c t competition, so when we did play in the wintertime we rented small clubs, discotheques, recs, boys' clubs, PALs. We charged l i t t l e b i t s of money and people came and that's what we did in the wintertime. With the money we made we invested in our sound system for the summertime. That was the basic foundation of what every group did to start off and get into the rap industry. At the time wasn't groups rapping - i t was solo MCs and they would have a DJ. It would be one DJ and one MC. They would just come out and the people liked i t . The more they did, the more i t got into a unified stage. We said, "Hey, we should get more MCs". ...An uptown group would battle a downtown group. What I mean by battle is that they would come and they would say, "Okay. Us four are better than your four", and we would go at it....That's where the competition came in. This is before any records, before any money was made. This was from our hearts (Rodney Cee in i b i d . : 70-71). 49 CHAPTER THREE RAP MOSIC: HIP HOP MALE PERSONA AND WORLDVIEW T h i s c h a p t e r w i l l d e v e l o p a p o r t r a i t of the h i p hop male s e l f - i m a g e as d e p i c t e d i n ra p s . Rap music i s a s e l f - r e f e r e n t i a l form of e x p r e s s i o n , by t h i s i t i s meant t h a t much of what i s rapped about i s the rapp e r . H i s s t y l e , h i s v a l u e s and b e l i e f s c o n c e r n i n g a p p r o p r i a t e b e h a v i o u r and h i s v i s i o n of the w o r l d are c o n s c i o u s l y l a i d out i n the a c t of i d e n t i t y c r e a t i o n and management. 3.1 Power Names To b e g i n , those i n v o l v e d i n the p r o d u c t i o n of a rap -MCs and DJs - a l l assume 'pseudonyms' which are c o n t i n u a l l y r e f e r r e d t o i n t h e i r raps and are c l a i m e d as t h e i r l e g i t i m a t e persona ("I'm Cool Moe Dee, t h a t ' s who I b e " ) . Both i n d i v i d u a l names and crew names p r o v i d e a fo c u s f o r the c o n s t r u c t i o n of t h e i r h i p hop personas and suggest a d e s i r e t o c r e a t e a s e l f - i m a g e based on power, c o n t r o l , a u t h o r i t y , s t r e n g t h and s k i l l . Name terms or i d e n t i t y l a b e l s are not a r b i t r a r y but c o n t a i n d e s c r i p t i v e , or a f f e c t i v e , c o n t e n t used to denote a p u b l i c p r e s e n t a t i o n of one's s t r e e t persona. The s p e c i f i t y of the name condenses or c r y s t a l i z e s one's s e l f - i m a g e and i s an im p o r t a n t a s p e c t of s t a t u s management (Kohl 1972: 124). Hip hoppers a re themselves aware of the s i g n i f i c a n c e of a c q u i r i n g a performance name f o r , as Mr. Fre s h e x p l a i n s i t , "having a dance name or crew name makes you f e e l d i f f e r e n t about y o u r s e l f . . . . I t 5 0 means you have something t h a t i s of worth" (Mr. Fresh and the Supreme Rockers 1984: 37-38). Some h i p hop names, found i n the sample r a p s , such as K i n g L o u i s I I I , Count C o o l o u t , C a p t a i n Sky, borrow from t i t l e s of a u t h o r i t y and are used to a s s o c i a t e h i p hoppers w i t h the q u a l i t i e s of power and s t r e n g t h the t i t l e s s u g g e s t . (One might a l s o s p e c u l a t e t h a t at one l e v e l , through the c r e a t i o n of a d i s t i n c t system f o r crowning k i n g s and p r o c u r i n g d o c t o r i a l d e g r e e s , a p l a y on the dominant c u l t u r e and a c h a l l e n g e to hegemony i s at work here.) Others s p e c i f i c a l l y draw on t h e i r A f r i c a n h e r i t a g e f o r s o u r c e s of power names. A f r i k a Bambaataa, f o r i n s t a n c e , took h i s name from the A f r i c a n k i n g of the Zu l u n a t i o n , w h i l e one crew c a l l s themselves Shango, the West A f r i c a n god of thunder and l i g h t n i n g . The use of the t i t l e 'grandmaster' p r e c e d i n g a pseudonym i s a common p r a c t i c e . I t r e f e r s to a m a r t i a l a r t e x p e r t and the a s s o c i a t i o n i s to s u p e r i o r combat s k i l l and c o n t r o l . To 'grandmaster' one famous DJ has added ' f l a s h ' , a r e f e r e n c e t o the DC comic book hero who i s "the f a s t e s t man a l i v e " . As w e l l , ' f l a s h ' i s a West I n d i a n word f o r 'high s t y l e ' and c o n s i d e r i n g t h a t Grandmaster F l a s h ' s f a m i l y came t o New York C i t y from the West I n d i e s , i t i s not unreasonable to assume t h i s a d d i t i o n a l a s s o c i a t i o n . The t o t a l image then i s of an a g g r e s s i v e l y p o w e r f u l master of the a r t of c o n t r o l l i n g the "wheels of s t e e l " ( t u r n t a b l e s ) w i t h i n c r e d i b l e speed and f i n e s s e . Other a g g r e s s i v e w a r r i o r personas are e s t a b l i s h e d through names such as Tommy Gunn, Kamikaze and Cowboy. 51 S t i l l o t h e r names suggest a d i f f e r e n t source of power — t h a t of the m a g i c i a n . Whodini and DJ Wizard Theodore c l a i m t o have the m a g i c a l a b i l i t y to c r e a t e i l l u s i o n s and m i r a c l e s . Another group of names c a l l s on c e n t r a l v a l u e d t r a i t s and a c t i v i t i e s w i t h which the p e r f o r m e r s want to be a s s o c i a t e d . K o o l Moe Dee, Caz (Cazanova), Bad Boys, Boogie Boys, Rock Steady Crew, The Treacherous Three, F a n t a s t i c F reaks and the F u r i o u s F i v e are examples of t h i s s o r t . The name Whiz K i d i s p a r t i c u l a r l y p o t e n t f o r not o n l y does i t a l l u d e to a y o u t h f u l , b r i l l i a n t e x p e r t but a l s o the term 'whiz' i s used i n the s u b c u l t u r a l l i n g o as an a g g r e s s i v e a s s a u l t -- "whiz o f f " as b e i n g synonomous w i t h " p i s s o f f " . Others s e r v e to c r e a t e an image of cosmic or space age power. The I n f i n i t y Rappers, the S o u l s o n i c Force and F u t u r e Shock suggest a s u p e r n a t u r a l or superhuman a b i l i t y as w e l l as an o r i e n t a t i o n toward the f u t u r e . There are a few names which appear r a t h e r innocuous or p u r e l y d e s c r i p t i v e but i n f a c t , when decoded, they a l s o r e l a y a s t r o n g , p o s i t i v e s e l f - i m a g e . The Fat Boys ( o r i g i n a l l y the D i s c o Three) does not seem a l i k e l y c h o i c e , c o n s i d e r i n g the n e g a t i v e c o n n o t a t i o n s n o r m a l l y a s s o c i a t e d w i t h b e i n g o v e r w e i g h t . However, what these r a p p e r s have done i s to i n v e r t the a s s o c i a t i o n s and g l o r i f y t h e i r o b e s i t y , o f t e n times w i t h g r e a t humour. R e f e r e n c e s i n t h e i r raps e x e m p l i f y t h i s p r a c t i s e , f o r example, "the Fat Boys are b e a u t i f u l , b i g and b e a u t i f u l " ; " i f you t h i n k I'm s o f t , w e l l , y ou're wrong, I'm as hard as r o c k " ; "we're f a t , we're f a t , but we can never to whack" ( i n f e r i o r ) . The Fat Boys c l e v e r l y p l a y w i t h the c l i c h e , "everybody l o v e s a f a t boy", g i v i n g i t a new s e x u a l 52 c o n n o t a t i o n — " t i l you've had a f a t boy, you haven't had none". S e v e r a l o t h e r t h i n g s can be s a i d about t h i s . The i n v e r s i o n i s c o n s i s t e n t w i t h the t r a n s f o r m a t i o n of a d v e r s i t y and f r u s t r a t i o n i n t o a statement of s e l f - w o r t h and optimism t h a t i s i n o p e r a t i o n throughout the system. As w e l l , the phrase " i f you t h i n k I'm s o f t , w e l l , you're wrong, I'm as hard as a r o c k " not o n l y i s a comment on t h e i r p h y s i c a l s t a t e but a l s o r e f e r s t o t h e i r s t a t e of c h a r a c t e r and the s t r e n g t h of t h e i r r a p p i n g a b i l i t y . T h i s type of p o l y s e m i c imagery i s d i s p l a y e d throughout the r a p s . Other names, a l t h o u g h they may be chosen because they sound p l e a s i n g (as indeed they a l l must), are a l s o acronyms. DJ Mar l e y M a r l has h i s name broken down i n a rap: " ' M ' i s f o r master of s c r a t c h , 'A' i s f o r a r t , 'R' i s f o r r o c k , 1 L ' i s f o r l y r i c s , 'E' i s f o r ever beats and *Y' — don't ask why, don't mess w i t h the 'Y'" (Ma r l e y M a r l w i t h MC Shan, 1985). Another r a p p e r , Doug E F r e s h , i s of cour s e a l i g n i n g h i m s e l f w i t h the c e n t r a l a e s t h e t i c concept of ' f r e s h ' but a l s o decodes h i s name i n a rap: "'D' i s f o r d e d i c a t i o n , '0' i s f o r o r t ( a r t ) , 'U' i s f o r u n i q u e , 'G' i s f o r god and *E* i s f o r ever so" ( " A l l the Way t o Heaven", 1986). The D.M.C. i n the duet Run-D.M.C. breaks down t h i s way: " 'D ' - d o i n g i t a l l the t i m e , 'M1 - rhymes t h a t are a l l mine, 'C' - c o o l as can be" ("Rock the House"). T h i s b r e a k i n g open of one's name to r e v e a l c e n t r a l q u a l i t i e s i s a c l e a r i n d i c a t i o n t h a t w i t h i n h i p hop one's name i s an a r t i c u l a t i o n of one's s e l f . The persona g e s t a l t i s one of an a l l - p o w e r f u l , e t e r n a l a r t i s t who i s d e d i c a t e d t o p r o d u c i n g 53 o r i g i n a l music. But more than t h i s , the i m p l i c a t i o n here i s t h a t i t i s through the a c t of c r e a t i n g these new sounds t h a t the rapper g a i n s h i s g o d - l i k e powers. And f i n a l l y , many r a p p e r s ' names a l l u d e t o more than one s i g n i f i c a n t image t o c r e a t e a composite i d e n t i t y . Dr. I c e , f o r example, i s drawing on the sense of a u t h o r i t y and h e a l i n g a b i l i t y , as w e l l as the mind c o n t r o l and arrogance a s s o c i a t e d w i t h ' c o o l ' and f i n a l l y i s bo r r o w i n g on the a g g r e s s i v e n e s s suggested by the v e r n a c u l a r use of 'to i c e ' f o r 'to k i l l ' t o c r e a t e an image of a person i n command, w i t h power both over h i m s e l f and o t h e r s . Ice T(ea) i s a c l e v e r j u x t a p o s i t i o n of two f r e q u e n t l y a s s o c i a t e d , y e t o p p o s i t e , a e s t h e t i c q u a l i t i e s w h i c h , when c o n t a i n e d and c o n t r o l l e d i n one p e r s o n , possess enormous power — hot and c o l d . A common s e l f - r e f e r e n t i a l h i p hop c l i c h e t h a t u n d e r s c o r e s t h i s r e l a t i o n s h i p i s "I'm too hot to h a n d l e ; too c o l d t o h o l d " . 3.2 S e l f - D e f i n i t i o n s A l t h o u g h h i p hop names e n c a p s u l a t e the essence of the persona which i s b e i n g developed by h i p hoppers they by no means c o n s t i t u t e the o n l y e v i d e n c e f o r the c o n s t r u c t i o n of a s t r o n g , tough, p o w e r f u l s e l f - i m a g e . I t i s a common p r a c t i c e f o r l i n e a f t e r l i n e of rap to b e g i n " I am..." and proceed t o o u t l i n e a s e r i e s of q u a l i t i e s or t r a i t s t h a t are not o n l y d e s i r a b l e but which the rapper b o a s t s to b e i n g i n p o s s e s s i o n of — I'm bad; I'm dangerous; I'm f r e s h ; I'm the r e a l McCoy; I'm s o l i d g o l d ; I'm the o r i g i n a l c o o l MC; I'm the l a d y h e a r t s t o p p e r ; I'm the g i r l 54 charmer, the toy harmer; I'm as p e r f e c t as a diamond w i t h o u t a f l a w ; I'm the f l y e s t , c l e a n e s t , baddest, meanest rapper t h a t w a lks the s t r e e t s ; I'm s t r o n g l i k e s t o n e , hard l i k e cement; I'm number one; I'm the l e a d e r of the show, keeping you on the go; I'm the messiah; I'm a f e a r l e s s l o v e r ; a v i c i o u s MC, a sex machine and a money-maker; I'm a m y s t i c a l , m a g i c a l man on the mike; I'm badder than b o l d , b o l d e r than bad; I'm down by law. And on and on and on. These g l o r i f i e d , h y p e r b o l i c s e l f - a s s e r t i o n s p r o c l a i m t h e i r c o l l e c t i v e persona to be i n v i n c i b l e , u n i q ue, a u t h e n t i c , brave and f l a w l e s s . They c l e a r l y demonstrate a d e s i r e f o r a sense of power, but a l s o a sense of v a l u e and s e l f - w o r t h . And these q u a l i t i e s are a r t i c u l a t e d i n the arenas t h a t are most s i g n i f i c a n t to them — r o c k i n g a p a r t y , b u s t i n g a c o m p e t i t o r and b e i n g w i t h a female. T h i s image i s a l s o r e i n f o r c e d by d i s c l a i m e r s of what they are not — "I'm never u p t i g h t , beneath the b r i g h t l i g h t " ; "I'm not Rodney D a n g e r f i e l d , so g i v e me r e s p e c t " ; "I'm not a b i t e r , I don't i m i t a t e , I don't f r o n t . " To be most e f f e c t i v e i n the c o n s t r u c t i o n of a h i p hop persona the r e c i p i e n t of these a s s e r t i o n s i s n e c e s s a r i l y the rapper h i m s e l f . He i s of course making a p u b l i c announcement t o s i g n i f i c a n t o t h e r s as w e l l , but f i r s t and foremost the d e c l a r a t i o n "I'm i n c r e d i b l e " i s f o r the s e l f . A g a i n , by a s s e r t i n g through metaphors a s e l f - i m a g e , one may be a f f e c t i n g one's a c t u a l i d e n t i t y or p e r f o r m i n g , as i t were, o n e s e l f i n t o b e i n g . I m p l i c i t i n t h i s b r a g g a d o c i o i s the need to d i s p l a y t h i s persona i n an a c c e p t a b l e manner. To succeed an image must 55 be carried off with style and finesse, as one performs oneself into being. Style in presentation is an important part of the substance. To declare oneself perfect is not enough, one must project an image of perfection and, in the case of rapping, t h i s i s accomplished through adherence to a set of aesthetic canons. Run-D.M.C.1s rap "Perfection" (1986) outlines what that state represents to them. Not only is i t a handsome appearance and the right designer clothes, owning a caddy with a bar and being r i c h and famous but i t is also being a pe r f e c t i o n i s t and working hard to l i v e up to one's pot e n t i a l . Once again, more than one agenda i s being addressed here. Although i t is true that the status attached to actual wealth i s being expressed, there i s also purely associational imagery at work. When Run-DlM.C. say they own "a credit card made of s o l i d gold" they are, by associating themselves with such a fantastic symbol, claiming their own immeasurable value. This notion of applying oneself to get ahead i s a recurring one and is believed to lead to positive results, as LL Cool J boasts "hard work pays, I'm getting straight A's" ("Get Down", 1987 ) . 3.3 Self-images and A s s o c i a t e d Values The images that are being conveyed through the study's sample raps suggest a value system that is held by a l l hip hoppers. Run-D.M.C. in the rap "Raising H e l l " (1986) take the ultimate risk by "dissin* a l l devils...[and]...cutting the head off the d e v i l " . 'To dis' i s to show disrespect and i s a dangerous enterprise in this system of confrontations and 56 aggression, but to successfully challenge the devil is to possess awesome power. Of course this image also suggests the aggressive orientation that is present in so many of the raps, p a r t i c u l a r l y the battle raps. Kool Moe Dee i s "a bad, bad, bad mutha fucker" who "puts a hurting on rappers" ("Bad Mutha", 1987). And messing with Run-D.M.C. makes you "a real short l i v e r " . The p r e v a i l i n g thrust is one of confrontation and protection of honour for, as Run-D.M.C. put i t , "now i f you say you've heard my rhymes we're gonna have to fight cause I make the motherfuckers up last night" ("Rock the House", 1985). Rappers claim the a b i l i t y to control and manipulate others as is suggested by LL Cool J's order, f i r e d out in the affected voice of a police o f f i c e r or m i l i t a r y commander: "this i s an LL Cool J party — move i t , move i t , move i t , get on the flo o r baby, that's right". But equally represented is the a b i l i t y to transform oneself into a character who is comical, for humour too is a valued t r a i t and can be used as a manipulative t o o l . One example of this is given by Force MDs mimicking Popeye's voice while rhyming, "well, blow me down, I can't stop rockin' to the funky sound so stand back g i r l s and l e t ' s be f i e r c e while I c h i l l out with a can of spinach" ("Itchin' For a Scratch", 1985). Other voice imitations that contribute to this dual imagery of strength and humour are Mr. T, Michael Jackson, and the Smurfs ("small but mighty heroes"). Voices are also processed through synthesizers to produce robot-like, and generally t e r r i f y i n g , raps. 57 The p o s s e s s i o n of an o r i g i n a l s t y l e , an a s s e r t i o n of one's p e r s o n a l mark, i s h i g h l y v a l u e d as a s o u r c e of p r e s t i g e and, as Double T r o u b l e p o i n t s o u t , "when sucker MCs hear my r a p s , they wish they c o u l d i m i t a t e because they don't have a s t y l e of t h e i r own...but i t ' s a l l r i g h t i f t h e y ' r e on my t i t cause I know damn w e l l they can't rock t h i s s h i t . . . c a u s e my s t y l e i s d e f , my words are t r e a c h " (1984). Hip hopper v e t e r a n , Fab 5 Freddy, e x p l a i n s the l i n k between s t y l e and i d e n t i t y t h i s way: You make a new s t y l e . That's what l i f e on the s t r e e t s i s a l l about, j u s t b e i n g you....What's at s t a k e i s a guy's honour and h i s p o s i t i o n i n the s t r e e t . Which i s a l l you have. That's what makes i t so i m p o r t a n t , t h a t ' s what makes i t f e e l so good — t h a t p r e s s s u r e on you to be the best....To develop a new s t y l e nobody can d e a l w i t h ( i n George 1985b: 111). P o s s e s s i n g p e r s o n a l s t y l e i s one way of g e n e r a t i n g s e l f - c o n f i d e n c e . Some ra p p e r s p r o f e s s such abundance of c o n f i d e n c e t h a t they a c t u a l l y come w i t h a guarantee — " i f you f i n d you don't l i k e my ways w e l l you can send me back i n 30 days" (Run-D.M.C., "30 Days", 1984). In h i p hop, as w i t h o t h e r m a n i f e s t a t i o n s of b l a c k s t y l e , humour, speed, s t r e n g t h of c h a r a c t e r and i n t e l l i g e n c e must be e x h i b i t e d i n e v e r y t h i n g one does (Hale-Benson 1986: 67). A l t h o u g h many of t h e s e t r a i t s may indeed be e x h i b i t e d i n a c t u a l b e h a v i o r , f r e q u e n t l y the i m p r e s s i o n i s s u f f i c i e n t . The i l l u s i o n of p e r s o n a l s u c c e s s and competence i s v a l u e d i n t h i s system al m o s t as much as the a c t u a l i t i e s ( S c h u l z 1977: 24). E q u a l l y , the l a c k of s t y l e or b l o w i n g your s t y l e , even i n a minor way, i s a source of embarrassment and e l i c i t s 58 r i d i c u l e . In b l a c k c u l t u r e one's s t y l e i s c o n t i n u a l l y s u b j e c t e d t o peer e v a l u a t i o n and p r o j e c t i n g y o u r s e l f b o l d l y means b e i n g v u l n e r a b l e t o c r i t i c i s m and r e j e c t i o n ( P a s t e u r and T o l d s o n 1982: 180). In Grandmaster F l a s h ' s humourous rap "Underarms" (1987) the p o i n t i s no l e s s s e r i o u s l y made. A b-boy, a l l p r o p e r l y s u i t e d i n h i s G u c c i b l a z e r and t i e w i t h "not a h a i r out of p l a c e , a f r e s h l y - s h a v e f a c e , t h i n k i n g he's w a l k i n ' out of the house w i t h s t y l e and g r a c e " i s laughed at and scor n e d by h i s g i r l f r i e n d because he f a i l e d t o use deoder a n t , thus has s m e l l y , funky underarms i n d i c a t i n g t h a t he i s "a f o o l and p a t h e t i c " . But, j u s t as i n r e a l l i f e , t h i n g s i n h i p - h o p - l a n d are never q u i t e t h a t s i m p l e . J u s t when you get the r u l e s worked out t h e r e are those p r e p a r e d t o r i s k b r e a k i n g them to a c q u i r e the a d d i t i o n a l power of s u c c e e d i n g . Hence one rapper c l a i m s t h a t he can " d r e s s o r d i n a r y and s t i l l i m p r e s s " . And, even though the i m p l i c i t r u l e i s 'thou s h a l l not b i t e ' ( i . e . s t e a l from another DJ or MC) i t happens a l l the time and s i g n i f i e s both d i s r e s p e c t and the h i g h e s t compliment. R e c o g n i z i n g i m i t a t i o n as the g r e a t e s t form of f l a t t e r y , UFTO i n v i t e o t h e r s to copy t h e i r o l d rhymes — "we're d e l i g h t e d t o g i v e you p e r m i s s i o n t o b i t e i t " . But of course a c h a l l e n g e l i k e t h i s i s a l s o an i n s u l t t o rappers w i t h "no minds of t h e i r own", as w e l l as a t e s t i m o n y by UTFO t h a t they c o n s i d e r themselves worthy of b e i n g c o p i e d . A c c o r d i n g t o the i n v e s t i g a t o r ' s NYC i n f o r m a n t s , assuming someone e l s e ' s s t y l e i s read as an act of " d i s s i n g " , y et o v e r t l y u s i n g a c t u a l c u t s from a p r e v i o u s l y r e c o r d e d and i d e n t i f i a b l e . s o u r c e i s a c c e p t a b l e , indeed expected. On the oth e r 59 hand, u s i n g someone's m a t e r i a l i n a p a r t i c u l a r l y c l e v e r way i s a sou r c e of honour f o r the e l a b o r a t o r . T h i s p r a c t i c e i s a form of ' t o p p i n g ' , an example of which o c c u r s i n "The Roach Rap". L i n e s from two p o p u l a r funky raps — " s t o p those rumours from r u n n i n g around" and "the r o o f , the r o o f , the roof i s on f i r e " are executed u s i n g the same tunes w h i l e the l y r i c s are t r a n s f o r m e d -" s t o p those r o a c h e s , from r u n n i n g around" and "the ro a c h e s , the r o a c h e s , the roaches are on the w a l l " . 3 . 4 Power Symbols A s i g n i f i c a n t a s p e c t of persona c o n s t r u c t i o n i s the development of symbols of power which are a s s o c i a t e d w i t h t h a t p e rsona. The two o b j e c t s p r e v i o u s l y i d e n t i f i e d as the c e n t r a l i c o n s of h i p hop are of such h i g h s t a t u r e t h a t e n t i r e raps have been w r i t t e n as odes to them. In "Radio" (1985), LL Cool J c l a i m s "you know I can't l i v e w i t h o u t my r a d i o " and i n "My Ad i d a s and Me" (1986) by Run-D.M.C., the ra p p e r ' s i d e n t i t y i s p r e s e n t e d as i n s e p a r a b l e from h i s f o o t w e a r . P o r t a b l e r a d i o s , and brand name runners are the s y m b o l i c i c o n s of h i p hop and i n d i c a t e the importance of c o n t i n u a l a c c e s s t o music and of o u t s t a n d i n g a t h l e t i c toughness, a g i l i t y and speed t h a t i s r e q u i r e d t o m a i n t a i n t h e i r image. Other s t a t u s p o s s e s s i o n s through which a h i p hopper p r o j e c t s h i s i d e n t i t y are brand name c l o t h e s ( F i l a , P o l o , G u c c i and C a d i l l a c ) , p o p u l a r team sweat s u i t s such as the Mets and the R a i d e r s , Rolex watches, Kangol h a t s , and g o l d and diamond 60 j e w e l r y . These p o r t a b l e (and hence e x h i b i t a b l e on the s t r e e t where they have " c u r r e n c y " ) symbols are f r e q u e n t l y mentioned i n rap l y r i c s as i m p o r t a n t r e p r e s e n t a t i o n s of the b-boy's persona of q u a l i t y and v a l u e . Many of these are s t a t u s symbols of the u l t r a r i c h which have been a p p r o p r i a t e d by the g h e t t o k i d s i n t h e i r s e a r c h f o r e x h i b i t a b l e s e l f - w o r t h . 3.5 C e n t r a l Metaphors of Cynicism and Optimism How a h i p hopper sees h i s w o r l d and h i s p o s i t i o n i n i t i s a theme e x p l o r e d w i t h i n the message rap genre. Much of t h i s view i s e x p r e s s e d through t h r e e c e n t r a l metaphors: "the w o r l d i s a" g h e t t o " ; " l i f e i s a game"; " l i f e i s l i k e a dance". And throughout these images c o - e x i s t two p a r a l l e l a t t i t u d e s — one of c y n i c i s m and one of optimism. The c e n t e r of the h i p hopper's w o r l d i s the g h e t t o of New York C i t y so i t i s not s u r p r i s i n g t h a t many raps p r e s e n t a s e a r c h f o r some u n d e r s t a n d i n g of t h i s harsh environment. They are of course k e e n l y aware of the hard times t h a t are " s p r e a d i n g j u s t l i k e a f l u " , the p r e s s u r e s of d e a l i n g w i t h the p o v e r t y , c r i m e , v i o l e n c e and decay around them. And they are by no means n a i v e about i t s i n f l u e n c e on t h e i r l i v e s . They exp r e s s i n the raps an u n d e r s t a n d i n g t h a t they are o f t e n d r i v e n to become p l a y e r s -- g a n g s t e r s , drug d e a l e r s , pimps -- i n order to g i v e them an edge f o r "you got to have a con to s u r v i v e " . However, they a l s o appear t o be s a y i n g t h a t the p r i c e of a s h o r t term s o l u t i o n i s too h i g h and t h a t i n e v i t a b l y the f a s t l i f e l e a d s to s e l f - d e s t r u c t i o n . 61 That savage g h e t t o m e n t a l i t y i s the k i n d t h a t keeps you i n the s t r e e t s Hey, f a s t k i d , use your head I f you don't y o u ' l l soon be dead... I f you d e a l then you p l a y and then you pay How l o n g can a good t h i n g l a s t ? (Dr. J e c k y l l & Mr. Hyde,"Fast L i f e " 1985) R e f u s i n g t o remain p r i s o n e r s to the g h e t t o m e n t a l i t y and succumb t o i t s p r e s s u r e s i s something h i p hoppers are s t r u g g l i n g w i t h i n t h e i r s e a r c h f o r a p l a c e t o belong and be f r e e . They are p r e c a r i o u s l y b a l a n c e d , c o n t i n u a l l y c o n f r o n t e d w i t h the p o s s i b i l i t y of g i v i n g up, as Grandmaster F l a s h and the F u r i o u s F i v e warn: Don't push me cause I'm c l o s e to the edge I'm t r y i n g not to l o s e my head I t ' s l i k e a j u n g l e Sometimes i t makes me wonder how I keep from g o i n g under ("The Message", 1982) L i k e a j u n g l e the w o r l d of the g h e t t o i s dangerous and f u l l of w i l d n e s s and unexpected h a z z a r d s . I t demands t h a t one c o n s t a n t l y have h i s w i t s about him and use a l l the knowledge and r e s o u r c e s a v a i l a b l e t o combat i t and s u r v i v e , y e t even then i t may overpower him. Y e t , however hard and s t r e s s f u l g h e t t o l i f e may be, t h e r e i s an attempt to f i n d v a l u e i n i t . S i n c e escape i s d i f f i c u l t , r a p p e r s ' s u g g e s t t h a t g h e t t o youth t r y t o make the best of the s i t u a t i o n and see the c h a l l e n g e s and e x c i t e m e n t t h e i r environment p r o v i d e s . The c i t y ' s w i l d - how can you s t a y ? C i t y l i f e i s l i k e a m e t a l t r a c k You break away f o r a w h i l e but then you come r i g h t back and i t seems l i k e you can't get away... 62 Things get rough and t h a t a i n ' t no l i e But as I t h i n k about i t I j u s t got t o have my c i t y l i f e . . . A d v i c e about the c i t y , you j u s t can't g i v e i t The o n l y way to l e a r n about l i f e i s l i v e i t I've been t o o t h e r p l a c e s , so I'm j u s t i f i e d When I say c i t y l i f e can t e a c h you to s u r v i v e I t ' s c i t y l i f e t h a t makes you s t r o n g In the c i t y you've got t o keep moving on The p r e s s u r e s grow, but so do you You've got t o f i g h t to make dreams come t r u e (Boogie Boys, " C i t y L i f e " , 1984) Thus, r a t h e r than e x p r e s s i n g a r e s i g n a t i o n or resentment f o r t h e i r l o t , t h e r e i s a sense of acceptance of i t w h i l e s e a r c h i n g f o r a way out. And from some t h e r e i s the s u g g e s t i o n t h a t i t a c t s as a source of s t r e n g t h i n overcoming. Hard times i s n o t h i n ' new on me I'm gonna use my s t r o n g m e n t a l i t y L i k e the cream of the c r o p , the crop of the cream B e a t i n ' h ard t i m e s , t h a t i s my dream Hard times i n l i f e , hard times i n death I'm gonna keep on f i g h t i n ' t i l l my very l a s t b r e a t h ( K u r t i s Blow, "Hard Times", 1980) What i s emerging i s - a d u a l v i s i o n of t h e i r immediate w o r l d . The s t r e e t l i f e , f o r a l l i t s h a r s h n e s s , i s a p l a c e of e x c i t e m e n t and a c t i o n — f a s t c a r s , f a s t g i r l s -- and, as UTFO s u g g e s t , " w i t h o u t a doubt, i t ' s a l l about hanging o u t " . I t i s yo u r s -- i t belongs to you and you belong to i t . But you must choose what t o make of i t . I f you do not a p p l y y o u r s e l f and lo o k beyond the s t r e e t l i f e , i t w i l l seduce you so t h a t "you w i l l never succeed and know how r e a l l y smart you a r e — i n s t e a d of w a l k i n g round i n the s t r e e t s , smoking LSD". T h i s ambivalence about g h e t t o l i v i n g s u g g e s t s a b i c u l t u r a l o r i e n t a t i o n , as d i s c u s s e d by Hannerz (1969: 153). At l e a s t f o r h i p hoppers the 63 g h e t t o s p e c i f i c system of v a l u e s and beh a v i o u r has not been bought i n t o i n t o t a l i t y . They are c l e a r l y b e i n g p u l l e d towards mainstream n o t i o n s of s u c c e s s . By e x t e n d i n g t h e i r immediate environment to encompass a w o r l d v i e w — "the w o r l d i s a g h e t t o " — they are a c c o m p l i s h i n g two t h i n g s . They are l e g i t i m i z i n g t h e i r w o r l d by s u g g e s t i n g t h a t i t i s r e a l l y no worse than anyone e l s e ' s o r , r a t h e r , t h a t the r e s t of the w o r l d has j u s t as many problems and dangers and s e c o n d l y , they are i m p l y i n g t h a t , due to t h e i r e x p e r i e n c e and knowledge of the g h e t t o , they are w e l l equipped, maybe the be s t e q u i p p e d , t o s u r v i v e whatever the w o r l d has to o f f e r . The i n e v i t a b i l i t y and p e r v a s i v e n e s s of f r u s t r a t i o n s and the need t o m a i n t a i n mental s t a b i l i t y i n the f a c e of these p r e s s u r e s i s echoed i n K u r t i s Blow's l i n e s , "Hard times you know i s a n a t u r a l t r i p , I'm gonna keep my b a l a n c e , I w i l l not s l i p " . I t appears t h a t h i p hoppers are t r y i n g t o p l a c e t h e i r s u f f e r i n g i n the wider c o n t e x t of h i s t o r i c a l w o r l d s u f f e r i n g and i n j u s t i c e , perhaps making i t more t o l e r a b l e . Running throughout these a r t i c u l a t i o n s i s the n o t i o n of gaming, t h a t we are a l l p l a y e r s i n some w i l d , d e a d l y game, one w i t h h i g h s t a k e s and few w i n n e r s , but w i t h i n which each one of us i s s t r u g g l i n g t o g a i n an advantage. Yo, l i f e ' s j u s t a game, one g r e a t b i g r i d d l e And we're a l l wrapped up, smack-dap i n the middle ...We're gonna rap about the game t h a t people a re p l a y i n g . . . Don't look f o r any t r o u b l e , i t ' l l s u r e l y look f o r you I f you t r y t o p l a y tough then i t ' s j u s t your l u c k t h a t i t ' l l c a l l your b l u f f and then t r o u b l e ' s g o t t e n you a l l wrapped up (Grandmaster F l a s h , " A l l Wrapped Up", 1987) 64 In the g h e t t o people are c o n t i n u a l l y engaging i n gaming a c t i v i t i e s of one type or another from p l a y i n g the l o t t e r y and gambling to p l a y i n g at s o c i a l and s e x u a l r o l e s i n an attempt to win out. Hip hoppers have extended the analogy beyond themselves i n t o the realm of p o l i t i c a l gaming, i n t e r n a t i o n a l war games and r a c i a l i n j u s t i c e everywhere. In M e l l e Mel and the F u r i o u s F i v e ' s rap "1984 - w o r l d war I I I " the message i s c l e a r . Man i s a c t i n g i n c o n f l i c t w i t h n a t u r e and one f a l s e move, one poor p l a y and the d e l i c a t e b a l a n c e w i l l be d i s r u p t e d w i t h "one b i g bomb the w o r l d ' s a g h e t t o " . Ye t , by v i e w i n g l i f e as a game one can m a n i p u l a t e i t and improve one's odds by f i g u r i n g out an a n g l e which s e r v e s t o one's advantage. In the g h e t t o environment the game i s o f t e n a g g r e s s i v e and h o s t i l e , y e t much of what i s s a i d and done i s p l a y f u l and funny. Gaming, l i k e p l a y , s u g gests t h a t l i f e i s a performance i n which to a c t out a r o l e and t h a t the l i n e between r e a l i t y and f a n t a s y i s a f i n e one and e a s i l y b l u r r e d . P l a y i n g w i t h r e a l i t y , a r e a l i t y t h a t i s an e l u s i v e , h i g h l y c o n s t r u c t e d and ever s h i f t i n g e n t i t y , i s a r e c u r r i n g theme i n g h e t t o l i v i n g . Things are not o f t e n as they seem (Hannerz 1969: 146). U l t i m a t e l y the r a t h e r p e s s i m i s t i c v i s i o n of the w o r l d i s b a l a n c e d i n the raps by a more p h i l o s o p h i c a l view. L i f e i s l i k e a dance c a l l e d the merry-go-round I t goes up and down and round and round Sometimes I get d i z z y but I a l s o get busy (Whodini, " L i f e i s L i k e a Dance", 1987) 65 In t h i s metaphor l i f e becomes a f a m i l i a r performance and c h a l l e n g e i n which to take chances, l e a r n new s t e p s , take one s t e p at a t i m e , d evelop one's own unique s t y l e , y e t be w i l l i n g to share and p a r t i c i p a t e w i t h o t h e r s f o r u l t i m a t e l y we " a l l move t o the same bass l i n e " . 3.6 D e f i n i n g E x i s t e n c e and R e a l i t y A c c o r d i n g to i n f o r m a t i o n a r t i c u l a t e d i n the r a p s , h i p hoppers a l s o appear t o see the w o r l d r e v o l v i n g around a c o n f i g u r a t i o n of a c t i v i t i e s t h a t form the c e n t e r of t h e i r e x i s t e n c e . As i t i s used i n b l a c k v e r n a c u l a r i n g e n e r a l , the phrase 'to go' denotes the most b a s i c and e s s e n t i a l a c t i o n , j u s t as the q u i n t e s s e n t i a l ' i t ' r e p r e s e n t s the p r i m a r y e n t i t y which d e f i n e s l i f e . Hence a rap by the Fat Boys (1986) d e f i n e s the v a r i o u s meanings of 'go f o r i t ' w i t h i n h i p hop as s e x , d a n c i n g , f i g h t i n g and s u c c e s s . The f i r s t t h r e e are w e l l - e s t a b l i s h e d as a s e t i n b l a c k c u l t u r e , the d i f f e r e n c e here b e i n g a s h i f t i n f o c u s t o h i p hop b a t t l i n g as opposed to p h y s i c a l f i g h t i n g . And, i n t e r e s t i n g l y , the a d d i t i o n of the p u r s u i t of s u c c e s s as a p r i n c i p l e a c t i v i t y seems t o be an i n n o v a t i o n h e r e , and i s d e f i n e d i n mainstream as w e l l as g h e t t o - s p e c i f i c terms. I m p l i e d i n the h i p hopper's a r t i c u l a t i o n of l i f e ' s e s s e n t i a l a c t i v i t i e s i s a s e l f - i m a g e of a man i n c o n t r o l , p a r t i c i p a t i o n i s these a c t i v i t i e s p r o v i d e s a means of n e g o t i a t i n g and measuring maleness — a maleness t h a t i s c o n s i s t e n t w i t h the g e n e r a l i z e d g h e t t o male i d e n t i t y . To be a b l e to "go f o r i t " a man must e x h i b i t independence, v e r b a l d e x e r i t y , s t y l i s h 66 p r e s e n t a t i o n i n d r e s s , walk and dance, toughness, s e x u a l and p h y s i c a l prowess, a b i l i t y t o command r e s p e c t and m a n i p u l a t e a s i t u a t i o n (Hannerz: 1969: 78). O v e r a l l t h e r e i s an attempt by h i p hoppers, b e i n g e x p r e s s e d i n t h e i r r a p s , t o c o n s t r u c t , w i t h i n the c o n f i n e s of h i p hop, an a l t e r n a t e r e a l i t y , one t h a t i n v e r t s t h e i r everyday e x i s t e n c e . In the ' r e a l w o r l d ' most g h e t t o youth "get no power, got no say, watch [ t h e i r ] l i f e j u s t s l i p away". They are c o n t i n u a l l y s t r u g g l i n g t o d i s p e l t h e i r " d a r k e s t f e a r s of r e a l i t y " which are " k n o c k i n ' down [ t h e i r ] door". W i t h i n the realm of h i p hop, where they r e i g n w i t h omnipotent c o n t r o l , t h e i r c o n s t r u c t e d r e a l i t y i s c l a i m e d as the r e a l t h i n g and the ' r e a l w o r l d ' i s d i s m i s s e d as i l l u s i o n . Grandmaster F l a s h e x p l a i n s : You're e n t a n g l e d i n a g r e a t b i g b a l l of c o n f u s i o n Trapped i n a w o r l d t h a t i s j u s t an i l l u s i o n You're t h i n k i n g i t ' s r e a l , but t h a t ' s not what's happening W e l l , we're here to l e t you know the r e a l d e a l That's why we're r a p p i n ' ( " A l l Wrapped Up", 1987) W i t h i n t h e i r own r e a l i t y the n a t u r a l order i s c h a l l e n g e d , p a r o d i e d and o f t e n i n v e r t e d . In h i p hop r e a l i t y men can d e f y the n a t u r a l laws ("I can walk through the d e s e r t and s t i l l be c h i l l " ) and s t r u c t u r e t h e i r own system of crowning k i n g s and b e s t o w i n g l e g i t i m a c y . S u n g l a s s e s get worn under the c h i n or on the back of the head; suspenders hang between the l e g s and shoes have no l a c e s and t h i s i s how t h i n g s are supposed to be i n H i p-Hop-land, j u s t as t h e s e young males are supposed to have power i n t h e i r l i v e s . 67 And, as they weave t h e i r own r e a l i t y , r a p p e r s a s s e r t i t s a u t h e n t i c i t y : "What I'm s a y i n g i s r e a l , t h i s a i n ' t l a l a l a n d " or "we always t e l l the t r u t h , never, never l y i n g " . And throughout the raps the b l a c k c l i c h e 'word' (meaning " t h a t ' s t r u e " ) i s i n t e r s p e r s e d wherever c l a i m s of p o w e r f u l n e s s are b e i n g a s s e r t e d . The raps used to c o n s t r u c t the p r e c e d i n g d i s c u s s i o n o f h i p hop persona and w o r l d v i e w are c l e a r and s e l f - c o n s c i o u s a r t i c u l a t i o n s of the s e l f - i m a g e b e i n g n e g o t i a t e d by h i p hoppers i n g e n e r a l . And, l i k e o t h e r g h e t t o men, the h i p hopper i s c a s t i n g h i m s e l f i n a p o s i t i v e l i g h t , s t r u g g l i n g t o c o n t r o l h i s w o r l d , even to the p o i n t of r e d e f i n i n g r e a l i t y . But more than merely communicating t h i s i d e n t i t y , i t i s apparent t h a t t h e s e r a p p e r s are e x p r e s s i n g a b e l i e f t h a t through a commitment to r a p p i n g , l i k e o t h e r h i p hop a c t i v i t i e s , the d e s i r e d r o l e can be a c h i e v e d . And t h i s c o n s t i t u t e s a new c h o i c e of means by which a g h e t t o male can a s s e r t h i s s e l f . 68 CHAPTER FOUR RAP MUSIC: HIP HOP SOCIAL RELATIONS In the enactment of an identity one's peer group constitutes the major arena in which the dramas are staged. Much of how a person sees himself is defined in terms of how he interacts with others in his community. This chapter discusses various relations with s i g n i f i c a n t others as ar t i c u l a t e d within the body of analyzed raps. 4.1 Comradery W i t h i n Crews Although as individuals hip hoppers have a wider range of s i g n i f i c a n t others with whom they interact — parents, teachers, employers, etc. — within the subcultural context i t is their immediate peers who represent the meaningful network. Within the raps the category of peers is divided into three subdivisions — close male friends, male r i v a l s and desired females. The group referred to as one's crew or posse i s primarily defined as one's performance partners. The predisposition toward one's "homeboys", as crew members are often referred to, is one of mutual support, mutual promotion, democratic cooperation and team e f f o r t and s p i r i t . Hip hop expressions are collaborative e f f o r t s and although a master DJ or MC may be deferred to and possess more status and authority, no e x p l i c i t d i v i s i o n of power or legitimacy is expressed. As LL Cool J puts i t , "I'm not runnin' my posse, cause every man is a boss" (1987). 69 Rappers take on the r e s p o n s i b i l i t y of s i n g i n g the p r a i s e s of t h e i r DJs, who do not voice t h e i r own accomplishments. K u r t i s Blow, as others have, dedicated an e n t i r e rap to h i s DJ: Up i n the Bronx, where the people are f r e s h There was one DJ who had to pass the t e s t And now he's down by law and he's ready to pl a y That's r i g h t you a l l , h i s name i s AJ Never get nervous when he cuts the beat Top notch s e r v i c e i n the c l u t c h on the s t r e e t A complete elegant t r e a t that can't be beat Cause AJ never knew the agony of defeat Grandmaster F l a s h , A f r i k a Bambaataa Sparkey Dee, Spoonie G and Run-D.M.C. Gotta r e a l i z e that he goes way back And now he's down with the king And he could never be whack So j u s t kick o f f your shoes and r e l a x your f e e t And rock to the rhythms of the K u r t i s Blow Beat Ya, y ' a l l and j u s t shake your butt Because AJ i s gonna cut i t up ("AJ S c r a t c h " , 1984) Here K u r t i s Blow not only lends h i s voice i n support of h i s DJ, but s t r e s s e s that they complement one another i n forming a great sound. At the beginning of many raps, p r i o r to the theme proper, a crew w i l l do a short i n t r o d u c t i o n of themselves which e s t a b l i s h e s them as a un i t e d f r o n t . For example i n "Here We Go" (1983) by Run-D.M.C.: 1,2,3 i s the p l a c e to be as i t i s p l a i n to see He i s DJ Run and I am D.M.C. Funky f r e s h f o r 1983 DJ Jam Master Jay i n s i d e the place with a l l the bass He leaves without a t r a c e And he came here t o n i g h t to get on your case We are the crush g r o o v i n ' , body movin' The record-makin' and r e c o r d - b r e a k i n ' And i t goes a l i t t l e something l i k e t h i s H i t i t — here we go... 70 Other evidence f o r mutual support between crew members i s r e f l e c t e d i n the a c t of back up v o c a l s . The Cold Crush B r o t h e r s i n the " B a s k e t b a l l Throwdown" (1983) rap i l l u s t r a t e t h i s c r e d e n t i a l s the o t h e r s r e i n f o r c e and encourage h i s e f f o r t s by c a l l i n g out h i s name or the name of the crew. . . . W e l l I'm a T (Theodore) I ' l l dog my f a c e When I get you on the c o u r t I ' l l beat C h a r l e s Chase ( C o l d Crush) .. . W e l l I'm the R (Rudy Dee) And you got a l o t of nerve When you p l a y a g a i n s t me You know you're gonna get s e r v e d ( C o l d Crush) C l e a r l y a r e l a t i o n s h i p of mutual a d m i r a t i o n and t r u s t i s b e i n g e x p r e s s e d f o r as Double T r o u b l e e x p l a i n s , "we're t r u e b l u e b r o t h e r s who s t a n d s i d e by s i d e from b e g i n n i n g t o end". T h i s q u a l i t y of " t i g h t n e s s " or b r o t h e r h o o d may be a c o n t i n u a t i o n of the s t r o n g t i e s between gang members and the g e n e r a l p r e d i s p o s i t i o n among g h e t t o men to form s t r e e t f a m i l i e s ( S h o r t 1968; McCord, et a l 1969; S c h u l z 1977). T h i s i s not t o say, however, t h a t t h i s r e l a t i o n s h i p i s a l l l o v e and r o s e s . Among comrades t h e r e i s room f o r f r i e n d l y t e a s i n g and c o m p e t i t i o n . UTFO engages i n a p l a y f u l v y i n g f o r the a t t e n t i o n s of a " f l y g i r l " : [ Kangol K i d ] I thought I had her i n the palm of my hand I'm gonna be her man 71 [Educated Rapper breaks i n ] Yo, K a n g o l , I don't t h i n k you're dense But you went about the whole t h i n g w i t h no e x p e r i e n c e You s h o u l d know she doesn't need a guy l i k e you She needs a guy l i k e me w i t h a h i g h IQ And s h e ' l l take my rap cause my rap's the b e s t [Dr. Ice c u t s i n ] I know you're e d u c a t e d , but when w i l l you l e a r n Not a l l g i r l s want to be i n v o l v e d w i t h a bookworm You got t o be s t r o n g , so she can't r e s i s t ("Roxanne, Roxanne", 1985) T h i s p r a c t i c e among crews i s not u n l i k e what Abrahams i d e n t i f i e s as a " c u t t i n g c o n t e s t " s t r a t e g y , a v e r b a l a s s a u l t among " c u t t i n g b u d d i e s " (1976: 57). In a system where i n d i v i d u a l c o m p e t i t i v e n e s s i s paramount and m a s c u l i n i t y i s e v a l u a t e d through c o m p a r a t i v e performance, j o k i n g r e l a t i o n s h i p s , w h i l e s i g n i f y i n g f r i e n d s h i p s , can a l s o mask antagonism and o v e r t h o s t i l i t y . S i g n i f y i n g , as t h i s form of v e r b a l p l a y or n e e d l i n g i s r e f e r r e d t o , a l l o w s c o m p e t i t i o n to e x i s t among f r i e n d s , as w e l l as p r o v i d i n g an o p p o r t u n i t y f o r s e r i o u s comment on the r e c i p i e n t ' s b e h a v i o r — b oth i n n o c e n t l y masked i n humour (Smitherman 1977: 119) . 4.2 Competitiveness with Male R i v a l s In c o n t r a s t to the r e l a t i o n s h i p w i t h one's crew i s the o v e r t l y h o s t i l e one which i s e x p r e s s e d between r i v a l crews. Here open a g g r e s s i o n and c o m p e t i t i v e n e s s are the norms. The r e l a t i o n s h i p i s based on one-upmanship, of g a i n i n g an advantage a t the o t h e r ' s expense and the p r i m a r y exchange i s one of c h a l l e n g e and r i t u a l i n s u l t . The f a c t t h a t the i n s u l t i s r i t u a l 72 i n n a t u r e i s e v i d e n t when K o o l Moe Dee e x p l a i n s : " r a p p i n g i s a c o m p e t i t i v e s p o r t and we're a l l enemies on t h i s here c o u r t , but when the game i s over I ' l l shake your hand" (1987). Types of v e r b a l a g g r e s s i o n used i n raps i n c l u d e d e r o g a t i o n , commands, t h r e a t s , d e f e n s i v e r e a c t i o n s , as w e l l as sarcasm and mocking. Sounding c h a l l e n g e s are o f t e n thrown out i n g e n e r a l to a l l comers — " i f you t h i n k t h a t was f r e s h , bust t h i s " (the crew proceeds to e x h i b i t some e l a b o r a t e DJ m i x i n g and s c r a t c h i n g ) ; "don't mess w i t h us u n l e s s you're l o o k i n g f o r t r o u b l e " ; " j u s t l i s t e n w h i l e I'm d i s s i n ' cause you're p i s s i n ' m e o f f , c o l d b e t t y i s s p r e a d i n g a l l a c r o s s your f a c e " ; " c a l l i n g me a s u c k e r , you're p u s h i n g a broom"; " I keep s u c k e r s i n f e a r by the look on my f a c e " ; "don't you dog me". The use of t h r e a t and i n s u l t s , what, a c c o r d i n g to Abrahams (1976: 35),was p r e v i o u s l y c a l l e d "woofing" or "chopping" i s an e s t a b l i s h e d s t r e e t s t r a t e g y used " t o g a i n , w i t h o u t h a v i n g t o a c t u a l l y become v i o l e n t , the r e s p e c t and f e a r from o t h e r s t h a t i s o f t e n won through p h y s i c a l combat.... Once someone's r e p u a t i o n i s e s t a b l i s h e d he can walk the s t r e e t s w i t h i m p u n i t y " (Kochman 1981: 49). U l t i m a t e l y , i f you are not the a g g r e s s o r i n a r e l a t i o n s h i p , you are prone t o becoming the v i c t i m . At o t h e r times p a r t i c u l a r r a p p e r s , DJs or posses are t a r g e t e d f o r an a t t a c k . Exaggerated m i m i c k i n g of o t h e r MCs v o i c e s i s a p o p u l a r and humourous form of s i g n i f y i n g i n s u l t . Another way i s t o r e f e r to a n o t h e r ' s m a t e r i a l q u i t e s u b t l e y . LL C o o l J throws out a l i n e " t h a t ' s why the o t h e r s can't e a t , I'm a c a r n i v o r e , I can eat much more than a f a t man" (1987). T h i s i s a d i r e c t j a b at the Fat Boys. 73 But i t i s more than one's g a s t r o n o m i c a l a b i l i t i e s t h a t are c h a l l e n g e d i n rap. P r i m a r i l y , of c o u r s e , i t i s one's e x p e r t i s e i n rap i t s e l f . However, two ot h e r areas of e x p e r t i s e t h a t have h i g h c u r r e n c y i n the g h e t t o are prime t a r g e t s — one's s e x u a l prowess and one's da n c i n g a b i l i t y . LL Cool J's rap "You Can't Dance" (1985) i s the u l t i m a t e of put downs. Not o n l y i s the opponent d e s p i s e d because of h i s apparent l a c k of d a n c i n g s k i l l s , but the l a c k i s a s s o c i a t e d w i t h a b a s i c incompetence and i g n o r a n c e . The c o n n e c t i o n between music and dance on the one hand and power and knowledge on the o t h e r i s one t h a t w i l l be e x p l o r e d more f u l l y l a t e r , but t h i s rap does make i t e x p l i c i t t h a t , " i f you c a n ' t dance you're n o t h i n g and know n o t h i n g " . i n a c o n t e s t f o r s u p e r i o r i t y one of the most e f f e c t i v e means of r e c o u r s e i s to p r o c l a i m your own g r e a t n e s s i n comparison t o o t h e r s . Once a g a i n LL p r o v i d e s an example of a b o a s t : ...No rapper can rap q u i t e l i k e I can I ' l l t a k e a muscle-bound man and put h i s f a c e i n the sand ...Make you say "yo, LL" and do the whop I f you t h i n k you can out rhyme me Yo, boy, I ' l l b e t , cause I a i n ' t met a m o t h e r f u c k e r who can do t h a t y e t ("I'm Bad", 1987) The t r a d i t i o n of b l a c k b o a s t i n g i n v o l v e s s e l f - p r a i s e and c l a i m s of s u p e r i o r i t y over o t h e r s and i s c h a r a c t e r i z e d by humour and e x a g g e r a t i o n . I t i s not i n t e n d e d t o be understood as the t r u t h f o r no c o r r e l a t i o n between words and deeds need e x i s t . The i n t e n t i o n i s t o c a s t an image of g r e a t n e s s only(Kochman 1981 : 6 3 ) . A l t h o u g h much of t h i s type of i n c r e d i b l e b o a s t i n g o c c u r s i n 74 the raps t h e r e are a l s o c l a i m s made, l i k e L L's "no rapper can rap q u i t e l i k e I can", which b o r d e r s on b r a g g i n g , t h a t i s , a presumed statement of t r u t h . Here a g a i n the l i n e s between p l a y f u l n e s s and s e r i o u s n e s s are t e s t e d . I t i s a l s o i n t e r e s t i n g t o note t h a t a l t h o u g h these p r a c t i c e s i n r a p p i n g r e l a t e to e x i s t i n g forms of v e r b a l combat i n the b l a c k v e r n a c u l a r , one s i g n i f i c a n t c a t e g o r y , t h a t i s , " p l a y i n g the dozens", has not been i n c o r p o r a t e d i n t o rap music. T h i s type of f o r m a l i z e d i n s u l t d i r e c t e d towards an opponent's f a m i l y , e s p e c i a l l y h i s mother, i s c o m p l e t e l y a b s e n t. Here a t t a c k s are c o n f i n e d t o the h i p hopper and h i s crew (and r a r e l y to h i s female mates). 4 . 3 The Role of R i t u a l I n s u l t As has been s u g g e s t e d , w i t h i n the b o u n d a r i e s of h i p hop r i v a l r y , as d e p i c t e d i n rap l y r i c s , a g g r e s s i o n has been i n s t i t u t i o n a l i z e d as r i t u a l i n s u l t . A c t u a l p h y s i c a l v i o l e n c e or f i g h t i n g i s v i r t u a l l y never a l l u d e d t o . However, the metaphor of the b a t t l e i s c e n t r a l t o a l l e x p r e s s i o n s of h i p hop c o m p e t i t i o n . A l t h o u g h t h i s can not be t aken as c o n c l u s i v e e v i d e n c e to s u p p o r t the a c t u a l i t y of the c l a i m t h a t gangs were r e p l a c e d by h i p hop as an arena f o r s t a t u s e v a l u a t i o n and a g g r e s s i o n v e n t i n g , t h e r e i s no doubt t h a t a t r a n s f e r of d e s t r u c t i v e imagery and a c a r r y over of a s s o c i a t i o n s i n t o t h e i r c r e a t i v e a c t i v i t i e s has o c c u r r e d . Whether the b a t t l e metaphor i s b e i n g drawn upon s i m p l y because i t evokes a sense of c o n t r o l i n the p r o c e s s of image management or whether i t a l s o s u g g e s t s t h a t h i p hoppers b e l i e v e 75 t h a t they are c h a n n e l i n g a c t u a l h o s t i l i t i e s i s d i f f i c u l t to t e l l . A t r a d i t i o n of s u b s t i t u t i n g f i g h t i n g words f o r p h y s i c a l f i g h t i n g , t r y i n g to d e s t r o y someone through b o a s t s , c h a l l e n g e s , and i n s u l t s has an e s t a b l i s h e d h i s t o r y i n b l a c k e x p r e s s i v e n e s s (Abrahams 1976; Smitherman 1977; F o l b 1980; Kochman 1 9 8 1 ) . V e r b a l combat has s u p p o s e d l y p r o v i d e d a means of managing h o s t i l i t y w i t h o u t l o s s of s e l f - c o n t r o l . One can s u c c e s s f u l l y a v o i d h a v i n g t o prove o n e s e l f through deeds i f h i s "word b u l l e t s " a r e s t r o n g enough (Smitherman 1977: 8 2 ) . Yet even these a c t i v i t i e s must be i n t e r p r e t e d c a u t i o u s l y . There i s e v i d e n c e t h a t much of what, from the o u t s i d e , appears as o v e r t e x p r e s s i o n s of h o s t i l i t y between g h e t t o males i s viewed by them as an i m p o r t a n t p a r t of t h e i r image management and i s not c o n s i d e r e d t r u e a n i m o s i t y but merely " h a v i n g a good time"(Hannerz 1969:86). I have l i t t l e doubt t h a t i n i t s o r i g i n a t i n g c o n t e x t and perhaps t o t h i s day on the s t r e e t s of New York C i t y ' s g h e t t o s r a p , l i k e the o t h e r forms of h i p hop, can o p e r a t e to c h a n n e l r e a l h o s t i l i t y . However, a l t h o u g h the e x p r e s s i o n s used may be the same i n r e c o r d e d r a p s , i t i s l e s s l i k e l y t h a t i n t e n s e anger i s b e i n g c h a n n e l l e d at the time of p e r f o r m i n g . T h i s i s not to say, however, t h a t r a p p e r s who have become s t a r s do not s t i l l compete w i t h o t h e r r a p p e r s i n f a c e - t o - f a c e c o n f r o n t a t i o n s , nor t h a t t h e i r honour as males i s any l e s s at s t a k e . C o m p e t i t i v e b a t t l i n g remains a v i a b l e e n t e r p r i s e , i f i n no o t h e r sense at l e a s t i n t h a t suggested by L L Cool J's c h a l l e n g e : "You wanta b a t t l e me? S e l l more r e c o r d s than I do" ( i n I n t e r v i e w , Dec. 1987, p . 1 1 4 ) . 76 Whatever the case may be, raps r e p r e s e n t the c r e a t o r ' s tough s e l f - i m a g e and are l o a d e d to f i r e w i t h images of r a p p e r s as g l a d i a t o r s , b o x e r s , N i n j a w a r r i o r s who are equipped w i t h the most de a d l y weapons of a l l — t h e i r r a p s . Raps are " f i e r c e , d e v a s t a t i n g and armed to k i l l " ; t h e y ' r e "camouflaged powers i n words and m usic"; t h e y ' r e " c y a n i d e , d e a d l y l e t h a l " . And DJs have t h e i r weapons as w e l l -- " n e e d l e s as sharp as a k n i f e to c u t " . Indeed the v e r y a c t of c u t t i n g a r e c o r d i s v i o l e n t and l i t e r a l l y c u t s up the music, d e s t r o y i n g i t s o r i g i n a l sound and meaning and r e c r e a t i n g i t i n t o a r h y t h m i c a l l y a g g r e s s i v e sound. Rappers speak of " c r u s h i n g " , " b u s t i n g " and " s l a u g h t e r -i n g " one another w i t h r a p s . C o n f r o n t i n g a rapper i n a c t i o n i s a dangerous p r o p o s i t i o n f o r "asses are b u s t , p r i d e i s s wallowed, s o u l s cremated, l i p s are s e a l e d " . To render an opponent s p e e c h l e s s or unnerve him so t h a t h i s rap becomes i m p a i r e d i s to have g a i n e d power over him. The a b i l i t y to c o n t r o l words i s a s o u r c e of power, not o n l y f o r h i p hoppers, but i n g e n e r a l f o r b l a c k g h e t t o d w e l l e r s . Thus LL c l a i m s "when I'm i n v o l v e d a l l the amateurs s t u t t e r " . One rapper c l a i m s to be armed w i t h a .357 ( a c t u a l l y h i s m i c r o p h o n e ) , another b o a s t s t h a t " t r y i n g t o b a t t l e me i s l i k e d e f u s i n g a bomb", w h i l e y e t another warns t h a t "the microphone master D.M.C. causes 1,2,3,4 c a s u a l t i e s " . L i n q u i s t i c t r a n s f e r s a l s o i l l u s t r a t e a t r a n s f e r e n c e of d e s t r u c t i v e e x p r e s s i o n s i n t o h i p hop c r e a t i v e forms. The term "blow your mind" was o r i g i n a l l y a t h r e a t of v i o l e n c e , but i n h i p hop s u g g e s t s t h a t the s t r e n g t h of the music w i l l blow you away. P r i o r to h i p hop to " t u r n i t o u t " r e f e r r e d to b r e a k i n g something 77 up by s t a r t i n g a f i g h t , e s p e c i a l l y at a p a r t y ( F o l b 1980: 103). In h i p hop l e x i c o n i t s t i l l o p e r a t e s w i t h i n the c o n t e x t of a p a r t y but now, a c c o r d i n g to i n f o r m a t i o n i n the r a p s , r e f e r s to u s i n g the m u s i c a l break t o s t i m u l a t e the crowd. Raps and performances are f r e q u e n t l y r e f e r r e d to as "def" meaning i n c r e d i b l e , y e t the word "def" i s d e r i v e d from the word " d e a t h " , presumably drawing i t s power from t h a t a s s o c i a t i o n . A t r a n s l a t i o n of f i g h t i n g s p i r i t i n t o c o n s t r u c t i v e , as opposed t o d e s t r u c t i v e , a c t i v i t i e s , i s suggested i n l i n e s l i k e , " I ' l l c r e a t e a d e v a s t a t i n g m a s t e r p i e c e " or i n the name of one DJ, Cut C r e a t o r . One can o n l y make sense of the f a c t t h a t Grandmasters F l a s h and M e l l e Mel appear on album c o v e r s i n f u l l s u p e r s o n i c A f r i c a n t r i b a l war g e a r , y e t are r a p p i n g about p e a c e f u l worldwide harmony, i n terms of a t r a n s f e r of t h i s n a t u r e . The purpose of e f f e c t i v e r a p p i n g s t y l e i s indeed to "blow someone's mind", t h e r e b y c a u s i n g them to l o o s e t h e i r c o o l w h i l e a d v a n c i n g the p o s i t i o n of the rapper. P e r f o r m i n g i n a c o m p e t i t i v e manner t h a t w i l l o u t w i t an opponent and show o f f one's own a b i l i t i e s i s to g a i n both s e l f - r e s p e c t and the r e c o g n i t i o n of one's p e e r s . F o l b has suggested t h a t i n the g h e t t o c u l t u r a l system words have become t o o l s of power and o p e r a t e as e q u i v a l e n t s to money as they can a c c e s s commodities (women, goods, s t a t u s ) (1980: 90). Both p e r s o n a l and c u l t u r a l messages are communicated through b l a c k speech s t y l e . As one i n f o r m a n t e x p l a i n s : See yo' rap i s your t h i n g . I t ' s l i k e your p e r s o n a l i t y . L i k e you k i n s t y l e on some dude by r a p p i n ' b e t t e r ' n he do. Show'im u p ( i b i d . : 91). 78 4.4 Ambiguity Concerning Females To return to hip hop a r t i c u l a t i o n s of s o c i a l r e l a t i o n s , the t h i r d category of relationships expressed in rap music is that of the hip hopper to females. In the sample investigated there was one dedication rap in praise of mothers, a l l other females referred to were ones either sexually or romantically involved with or sought after. Based on evidence from the raps, other than cold cash money and respect, the hip hopper's primary pursuit appears to be for sexual encounters. One rap instructs the l i s t e n i n g audience, " i f you love sex, throw both hands in the a i r and say 'sex' and 'more sex' say 'I l i k e i t , I love i t , I eat i t ' " . But more than an avenue for expressing their desire for females, rap, l i k e the other hip hop a c t i v i t i e s , has become a means of impressing and winning over "the ladies", and this function is also a r t i c u l a t e d in the raps — "we're the men of the hour, make the ladies scream and h o l l e r " (Whodini 1984). According to the rap l y r i c s , the relationship to females does not appear to be based on attributes such as friendship or compatibility. Attraction is by and large a physical one. A "fresh" female must be sexually a l l u r i n g and have a clean appearance. Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five s p e l l i t out: "The g i r l ' s fresh — dress so (fresh), on the dance floor (fresh), body smells sweet (fresh) jeans too t i g h t , blouse so loose and open (fresh), walks so fresh, talks so fresh, that g i r l is fresh" ("She's So Fresh", 1982). 79 A d e s i r a b l e female i s most commonly r e f e r r e d to i n raps as a " f l y g i r l " , the c o n n o t a t i o n s most o f t e n mentioned are b e i n g w e l l - d r e s s e d , c o o l and o r i g i n a l . F l y g i r l s are c o n s i d e r e d to be s e x u a l l y a v a i l a b l e — "a r e a l f l y c u t e y , she's always ready so I can rock her s t e a d y " . A s p e c i a l c a t e g o r y of female sex p a r t n e r s e n t e r e d the p i c t u r e as r a p p e r s became more and more c o m m e r c i a l l y s u c c e s s f u l . " S k e e z e r s " appear to be the h i p hop e q u i v a l e n t t o g r o u p i e s . S k e e z e r s are " f l y g i r l s who d e s i r e the man they admire" and are "always on [ t h e i r ] j o c k s " . As Run-D.M.C. (1985) e x p l a i n s i t , " I got j e t s e t women t h a t o f f e r me f a v o u r s , my f a c e i s a thousand l i p s t i c k f l a v o u r s " . But s k e e z e r s , a l t h o u g h r e f e r r e d to as a mark of s t a t u s when t r y i n g to impress o t h e r males, are not always responded to f a v o u r a b l y , e s p e c i a l l y i f they are a g g r e s s i v e , p o s s e s s i v e or o f f e r i n g money f o r s e x u a l p r i v i l e g e s . LL Cool J , r e j e c t i n g a s k e e z e r , s a y s , "ya I'm a h i t man, but I'm not f o r h i r e " (1987). I t would appear t h a t they f e e l more c o m f o r t a b l e i f they are the ones who are " h i t t i n g on" the women. Not o n l y do r a p p e r s t a l k about t h e i r presumed e x p l o i t s p r o u d l y to o t h e r s ("she's the t a l k of my room"), but a l s o b o a s t of t h e i r a b i l i t i e s t o p l e a s e women. Many h i p hop raps are no more than the more t r a d i t i o n a l b l a c k man's raps used to s e c u r e females s e t t o music, f i l l e d w i t h l i n e s l i k e "hey g i r l , I can g i v e you more". In a d d i t i o n to s e x u a l g r a t i f i c a t i o n and g l o r i f i c a t i o n the r o l e of women d e p i c t e d i n raps i s a very c o n s e r v a t i v e one — "she does my d i s h e s . . . keeps a f a t man w e l l f e d " . Females tend to be r e f e r r e d to as v a l u a b l e p r o p e r t y t h a t 80 can be e x h i b i t e d i n o r d e r t o g a i n p r e s t i g e — "you got to have a f l y g i r l on your d e v i n e [ s i c ] , have her come to your shows we a r i n g n i c e , f a n c y c l o t h e s " . The male h i p hopper's p e r c e p t i o n of females i s an ambiguous one, one wrought w i t h s u s p i c i o n on the one hand and i d e a l i s t i c r o m a n t i c i s m on the o t h e r . A metaphor used f o r the r e l a t i o n s h i p i s one of a d d i c t i o n . In one sense sex i s o f f e r e d as an e x c i t i n g s u b s t i t u t e f o r dr u g s , but i n another i t i s a l s o viewed as s h a r i n g the dangers, f o r one can get " s t r u n g out" on a female because she has the power t o "blow your mind". T h i s concept of women i s c o n s i s t e n t w i t h t h a t r e p o r t e d by F o l b (1980: 127) i n her d i s c u s s i o n of b l a c k teenage r e l a t i o n s h i p s . O f t e n females i n t e n t i o n s are s u s p e c t . In Force MD's ra p , "Let Me Love You" (1984), two rap p e r s are at a p a r t y d i s c u s s i n g the n a t u r e of l o v e r e l a t i o n s h i p s : Hey, TCD, can you l o v e her b e t t e r than me? Yes, J e s s i e D, cause I have the money I t ' s not about t h a t money, i t ' s about t h a t l o v e , peace and h a p p i n e s s W e l l , I thought the same t h i n g t i l I was t a l k i n g t o t h i s g i r l l a s t n i g h t --I s a i d , "Yo, baby, what's up? She s a y s , "Don't say n o t h i n g t o me. You a i n ' t got no money Not o n l y are women accused of wanting men o n l y f o r t h e i r money, but they a l s o appear t o be s u b j e c t e d t o the double s t a n d a r d measure of p r o m i s c u i t y . L i s a L i p s (UTFO, 1985) i s " f l y and d e f i n i t e l y c h i l l i n ' " , y e t her " l i p s are so red and rough l i k e [she] d i d a to u r of the whole neighbourhood and s t i l l wants more" thus "not o n l y i s [she] n a s t y , but s t u p i d , t o o " . 81 T h i s r e f e r e n c e t o p r o m i s c u o u s f e m a l e s as somewhat i n d e c e n t i s i n marked c o n t r a s t t o t h e a n a l y s i s on b l a c k s e x u a l i t y g i v e n by Kochman (1981) i n w h i c h he s u g g e s t s no m o r a l s t i g m a i s a t t a c h e d t o s e x u a l l y a c t i v e f e m a l e s . The a r e a o f p r o m i s c u i t y seems t o be one o f p a r t i c u l a r a m b i g u i t y i n h i p hop and may as y e t be an u n r e s o l v e d i s s u e . On a s i n g l e a l bum W h o d i n i (1987) p r e s e n t a r a p w a r n i n g a g a i n s t t h e h a z z a r d s o f p r o m i s c u i t y and c a l l s f o r a s e n s e o f r e s p o n s b i l i t y ("you b r o u g h t i t on y o u r s e l f " ) , y e t a l s o do one e x t o l l i n g t h e v i r t u e s o f one n i g h t s t a n d s and sex f o r s e x s a k e ("I want a g i r l t h a t w a n t s me f o r my body , my f u n k y f r e s h b o d y " ) . E i t h e r Kochman was o v e r s t a t i n g t h e c a s e o r a s h i f t t o m a i n s t r e a m v a l u e s may be i n p r o c e s s o r , w h i c h i s more l i k e l y , t h e r e i s an e m e r g i n g r e a c t i o n t o t h e v e r y r e a l r i s k s o f d i s e a s e t h a t has r e c e n t l y become a m a j o r s o u r c e o f c o n c e r n , e s p e c i a l l y i n New Y o r k C i t y . I n d e e d , The F a t Boys came o u t w i t h a r a p ( " P r o t e c t Y o u r s e l f " , 1986) w h i c h e x p l i c i t l y w a r n s a b o u t d e a d l y AIDS. I n K o o l Moe Dee's "Go See t h e D o c t o r " (1987), he makes e x p l i c i t t h e need f o r b o t h m a l e s and f e m a l e s t o be c a u t i o u s o f s e x u a l l y t r a n s m i t t e d d i s e a s e s . Thus t h e s e n t i m e n t e x p r e s s e d i n 1984 by t h e B-Boys t h a t "me and my homeboys r u n n i n g l i k e p o n i e s " may now be i n q u e s t i o n . However, t h e r e i s y e t a n o t h e r f a c t o r w h i c h c a n , a t l e a s t i n p a r t , h e l p t o e x p l a i n t h i s a p p a r e n t c o n t r a d i c t i o n . The c a l l f o r y o u t h t o p r o t e c t t h e m s e l v e s a g a i n s t d i s e a s e i s a s e r i o u s message r a p p e r s a r e a t t e m p t i n g t o c o n v e y . On t h e o t h e r h a n d , t h e o u t r a g e o u s c l a i m s t o s e x u a l f e a t s o f wonderment a r e o p e r a t i n g a t t h e l e v e l o f r i t u a l b o a s t i n g ( o r 82 "talking b u l l s h i t " as LL refers to i t ) and is simply part of their t i g h t l y controlled image-management and is not intended, as a sanction of indiscriminative sexual behaviour (nor would i t be received as one by an i n i t i a t e d audience). As has been reported for ghetto men in general (Hannerz 1969: 79; Folb 1980: 133) the creation of i l l u s i o n as a mechanism of male image management operates in attitudes towards women. It is the impression of sexual prowess, more than the actual exploits, that counts in hip hop masculine identity. The investigator r e c a l l s a case in point. Upon f i r s t meeting a breakdancer and rapper from Tacoma, Washington, she was bombarded with boasts of his sexual attractiveness and the conversation was heavily spiced with sexual innuendos. Only much l a t e r , when pretenses were slackened, did the hip hopper admit to being sexually conservative when is comes to actual encounters; yet he maintained the public image of a " f l y guy". Nonetheless women who reject the advances of a " f l y guy" can expect to be r i d i c u l e d . An informative dialogue i s provided on an UTFO album (1985) in which several of the jams consist of crew members trying to "put some weight on 1 Roxanne. In one rap, "the real Roxanne" (one of the three female rappers in the sample) responds to their advances, giving her side of the story: Say, me to Rox give up the box so you can brag about i t around the block you must be crazy Once her rejection i s known then insults are hurled back and 83 f o r t h . On her p a r t she a t t a c k s t h e i r m u s i c a l and s e x u a l e x p e r t i s e : Where's the b e a t , you guys can't do i t I need a man who can make me f e e l i t ( T h i s i s but one example of the s i m u l t a n e o u s r e f e r e n c i n g t o m u s i c a l s k i l l and s e x u a l p r o f i c i e n c y , a s s o c i a t i n g these two b a s i c performance a c t i v i t i e s and u n d e r s c o r i n g the rhythmic and e x p l i c i t body moves t h a t b l a c k music tends t o i n s p i r e . ) In r e t o r t , UTFO, who o r i g i n a l l y were r a p p i n g her p r a i s e s , respond: I f u g l y was a b u r g e r , you'd be a B i g Mac Two a l l pork p a t t i e s surrounded by f a t T h i s p a r t i c u l a r i n t e r a c t i o n even though i n d i c a t i v e of male/female exchanges a l s o i s p a r t of a second s c e n a r i o . Because Roxanne i s a r a p p e r , as w e l l as a fe m a l e , she i s s u b j e c t t o the r u l e s of b a t t l e rap and a t t h i s l e v e l can be t r e a t e d (and a c t ) l i k e one of them. Thus UTFO a t t a c k her as they would any sucker MC: Hey, s t u p i d , yeh you Roxanne, get your f a c e o u t t a the garbage can Don't t r y and hid e now s i n c e we've made you a s t a r Come out and f a c e i t l i k e the man you are ...Roxanne must be t e r m i n a t e d . . . So as of r i g h t now, Roxanne i s demolished Thus f a r the r e l a t i o n s h i p of h i p hopper to females has been p o r t r a y e d as a s e x u a l t r a n s a c t i o n w i t h l i t t l e r e f e r e n c e t o the more s p i r i t u a l a s p e c t s o f t e n a s s o c i a t e d w i t h l o v e . However, i n sharp c o n t r a s t t o t h i s cocky and c a s u a l a t t i t u d e i s a second s e t of raps about women. And, s t r i c t l y s p e a k i n g , they are not even raps . O c a s s i o n a l l y on a rap album a rapper i n c l u d e s a l o v e b a l l a d i n which h i s rap bark i s s u b s t i t u t e d w i t h a g e n t l e v o i c e 84 and t h e D J ' s m i x e s s w i t c h f r o m h a r d s o u n d s t o q u i e t m e l o d i e s . (The i n c l u s i o n o f s u c h m a t e r i a l i s p r o b a b l y a f a c t o r o f t h e r e c o r d i n g i n d u s t r y , y e t p r e s u m a b l y t h e e x p r e s s e d s e n t i m e n t s a r e t h e i r s . ) T h i s i s t h e o n l y t i m e t h r o u g h o u t t h e e x p r e s s i v e s y s t e m t h a t h i p h o p p e r s r e l a x t h e i r h a r d , t o u g h image and show a more v u l n e r a b l e s i d e o f t h e i r n a t u r e s , f o r b e i n g i n l o v e "makes a man s o f t " . As LL C o o l J e x p l a i n s : I'm s u r p r i s e d I f o u n d a d e s i r e f o r t r u e l o v e f l o a t i n g a r o u n d i n my s o u l c a u s e my s o u l i s c o l d One h a l f o f me d e s e r v e s t o be t h i s way t i l l I'm o l d b u t t h e o t h e r h a l f n eeds a f f e c t i o n and j o y and t h e warmth t h a t i s c r e a t e d by a boy and a g i r l — I need l o v e ("I Need L o v e " , 1987) I n t h i s c o n t e x t a woman i s f a n t a s i z e d a b o u t as "a dream g i r l I h a v e n ' t met y e t " and t a l k i s a l l sweet k i s s e s on t h e c h e e k , r o s e s and e t e r n a l b l i s s . Here t h e h i p h o p p e r , t h e man who c a n d e s t r o y o p p o n e n t s w i t h h i s w o r d s , becomes t o n g u e - t i e d , shy and i n s e c u r e . He s e e k s a h a v e n f r o m t h e w o r l d o f u n r e l e n t i n g m a s c u l i n e p r i d e , y e t i s f e a r f u l o f b e i n g h u r t b e c a u s e l o v e , i n i t s own way, i s h a r d t o o . L L , a t a p a r t y where t h e g i r l o f h i s dreams a p p e a r s : F i n a l l y I g e t t h e n e r v e t o buy you one more [ d r i n k ] S i t b a c k , c r a c k a s m i l e T r y t o a c t l i k e I'm r e l a x e d and not a c h i l d . . . Y o u ' r e t h e Queen o f E l e g a n c e b u t maybe I'm j u s t a n o t h e r puppy l o v e n u i s a n c e I ' l l t e l l you s t r a i g h t up — I f e e l I s h o u l d d i s a p p e a r — o u t of s i g h t R e j e c t i o n i s my f e a r To me y o u ' r e l i k e a d r u g o r a h a z y r e d l i g h t I want yo u ("I Want Yo u " , 1985) 85 A hip hopper through his s o c i a l relations expands his persona, using them as a means of furthering his impression management and hence reinforcing his identity. The impression which is being managed is one of superiority, i n v u l n e r a b i l i t y and coolness. LL Cool J has suggested that this character is neccessary in order to successfully negotiate s e l f - p r i d e and peer respect (in Interview, Dec. 1987, p. 116). Yet i t would seem that the struggle to maintain the facade through role-playing i s not the only agenda addressed through s o c i a l relations. Complementing the individual competitiveness i s a sense of c o l l e c t i v e community. What is beginning to emerge in this analysis is a picture of the rapper attempting to balance his s e l f -g l o r i f i c a t i o n with a sense of r e s p o n s i b i l i t y for serious s o c i a l issues and a genuine caring for others. Imparting c u l t u r a l information and norms of behavior, attempting to s o c i a l i z e peers is also part of a rapper's agenda and is consistent with the functions of generalized black street talk as reported by l i n g u i s t John Horton (1972: 29). 86 CHAPTER FIVE RAP MUSIC: HIP HOP ROLES A d i s c u s s i o n of the v a r i o u s r o l e s which a h i p hop male p o r t r a y s , as ex p r e s s e d i n t h e i r r a p s , i s n e c e s s a r i l y l i n k e d t o the t y p e s of i d e n t i t i e s which they are c o n s t r u c t i n g f o r the m s e l v e s . Thus, not o n l y do s e l f - i m a g e s based on a s s o c i a t i o n s w i t h k i n g s , s a v i o u r s , w i z a r d s , d o c t o r s , c a p t a i n s and so f o r t h h e l p c o n s t r u c t an i d e n t i t y of power, s k i l l and c o n t r o l , but a l s o suggest the v a r i o u s r o l e s they see themselves f u l f i l l i n g w i t h i n t h e i r community. In both message and p a r t y raps h i p hoppers are p r e s e n t e d as s o c i a l commentators, moral agents and s p i r i t u a l h e a l e r s . They command obedience from t h e i r ' s u b j e c t s ' , y e t p r o f e s s t o use t h e i r f i g h t i n g s p i r i t s t o h e l p a l l e v i a t e problems and guide g h e t t o youths toward a b e t t e r l i f e . They d e f i n e a p p r o p r i a t e b e h a v i o u r and attempt t o i n s p i r e g r e a t n e s s . The rap l y r i c s suggest they b e l i e v e t h a t the sense of power and a u t h o r i t y c r e a t e d through t h e i r s e l f - c o n s t r u c t i o n s can be employed t o f a c i l i t a t e s o c i a l c o n t r o l and m o t i v a t e s o c i a l a c t i o n . 5.1 Sources of Se c u l a r Power Used by Hip Hoppers H i p hop l e a d e r s p r e s e n t themselves at times as an i r r e s i s t a b l e f o r c e ("contagious l i k e a d i s e a s e " ) ; at o t h e r t i m e s r e q u i r i n g c o e r s i o n t o e l i c i t obedience ("take a g i r l i e on the dance f l o o r and i f she don't dance, w e l l I s l a p and you know why — i f Run says 'dance' you do or d i e " ) , but u l t i m a t e l y they can "make a crowd do a n y t h i n g they say". (The d i s t i n c t i o n between l e a d e r s and r e g u l a r members of h i p hop i s never made e x p l i c i t . 8 7 Those w i t h the most c u r r e n c y i n terms of r e c o g n i t i o n , charisma and s k i l l a r e d e f e r r e d t o and emulated. Many l e a d e r s are those who have become r e c o r d i n g s t a r s , but t h e r e are a l s o l o c a l , as yet u n d i s c o v e r e d , heroes.) In one sense the g e n e r a t i o n of power i s o p e r a t i n g at a m e t a p h o r i c a l l e v e l and indeed metaphors may be a s s i s t i n g i n a c t u a l a f f e c t i v e changes i n one's persona. But, beyond t h i s , t h e r e i s a sense i n h i p hop t h a t at a ve r y r e a l l e v e l h i p hop a c t i v i t i e s can be used to c r e a t e power, power to m a n i p u l a t e o t h e r s and s t i m u l a t e p o s i t i v e f e e l i n g s . Thus, when the Fat Boys ( 1 9 8 4 ) announce t h a t t h e i r rapper has "a m i l l i o n w a t t s of power coming out of h i s mouth, making a l l the young l a d i e s want t o scream and s h o u t " , or the Bad Boys ( 1 9 8 5 ) c l a i m t o be " b r i n g i n g t h i s p l a c e from the depths of h e l l t o the s k i e s of heaven way up a b o v e . . . [ f o r ] I'm not an o r d i n a r y man but a microphone w i z a r d , I can h y p n o t i z e your body and s o u l , make you f e e l l i k e 2 4 c a r a t g o l d " , they are combining m e t a p h o r i c a l a s s o c i a t i o n s t o superhuman d i s p l a y s of power w i t h a c t u a l c l a i m s o f t h e i r a b i l i t y t o a f f e c t t h e i r f o l l o w e r s . A l t h o u g h h i p hoppers w i l l draw on v i r t u a l l y any imagery of power to enhance t h e i r p o s i t i o n , i t i s i n t e r e s t i n g t o note t h a t i n b a t t l e raps a s s o c i a t i o n s w i t h w a r r i o r s and d e v i l s p r e v a i l , whereas i n message raps a l l u s i o n s t o h e a l e r s and gods dominate. The s o u r c e s of s e c u l a r power among h i p hoppers i n c l u d e t h o s e shared by many b l a c k g h e t t o males -- p r i z e d p o s s e s s i o n s , e s p e c i a l l y h i p hop s t a t u s symbols: cash f l o w , a c c e s s to females and h i g h s t a t u s and r e p u t a t i o n among pe e r s . The l a t t e r i s 88 p r i m a r i l y a c h i e v e d through s u c c e s s i n h i p hop a c t i v i t i e s . I t appears t h a t the p r i n c i p l e s o u r c e of power o p e r a t i n g w i t h i n the system i s t h a t g e n e r a t e d by t h e i r music and the dance i t i n s p i r e s . The c l o s e r a p e r f o r m e r i s a s s o c i a t e d w i t h h i s music the more power he can w i e l d . C e l e b r a t e d rappers have developed the a b i l i t y t o l i t e r a l l y t r a n s f o r m themselves i n t o t h e i r music t h r o u g h human b e a t - b o x i n g (the v o i c e i m i t a t i o n of a drum machine) and v o i c e i m i t a t i o n s of s y n t h e s i z e r s and s c r a t c h i n g of r e c o r d s which b l u r the d i s t i n c t i o n s between rapper and music as they merge i n t o one. The t r a n s f o r m a t i o n a l s o o p e r a t e s i n r e v e r s e . DJs can programme s y n t h e s i z e r s to i m i t a t e the v o i c e s of r a p p e r s . The n o t i o n t h a t music and dance possess a c t u a l power i s e x p r e s s e d r e p e a t e d l y . ( R e f e r e n c e s i n t h i s s e c t i o n to d a n c i n g are not l i m i t e d to b r e a k d a n c i n g , a l t h o u g h rap music i s of c o u r s e the music used by b r e a k e r s and p a r t i e s are a u s u a l c o n t e x t f o r b r e a k i n g . A more g e n e r a l r e f e r e n c e t o b l a c k s o c i a l dance which o c c u r s a l o n g s i d e b r e a k i n g i s i n c l u d e d . ) For example, M e l l e Mel and the F u r i o u s F i v e (1984) i n t h e i r message rap, "1984 WW I I I " , suggest as a s o l u t i o n t o the w o r l d ' s p l i g h t to " l e t the music p l a y on". Another message rap c l a i m s t h a t i n order to a c h i e v e w o r l d harmony we have to have "peace-power, u n i t y - p o w e r , love-power, fun-power and c h i l d r e n - p o w e r " . The l a s t two s o u r c e s of power i n d i c a t e a b e l i e f t h a t young people and t h e i r a c t i v i t i e s of p l a y can l e a d the way to a "world of one community". The rap s t a t e s t h a t " d o i n g the w i l d s t y l e " can l e a d to a " r e v o l u t i o n of the mind". And d o i n g the w i l d s t y l e means d a n c i n g , b e i n g 89 l i t e r a l l y motivated by the driving force of music to experience an emotional u p l i f t i n g or s p i r i t u a l enlightenment that leads to heightened awareness. In a similar rap, "dancing the funk" is e x p l i c i t l y portrayed as synonymous with knowledge, wisdom and understanding. Here the rappers see themselves as world reformers. From a di f f e r e n t solar system many, many galaxies away We are the force of another creation, a new musical revelation We are on a musical mission to help the underprivileged improve a l l men, singing electronic jams (Afrika Bambaataa and the Soulsonic Force, "The Renegades of Funk", 1984) And, again, Rock Steady Crew, in their search for peace and unity, claim that "getting into something that w i l l make you move" i s the solution. The body's an expression, the music's i n s p i r a t i o n T e l l us when you fee l i t cause we're going to rock the nation . . . I t ain't no b u l l s h i t , this i s hip hop ("Hey You, The Rock Steady Crew", 1984) The association of knowledge and insight on the one hand, to deep involvement with music and dance on the other, i s further represented in raps by the regular usage of the double meaning of the black term "get down" (profound awareness/deep involvement in music and dance). Clearly a bel i e f that c r e a t i v i t y has the power to better their l ot in l i f e i s being expressed. p We're the future, i t ' s up to us To make our home great and A plus 90 Let your mind be pure and feed i t — create Use the beat in your heart and aims to be great (Grandmaster Caz & Chris Stein, "Wildstyle Subway Rap #2", 1983) The use of music as a form of black power is a well established phenomenon within black culture. Slave songs, blues, s p i r i t u a l s and soul music overtly express community concerns but more than t h i s , the music acts as a solution (however temporary) to some of those problems. Black music is more f e l t than interpreted and one l i s t e n s to and understands black music through the body. The experience of music within the body i s believed to empower the l i s t e n e r . According to F i r t h , gospel music, for example, activates s p i r i t u a l insight by means "closer to the dance floor than to the white Protestant church" (1983: 20). The l y r i c s contain the "motivations, attitudes, i n t e r e s t s , c o n f l i c t s and other emotionally and i n t e l l e c t u a l l y based concepts of psychological thought as they pertain to black people" (Pasteur and Toldson 1982: 128). The music motivates the body while the l y r i c s motivate the mind; together forming an experiential gestalt (Larkin 1972: 96). 5.2 Problems Addressed by the Subculture Although some raps address universal concerns of war, p o l i t i c a l corruption, i n j u s t i c e and deprivation, most focus on evaluations of ghetto l i v i n g and l i f e s t y l e s and c a l l for s o c i a l reform. The figure of the young street hustler, who has enjoyed a position of prestige and g l o r i f i c a t i o n among ghetto males, is challenged by hip hoppers. A general suspicion and distrust of 91 males, who might be fronting or conning is expressed. In Kool Moe Dee's narrative moral tale or toast of L i t t l e Jon, this young con whose "looking for an easy break" is depicted as an i n s i g n i f i c a n t loser, for "street heroes don't mean zero...his only choice is to die or l i v e in j a i l " (1987). Street hustlers and thugs not only are reprimanded for their lack of morals, lack of sense and self-destructiveness, but also their detrimental effects on others. Like Hercules your body's strong but your mind is l i k e the d e v i l , your ideals are wrong You hurt people's feelings, mess with their minds Then have the nerve to c a l l me brother and wave the 'B' sign The young and the old, they a l l hate your sight Because of people l i k e you, they're scared to walk in the night (Grandmaster Flash & the Furious Five, "Survival", 1983) Young pimps are also put down in raps as f a i l i n g to pursue more legitimate avenues of success, such as gaining an education. This segment of ghetto peers are rejected by hip hoppers as being unaware of the real source of power, respect and prestige in the ghetto: "You think you're cool, you think you're good, you're gonna pay one day, you big time hood"; "you knuckleheads, you're not down, you can't join this party, you know you can't f i g h t , you're nothing but a f o o l , you ain't nobody". It is also s i g n i f i c a n t to note who hip hoppers do not attack as a threat to ghetto youth. The t r a d i t i o n a l i n s t i t u t i o n of street t e r r i t o r i a l f i g h t i n g gangs is only mentioned in the context of h i s t o r i c a l recounting: "got shot with a gun, stabbed with a knife, had to pay my dues, lord, to learn the rules, had 92 t o s e p a r a t e the smart from a l l the f o o l s " . The s u g g e s t i o n i s t h a t h i p hoppers have l e a r n e d from t h e i r v i o l e n t past and t h a t a t l e a s t t h i s type of gang i s s i m p l y a n o n - i s s u e . C o m p e t i t i o n f o r members i s thus between h i p hop and the h u s t l e r c r i m i n a l e l e m e n t s , e s p e c i a l l y the newly formed drug gangs t h a t have become so p r e v a l e n t i n the l a s t t h r e e y e a r s . Not o n l y are young g a n g s t e r s denounced f o r s e l l i n g d r u g s , but g h e t t o k i d s are warned not to use drugs. Many ra p p e r s d e c l a r e t h a t they are ' c l e a n ' t h u s s e t t i n g an example, and s e v e r a l raps are devoted to the t o p i c . In "White L i n e s " (a r e f e r e n c e to c o c a i n e ) a p l e a "don't do i t " i s r e p e a t e d over and over a g a i n i n a chant and the h i g h s of sex and music a r e suggested as s u b s t i t u t e s . More r e c e n t l y r a p p e r s have a t t a c k e d the c r a c k epidemic t h a t has swept New York's i n n e r c i t i e s . "Monster Crack" i s c h a r a c t e r i z e d i n the raps as a poisonous demon who w i l l t ake over your l i f e and d e s t r o y you. Throughout these s o c i a l commentaries, runs an optimism f o r the f u t u r e of g h e t t o k i d s : " j u s t get o f f the w a l l , l e t ' s have a b a l l , the 70's are gone, i t ' s the 80's y ' a l l " . Rappers, s p e a k i n g as l e a d e r s , p r e s e n t t h e i r peers w i t h an a l t e r n a t i v e t o the t r a d i t i o n a l g h e t t o avenue to s u c c e s s , one more i n l i n e w i t h mainstream v a l u e s , y e t grounded i n b l a c k g h e t t o i d e o l o g y . As w e l l , the apathy, n e g a t i v i t y and impotence e x p e r i e n c e d by young g h e t t o d w e l l e r s are a t t a c k e d . Stop s l e e p i n g y ' a l l , i f you know what time i t i s Because someone's t a k i n g yours as w e l l as g e t t i n ' h i s ...and don't c h i l l out too hard or y o u ' l l be out of the box Stop r u n n i n g your f a c e and t r y to l i s t e n i n s t e a d ...Success i s out t h e r e f o r everybody, take i t from me A c h i e v e w i t h o u t a l i c e n c e or some s o r t of degree 93 And, i f they claim you can't do i t , this is what you say "You follow, lead, but get out of my way" Get yours, winners never quit ...Get yours, go for yours, we went for ours Why s i t at home bummin', just a-wastin' your time when a l l ya gotta do is seek and you' l l f i n d ...If you work real hard, a l l your dreams w i l l come true If i t happened to us, i t can happen to you ...Get on top of your game as your confidence grows ...Ya see, what your future holds is no mystery when you're the one whose in control of your destiny ...An eternal flame burns in everyone of us turning the negative things in your l i f e to a plus (Grandmaster Flash, "Get Yours", 1987) Or as the Boogie Boys express i t : ...You said you want to get ahead Why are you s t i l l in bed? You have potential but i t ' s dead You l e t yourself be misled playing a l l those s i l l y games Who are you going to blame? If you want to stay ali v e i t ' s time to get a nine to f i v e Do or die is the only way to get by You've got to go for yours ("Do or Die", 1984) This emphasis on s e l f - r e l i a n c e challenges the dependency on others and on fate to free them from the prison of 'ghetto mentality'. The c a l l to aggressively take charge of their l i v e s and make something positive out of the limited circumstances they were born into i s echoed in one of Doug E Fresh and the Get Fresh Crew's raps (1986). Here the case is made in a more abstract, less l i t e r a l sense, however, the message is equally clear. The rap consists of the word "nuthin'" cut by the DJ over and over in a monotonous yet overwhelming tone while, sporadically, the rapper throws out the challenge, "somebody try and change this sound — come on". The DJ is able to create a rhythmic dance 94 b e a t w i t h t h e " n u t h i n 1 " w h i l e b a c k g r o u n d b-boys and b - g i r l s c l a p and c h a n t , "you a i n ' t r e a l l y d o i n g . . . " t o w h i c h t h e " n u t h i n " ' i s c u t i n . W i t h o u t a d o u b t t h i s jam i l l u s t r a t e s t h e b e l i e f i n t h e i r power t o c r e a t e s o m e t h i n g o u t o f n o t h i n g . i n g e n e r a l , t h e a c t u a l means o f f o r m i n g h i p hop m u s i c s u g g e s t s a s i m i l a r o r i e n t a t i o n . T a k i n g m u s i c w h i c h a l r e a d y e x i s t s , t h a t w h i c h i s a v a i l a b l e t o them, and r e w o r k i n g i t i n t o a new, f r e s h , s t r o n g s o u n d i l l u s t r a t e s t h a t a t a s t r u c t u r a l l e v e l t h e e x p r e s s i v e f o r m i s c o n s i s t e n t w i t h t h e e x p l i c i t m e s sages o f t h e l y r i c s . Not a l l h i p hop dogma i s d e a d l y s e r i o u s h o w e v e r . Humourous a n e c d o t e s and a n a l o g i e s a r e u s e d t o c o n v e y t h e i r m e s s a g e s as w e l l . Run-D.M.C. i n , "You be I l l i n " (1986) a r e d i s c u s s i n g t h e u n c o o l n e s s o f b e i n g ' i l l ' , t h a t i s u n k n o w l e d g e a b l e , c o n f u s e d , messed-up and e x h i b i t i n g i n c o r r e c t b e h a v i o u r . But r a t h e r t h a n use e x a m p l e s o f d r u g d e a l i n g and c r i m e t h e y o p t f o r t h e r i d i c u l o u s . E a t i n g dog f o o d , o r d e r i n g a B i g Mac ( w i t h a q u a r t e r ) a t a K e n t u c k y F r i e d C h i c k e n o r s c r e a m i n g " t o u c h d o w n " a t a b a s k e t b a l l game a l l c o n s t i t u t e ' i l l i n ' . As t h i s d i s c u s s i o n o f r a p u n f o l d s i t i s b e c o m i n g more and more e v i d e n t t h a t r a p p e r s s e e t h e m s e l v e s n o t m e r e l y as i n v o l v e d i n a t r a n s f o r m a t i o n o f t h e s e l f , b u t a l s o i n t r a n s f o r m i n g t h e i r c o m m u n i t y . As H a l e - B e n s o n c l a i m s , one f u n c t i o n o f b l a c k e x p r e s s i v e n e s s i s t o m e d i a t e b e t w e e n two w o r l d v i e w s — a c o o p e r a t i v e , i n t e r d e p e n d e n t c o l l e c t i v i t y , on t h e one h a n d , and a c o m p e t i t i v e , i n d e p e n d e n t i n d i v i d u a l i s m , on t h e o t h e r (1986: 62). And t h i s a p p e a r s t o be t h e c a s e w i t h r a p . 95 5.3 C o n s c i o u s n e s s - R a i s i n q Among Black Youth What appears to be the p r i n c i p l e r o l e of h i p hoppers i s t h a t of c o n s c i o u s n e s s - r a i s e r . Hip hoppers, both through d e d i c a t i o n s a p p e a r i n g on r e c o r d j a c k e t s and d i r e c t r e f e r e n c e s i n r a p s , have i d e n t i f i e d t hemselves w i t h b l a c k r e f o r m e r s such as M a r t i n L u t h e r K i n g and Malcolm X. A c t u a l segments of r e c o r d e d speeches by t h e s e men, such as K i n g ' s " I have a dream" and " l e t freedom r i n g " as w e l l as Malcolm X's "no s e l l out" speech are cut i n t o a number of message r a p s . Rappers c l a i m to want to use t h e i r own i n f l u e n c e on young g h e t t o people to teach and i n s p i r e them. They p r o f e s s t h a t h i p hop c o n s t i t u t e s a master p l a n , t h a t w i l l l e a d the way to a new, f r e e , and harmonious s o c i e t y . As K u r t i s Blow e x p r e s s e s i t : W e l l I am the member of a new breed and the s o l u t i o n i s a r e v o l u t i o n So I hope you a l l see the l i g h t Hear my name - U n i t e ! ("Under F i r e " , 1984) The i d e a t h a t a n y t h i n g i s p o s s i b l e i f you b e l i e v e i n y o u r s e l f and work hard to l i v e up to your p o t e n t i a l i s the d o c t r i n e of h i p hop, as w e l l as the epitome of the American Dream. Now get a h o l d of y o u r s e l f , t h i n k p o s i t i v e because t h a t d e f i n i t e l y i s the o n l y way to l i v e Don't l e t your mind f l o w l i k e water from a cup Don't you ever l e t me hear t h a t you say you're g i v i n g up (Grandmaster F l a s h & the F u r i o u s F i v e , " S u r v i v a l " , 1983) M e l l e Mel c o n f i r m s the n o t i o n t h a t by r e f u s i n g to submit to the p r e s s u r e s of l i f e , i t can be t u r n e d i n t o a c e l e b r a t i o n : "the 96 f u t u r e of the w o r l d i s i n your hands so throw your hands i n the a i r and wave 'em l i k e you j u s t don't c a r e " . F l a s h p r o v i d e s a t e s t i f y i n g rap t h a t i s a d i r e c t t r i b u t e to J e s s e J a c k s o n . " I am Somebody" (1987) c l a i m s t h a t everyone has a r i g h t to be somebody f o r "you were meant to be somebody from the second you're born....Be proud of what you are and whatever you've g o t . . . . S t a n d up f o r your h e r i t a g e , r e j o i c e i n f a c t " . The promotion of b l a c k a r t s and c u l t u r e as p a r t of b l a c k c o n s c i o u s n e s s - r a i s i n g was p r e v a l e n t i n the 1960's (as h i p hop was emerging) as a c o u n t e r p a r t to the p o l i t i c a l movements i n N o r t h e r n b l a c k i n n e r c i t i e s . The B l a c k A r t s Movement, as i t was c a l l e d , a c t e d as an a r t i s t i c means of t r a n s f o r m i n g s u f f e r i n g i n t o c o n s t r u c t i v e a c t i o n (Smitherman 1977: 177-178). The a s s e r t i o n of b l a c k s o u l f u l n e s s , i n p a r t i c u l a r , was an attempt to t r a n s f o r m l i a b i l i t i e s i n t o a communal a s s e r t i o n of p r i d e by promoting a v a l i d and d i s t i n c t i v e b l a c k c h a r a c t e r and p o s i t i v e group i d e n t i t y . S o u l c o n s t i t u t e d a r e f u s a l to wallow i n s e l f - p i t y and the d a r i n g t o have f a i t h i n one's s e l f ( i b i d . : 56; Bonnett 1980: 12) . Thus, l i k e b l a c k r e f o r m e r s b e f o r e them, h i p hoppers acknowledge the importance of a c c e p t i n g your background and drawing s t r e n g t h from i t . Even i f you succeed i n l i f e and l e a v e the g h e t t o you s h o u l d not f o r g e t i t , f o r , as Whodini reminds t h e i r l i s t e n e r s i n , "Remember Where You Came From" (1987), one c a n ' t and s h o u l d n ' t want to escape i t and s h o u l d never l o s e t r a c k of t h e i r way back, f o r t o l o s e one's r o o t s i s to r i s k l o s i n g one's sense of s e l f — t o be n o t h i n g . 97 The h i p hop 'prophet' appears t o employ two p r i n c i p l e s t r a t e g i e s i n h i s e f f o r t s t o i n s p i r e h i s f o l l o w e r s . Not o n l y does he t e a c h and preach through message r a p s , he a l s o p r o v i d e s an e x p e r i e n t i a l c o n t e x t w i t h i n which he attempts t o a l l e v i a t e t h e i r s u f f e r i n g s and i n c i t e them t o a he i g h t e n e d e m o t i o n a l s t a t e or e u p h o r i a . 'The p a r t y ' i s the p r i m a r y arena f o r rap music performance. I t i s w i t h i n t h i s c o n t e x t t h a t most b a t t l e and message raps are p r e s e n t e d as w e l l as a l l p a r t y r a p s . I t i s through p a r t y raps t h a t r a p p e r s attempt to move t h e i r a u d i e n c e s . G e n e r a l l y i n b l a c k American c u l t u r e and most c e r t a i n l y i n the h i p hop s u b c u l t u r e , ' t o p a r t y ' i s synonymous w i t h 'to dance', thus the MC's and DJ's job i s to m o t i v a t e people t o dance. Even more r e c e n t l y at rap c o n c e r t s where l i m i t e d space r e s t r i c t s a c t u a l d a n c i n g , i t i s e s s e n t i a l f o r the perf o r m e r t o get the audience moving. I n t e r j e c t i o n s of "put your hands i n the a i r and wave 'em l i k e you j u s t don't c a r e " ; " j u s t move your body from l e f t to r i g h t " ; "rock and r o l l , r o l l and r o c k , r o c k , rock l e t ' s rock out of c o n t r o l " o r , "jump up, jump up, jump back, jump back" are used t o promote a c o r p o r e a l response. The i n v e s t i g a t o r has a t t e n d e d s e v e r a l c o n c e r t s where the e n t i r e audience i s shimmying, waving and s h o u t i n g i n u n i s o n . A c c o r d i n g t o rap l y r i c s h i p hoppers are p r o p o s i n g t o use the power of music — both the words and the rhy t h m i c beat — to s t i m u l a t e dance which i n c o m b i n a t i o n s t i m u l a t e a t h e r a p e u t i c or c a t h a r t i c e x p e r i e n c e . I t can be argued t h a t r a p , l i k e the o t h e r forms of b l a c k music, o p e r a t e s , a t l e a s t i n p a r t , as a form of s o c i a l a e s t h e t i c t h e r a p y , r e i n f o r c i n g the use of 98 e x p r e s s i v e n e s s as a way of d e a l i n g w i t h s t r e s s . Funk music and dance (rap and b r e a k d a n c i n g ' s k i s s i n ' c o u s i n s ) are b e l i e v e d , f o r i n s t a n c e , to have d e f i n i t e c u r a t i v e q u a l i t i e s ( P a s t e u r and T o l d s o n 1982: 145). By " g e t t i n g down" i n t o them the s o u l i s f e l t t o be p u r i f i e d and c l e a n s e d f o r , as funk s i n g e r George C l i n t o n p u t s i t , "funk not o n l y moves, i t removes". Going hand i n hand w i t h the s p i r i t u a l c l e a n s i n g i s an e m o t i o n a l r e l e a s i n g ; both of which presumably c r e a t e a sense of r e j u v e n a t i o n or r e v i t a l i z a t i o n of energy, both f o r the i n d i v i d u a l and h i s c u l t u r e (Kochman 1981: 108). Rappers, drawing on the imagery of the m a g i c a l h e a l e r , use the combined e f f e c t s of music and dance t o a f f e c t a change i n mental s t a t e . Dr. Ice i n " C a l l i n g Dr. Ice"(1982) i s sped to a p a r t y i n an ambulance t o " b r i n g the p a r t y back to l i f e " . R e f e r r i n g to h i m s e l f as a m i r a c l e - m a k e r , he uses h i s " d i s c o p i l l " or "boogie m e d i c a t i o n " to e f f e c t a cure on the p a r t y people who are , " i l l i n , M . You're f e e l i n g r e a l i l l - then j u s t rock w i t h me Let the one and o n l y d o c t o r o p e r a t e J u s t get on the f l o o r and get w i l d ...What you need i s a l i t t l e b i t of p l e a s u r e You're f e e l i n g f i n e cause the d o c t o r j u s t eases your mind ...Rocking your mind, young and o l d Ease the p a i n , get you i n a t r a n c e S e v e r a l raps e x p r e s s the s e n t i m e n t t h a t through music and dance one can g a i n a r e s p i t e from the harshness of everyday li°fe and become e n e r g i z e d . You're f e e l i n ' k i n d a bad about the day you had You've got t o f i n d a way t o make i t r i g h t And your body's got the j u i c e and you're f e e l i n ' k i n d a l o o s e 99 You're s t e p p i n g out and t h r o w i n g down t o n i g h t ...The o n l y way f o r me t o s e t my body f r e e i s d a n c i n ' t i l the sun b e g i n s t o r i s e ...where the music i s r u n n i n g hot And l e t the music take you f a r away The DJ i s the dude t o keep you i n the mood to keep you d a n c i n ' t i l you have t o drop You got t o f e e l the b e a t , to g e n e r a t e the beat t o make you say you never wanna sto p You got to dance ...Now I know a l o t of ways to get me through the days But n i g h t time i s the time I come a l i v e cause d a n c i n ' i s the way t h a t I s u r v i v e I got t o dance ( K u r t i s Blow, "Got to Dance", 1983) K u r t i s Blow p r o v i d e s another e x p l i c i t e x p l a n a t i o n of the f u n c t i o n of a rap p a r t y as a s t r e s s r e d u c t i o n mechanism, as w e l l as s u g g e s t i n g i t as an a l t e r n a t i v e response t o f r u s t r a t i o n s as opposed to the p u r s u i t of c r i m e . I hear your g i r l f r i e n d j u s t l e f t town and the b i l l c o l l e c t o r ' s coming around To save your job you took a cut i n pay and your w i f e j u s t s a i d she's gonna s t a y And the R u s s i a n s may s t a r t World war i l l And t h i n g s a i n ' t what they used t o be Should we s t a r t a l i f e of crime? (No!) Then c a l l your f r i e n d s , i t s p a r t y time You're w o r k i n ' e v e r y day t r a d i n g sweat f o r t i n y pay Got no power, got no say, watch your l i f e s l i p away Tough s t u f f , f i v e days, bad j o b , no r a i s e Whatcha, whatcha, whatcha gonna do? In the morning t a k e the t r a i n , bust your b u t t and waste your b r a i n G-g-g-g-got t o be a b e t t e r way f o r you ...Do you need a break? (You know we do). W e l l , I a i n ' t got no break but how about a p a r t y ? ( W e l l , a l r i g h t ! ) ("Party Time", 1983) Rappers use t h e i r m a n i p u l a t i v e powers to "mesmerize, r e c t i f y , h y p n o t i z e " an a u d i e n c e , as w e l l as c a u s i n g them t o "go w i l d " . They i n s t r u c t t h e i r a u d i e n c e s t o "put the boogie i n your body and l e t i t work f o r you". The p a r t y f u n c t i o n s here,, as i t 100 . does wherever i t ap p e a r s , as a r i t u a l of l i m i n a l i t y , a time of l i c e n c e and c u l t u r a l i n v e r s i o n . (And i n v e r s i o n , by c r e a t i n g a s i g n i f i c a n t d i f f e r e n c e , c r e a t e s a sense of power.) G i v i n g o n e s e l f up to the music, a l l o w i n g i t to e x c i t e one to an e m o t i o n a l t r a n s f o r m a t i o n by e n t e r i n g i n t o a f r e n z y , p o s s i b l y even a t r a n c e - l i k e s t a t e , i s the e x p r e s s e d i n t e n t i o n of h i p hop p a r t y i n g . W i t h i n the p a r t y raps t h e r e e x i s t s an i n v e r s i o n , e v i d e n t at the l i n g u i s t i c l e v e l . In everyday l i f e t o be " i l l " , " s t u p i d " , " i n s a n e " or i n any way out of c o n t r o l (a l o s s of c o o l ) i s c o n s i d e r e d i n a p p r o p r i a t e b e h a v i o u r . However, i n the p a r t y c o n t e x t the o p p o s i t e i s t r u e . " F r e a k i n g o u t " , " b l o w i n g your mind", "bugging o u t " , " g e t t i n g c r a z y " " b u s t i n g l o o s e " and " g e t t i n g f l y " are the e x p l i c i t l y d e s i r e d b e h a v i o u r . Here they are used to r e f e r t o m y s t i f y i n g d i s p l a y s of w i l d n e s s and o r i g i n a l i t y i n performance which i s i n t e n t e d to impress and g a i n power over others., Both the h i p hopper and the crowd a r e i n f e c t e d . When we shock the p a r t y and do i t r i g h t They seem t o a l l go c r a z y ...Are you ready t o f r e a k i t out? W e ' l l make you scream W e ' l l make you shout ...Make a dead p a r t y come t o l i f e ( F a n t a s t i c F reaks ( l i v e at the D i x i e ) , 1983) T h i s temporary " i n s a n i t y " i s b e l i e v e d t o a l l o w you to " r e l a x your body and your mind" f o r w i l d n e s s i s thought to have a renewing p r o p e r t y . U l t i m a t e l y the r e l e a s e of emotion and the l o s s of s t r u c t u r e a l l o w s people t o u n i t e i n p a r t i c i p a t i o n and have the power t o "rock the n a t i o n " . 101 Take to the s t r e e t w i t h the w i l d s t y l e beat Rock the town w i t h the w i l d s t y l e sound E n t e r the gate t o the w i l d s t y l e s t a t e Shock the n a t i o n w i t h the w i l d s t y l e s e n s a t i o n (Grandmaster Caz and C h r i s S t e i n , " W i l d s t y l e Theme Rap #1", 1983) Both r o c k i n g and w i l d s t y l e are not o n l y c o n s i d e r e d a e s t h e t i c canons, but are a l s o promoted as a d e s i r e d mental s t a t e and code t o l i v e up t o . Both are used to r e f e r to doing and b e i n g the v e r y best at whatever you are or do w i t h your l i f e (and of c o u r s e i n the c o n t e x t of h i p hop t h i s means t o perform t o p e r f e c t i o n ) (Hager 1984: 109-110). What i s i m p l i e d i s t h a t through the development of communitas h i p hoppers c r e a t e an i d e n t i t y t h a t has the s t r e n g t h to m a n i p u l a t e r e a l i t y and g e n e r a t e r e a l change both i n themselves and i n the w o r l d around them. Music e v o l v e d , the problem was s o l v e d P a r t y p e o p l e must get i n v o l v e d I t ' s g o t t a be b o l d , so you can c o n t r o l Your emotions and f e e l i n g s So you won't grow o l d b e f o r e your time B e f o r e you reach your prime (UTFO, "Beats and Rhymes", 1984) And once a g a i n , s t r u c t u r a l l y the music s u p p o r t s the power of the words. DJs "breakdown" the music p e r i o d i c a l l y , c r e a t i n g a segment of p a r t i c u l a r l y w i l d b e a t s and bass t h a t i s meant to encourage " r o c k i n g " and " i l l i n g " . 5 . 4 P a r a l l e l s t o Black P r e a c h i n g Communication Conventions An imagery based on h e a l i n g e f f e c t e d through music and t r a n c e - l i k e dance s u g g e s t s an analogy between the p r e s e n t e d h i p hop r o l e and t h a t of b l a c k s e c u l a r p r e a c h i n g . The e n c o u r a g i n g of 102 e c s t a t i c f i t s of wildness and the attempt to i n s t i l l righteousness indicated in the raps p a r a l l e l s the functions of black preaching. Holt in " S t y l i n 1 Outta the Black Pu l p i t " (1972: 189-204) presents a p o r t r a i t of the black preacher that, both in role and strategy (with the exception of the sanctity of C h r i s t i a n i t y ) , is almost i d e n t i c a l to the hip hop rapper. Holt explains that the black church has developed as an instrument of resistance to low self-esteem and f r u s t r a t i o n resulting from r a c i a l oppression and poverty. This is accomplished primarily by using the power of the Holy S p i r i t to transform suffering into a sense of self-worth, dignity and a viable identity. Both the content of the preacher's sermons (the message) and the means by which he manipulates his congregation toward an emotional release constitute a dual strategy used to promote both short term r e l i e f and longer term consciousness-r a i s i n g which may contribute to actual s o c i a l action or change. Operating within a small, stable community system, the black preacher bestows moral vi r t u e , comments on parishioners' conduct, instructs them on appropriate behaviour and in c i t e s hope for the future and inspires the congregation to continue trying to overcome their hardships. A black preacher does not merely convey a message from God, but l i t e r a l l y performs a service with style and charisma. He uses p a r t i c u l a r communication techniques to manipulate the congregation to a state of ecstacy, or even frenzy, referred to as "getting happy". Drawing the congregation into p a r t i c i p a t i o n through c a l l and response, r e p e t i t i v e chants, shouting and 103 r h y t h m i c swaying and r e l i a n c e . o n g o s p e l music and s i n g i n g t o s t i r f e e l i n g s — a l l have the e x p r e s s e d f u n c t i o n of g e t t i n g both p r e a c h e r and f o l l o w e r s " t u r n e d on" ( F i r t h 1983: 18). At the rap p a r t y the MC uses s i m i l a r d e v i c e s t o "rock the house" and even draws on r e l i g i o u s imagery t o e s t a b l i s h h i s a u t h o r i t y . K o o l Moe Dee (1987) p o r t r a y s h i m s e l f as a messiah come t o "fe e d the hungry s o u l t h a t ' s s t a r v e d f o r e x c i t e m e n t " and Doug E Fresh t e s t i f i e s , " i t ' s a g i f t from God, sent through me. I'm j u s t l i k e Moses, took a vow on the B i b l e to always rock the microphone and reach and p r e a c h , through music I ' l l t e a c h " (1986).The use of chants i n raps i s wide-spread and the r e p e t i t i o n of f i x e d rap c l i c h e s , o f t e n by the a u d i e n c e , c r e a t e an e f f e c t which i s at once a g i t a t i n g and h y p n o t i z i n g . One has o n l y t o r e p l a c e the word 'house' w i t h 'church' (or s i m p l y imagine i t as a r e f e r e n c e t o the house of the Lord) and ' p a r t y ' w i t h 'pray' t o m i s t a k e t h i s rap f o r a p r e a c h e r ' s "come on". A l l the l a d i e s i n the house, come on Let me hear you say 'Owwww' (owwww) The homeboys i n the house Let me hear you say 'ho' (ho) P a r t y people a l l we need i s your c o o p e r a t i o n . to rock the house L e t ' s go t o work — c a n ' t you f e e l i t ? Come on everybody, s t a r t t o c l a p L e t ' s p a r t y t i l l you can't p a r t y any more — can you f e e l i t ? ( A f r i k a Bambaataa and the J a z z y 5, " J a z z y S e n s a t i o n " , 1981) 104 I n t h e d o c u m e n t a r y o f h i p hop W i l d s t y l e (1982) s t r e e t c o r n e r r a p p e r s i n c i t e o n l o o k e r s : Throw y o u r h a nds i n t h e a i r Throw y o u r hands i n t h e a i r l i k e t h i s E v e r y b o d y , I want e v e r y b o d y t o l o o k a t t h e i r h a n d s and p r e t e n d y o u r hand i s t h a t man who k i l l e d t h e l i t t l e c h i l d r e n i n A t l a n t a And I want you t o smack t h e h e l l o u t o f i t L i k e t h i s — come on — c l a p , come o n , c l a p Come o n , c l a p y o u r hands And i n t h e docu-drama B e a t s t r e e t (1984) t h e a s s o c i a t i o n i s made e x p l i c i t . R a p p e r s M e l l e M e l and t h e F u r i o u s F i v e , a t a f u n e r a l f o r a you n g g r a f f i t i a r t i s t , team up w i t h B e r n a r d F o u l e r and t h e M a r n i e r ' s B a p t i s t C h u r c h C h o i r t o c h a n t "do you b e l i e v e ? — we a r e t h e m i r a c l e , we a r e t h e s t r o n g " . The use o f t h e c o m m u n i c a t i o n s t y l e o f t h e b l a c k p r e a c h e r i n s e c u l a r c o n t e x t s has an e s t a b l i s h e d t r a d i t i o n i n b l a c k c u l t u r e . M a r t i n L u t h e r K i n g and J e s s e J a c k s o n u s e d i t t o move a u d i e n c e s . But more t h a n e x p r e s s i v e s t y l e , t h e c o n t e n t o f t h e i r m e s s a g e s s h a r e a s i m i l a r i t y i n c a l l i n g f o r a chan g e i n a t t i t u d e s and b e l i e f s among b l a c k s as w e l l as c h a l l e n g i n g w h i t e s u p r e m a c y . H i p hop i s p a r t o f t h i s t r a d i t i o n a n d , a l t h o u g h themes and v a l u e s c o n v e y e d may n o t a l l be s i m i l a r , b l a c k m u s i c f r o m g o s p e l , b l u e s , r h y t h m and b l u e s , s o u l and now r a p have r e t a i n e d a s p i r i t u a l q u a l i t y (Toop 1984: 47). As S m i t h e r m a n (1977: 56) s u g g e s t s c o n c e r n i n g s o u l m u s i c , i t c o n s t i t u t e s a "movement o f t h e s p i r i t f r o m t h e r e a l m o f t h e s a c r e d t o a s e c u l a r c o n t e x t " . 105 Through message and p a r t y raps h i p hoppers not o n l y d e f i n e the s p e c i f i c r o l e s they see themselves f u l f i l l i n g w i t h i n t h e i r community, but a l s o a c t i v a t e those r o l e s , u s i n g t h e i r m u s i c a l power t o c o n f r o n t many of the fundamental problems which p l a g u e b l a c k g h e t t o e x i s t e n c e . And both i n d e v e l o p i n g the a p p r o p r i a t e r o l e s and means of e x p r e s s i n g t h e i r messages, r a p p e r s appear t o have r e l i e d on t h e i r c u l t u r a l h e r i t a g e w h i l e r e f o r m u l a t i n g i t w i t h i n a new a r t i c u l a t i o n . Indeed making the o l d new i s a theme which runs throughout the system, whether i t be i n m u s i c a l m i x i n g or c u l t u r a l c o l l a g i n g . 5.5 Note on Female Involvement At the s t r e e t l e v e l g i r l s who operat e as h i p hoppers are presumably a t t r a c t e d t o a c t i o n - f i l l e d a c t i v i t i e s and a r e b r e a k i n g w i t h the t y p i c a l g h e t t o female r o l e . In a sense they are the "torn-boys" of the g h e t t o and are t a k i n g on a m a l e - d e f i n e d r o l e and i d e n t i t y . A female g r a f f i t i w r i t e r or br e a k d a n c e r , f o r i n s t a n c e , i s p e r c e i v e d by her male c o u n t e r p a r t s as b e i n g " j u s t l i k e one of the guys". R e g r e t t a b l y t h e r e are no r e p o r t s by female p a r t i c i p a n t s e x p l a i n i n g t h e i r p o s i t i o n , but the males, when asked, c l a i m t h a t females do not n o r m a l l y get i n v o l v e d because they f i n d i t s a g g r e s s i v e and c o m p e t i t i v e n a t u r e u n a p p e a l i n g . The use of female back-up v o c a l s i n raps i s not u s u a l i n the s t r e e t or p a r t y performance c o n t e x t , but was added to the r e c o r d i n g phase to make up f o r the l a c k of a l i v e a u d i e n c e . These females are not members of the crew, j u s t as c h e e r l e a d e r s 106 are not members of a f o o t b a l l team. Female rappers on the o t h e r hand, do e x i s t , a l t h o u g h they are q u i t e r a r e and appeared o n l y a f t e r the c o m m e r c i a l i z a t i o n of the music i n the e n t e r t a i n m e n t b u s i n e s s . Of the one hundred and s e v e n t y - f i v e raps i n v e s t i g a t e d o n l y t h r e e were by female r a p p e r s . O f t e n they e x i s t as a n o v e l t y or an a u x i l i a r y a t t a c h e d to a male crew, a l t h o u g h more r e c e n t l y some do perform i n t h e i r own r i g h t and are d e v e l o p i n g t h e i r own s t y l e s and l y r i c a l messages. That h i p hop i s u n q u e s t i o n a b l y a c e l e b r a t i o n and e x p l o r a t i o n of maleness, and t h u s , by d e f i n i t i o n and i n c l i n a t i o n , e x c l u d e s females as a c t i v e p a r t i c i p a n t s , i s not to suggest t h a t females do not p l a y a s i g n i f i c a n t r o l e i n the s u b c u l t u r e . G i r l s who f o l l o w h i p hop, as s u p p o r t i v e and e n t h u s i a s t i c o n l o o k e r s , are not c o n s i d e r e d h i p hoppers, but are r e c o g n i z e d as p a r t of the system by v i r t u e of b e i n g r e f e r r e d to as " b - g i r l s " . The a p p r o v a l and a t t e n t i o n they p r o v i d e t o the males and t h e i r a c t i v i t i e s a c t s as r e i n f o r c e m e n t and m o t i v a t i o n f o r c o n t i n u a n c e . W i t h i n t h e i r peer group, a h i p hop male i s deemed most d e s i r a b l e by the . o p p o s i t e sex, and winners of h i p hop c o m p e t i t i o n s are i n s u r e d an i n c r e a s e d a c c e s s t o women. But more than mere " p r i z e s " , females a l s o f u n c t i o n i n r o l e s as a p p r e c i a t o r s and as judges, w i t h the power t o e v a l u a t e p e r f o r m e r s . In the case of b r e a k d a n c i n g and r a p p i n g c o n t e s t s , , f e m a l e s , i n f o r m i n g a s u b s t a n t i a l p o r t i o n of the a u d i e n c e , assume an a c t i v e f u n c t i o n i n s e l e c t i n g the winners.. Hip hop males, aware of t h i s f a c t , d i r e c t much of t h e i r a t t e n t i o n t o i n c r e a s i n g t h e i r p o p u l a r i t y and e s t a b l i s h i n g a female f o l l o w i n g . 107 CHAPTER SIX RAP MUSIC: HIP HOP PERFORMANCE Rapping i s a d i s c r e t e performance a c t i v i t y r e a c h i n g an audi e n c e e i t h e r through l i v e performance or r e c o r d s . The performance a s p e c t of rap c o n s t i t u t e s the 'how* of the communicating system s i n c e the a c t of p e r f o r m i n g p r o v i d e s the mechanism f o r c o n v e y i n g the messages embedded w i t h i n them. As w e l l , by f o c u s s i n g on rap as performance, the 'to whom1 i s f u r t h e r r e v e a l e d . The performance a s p e c t of h i p hop p r o v i d e s a key t o the i d e n t i t y which i s b e i n g c r e a t e d . L i k e p l a y , performance s e r v e s image management and c u l t u r a l t r a n s f o r m a t i o n , p r o v i d i n g a v e h i c l e through which t o t r a n s c e n d r e a l i t y and i n t h i s system i n d i v i d u a l s a r e "on" most of the tim e . A h i p hopper performs h i m s e l f i n t o b e i n g , as i t were, through h i s deep commitment and inv o l v e m e n t i n h i s performance, o r , put another way, what he does i s synonymous w i t h who he i s . ( I c e T e x p r e s s e s t h i s a s s o c i a t i o n t h i s way: "I'm a self-made monster of the c i t y s t r e e t s , r e m o t e l y c o n t r o l l e d by h i p hop be a t s " . ) The areas of a e s t h e t i c s and performance are so c l o s e l y a l i g n e d w i t h the h i p hop persona t h a t both are a r t i c u l a t e d i n the same terms. Hence performance e v a l u a t i o n p a r a l l e l s the e v a l u a t i o n of the h i p hopper h i m s e l f . C o n s i s t e n c y a l s o i s e v i d e n t between a e s t h e t i c and c u l t u r a l agendas and indeed the e x p r e s s e d a e s t h e t i c concerns can be t e n t a t i v e l y used as ev i d e n c e of c u l t u r a l c o n c e r n s . 108 6.1 The R e c e i v e r s of Rap Messages Rap l y r i c s i d e n t i f y a number of t a r g e t a u d i e n c e s . As s h o u l d be e v i d e n t from the p r e v i o u s s e c t i o n s h i p hoppers a r e p r i m a r i l y s p e a k i n g t o themselves and s i g n i f i c a n t o t h e r s . Here s i g n i f i c a n t o t h e r s not o n l y i n c l u d e the crew members, opponents and females d i s c u s s e d e a r l i e r , but a wider peer group as w e l l . P r i o r t o the a p p r o p r i a t i o n of MC r a p p i n g and DJi n g by the h i p hop s u b c u l t u r e and i t s subsequent development as a h i p hop e x p r e s s i v e form, i t s p r i m a r y audience was formed from the g e n e r a l p o o l of g h e t t o t e e n a g e r s who a t t e n d e d dance p a r t i e s where MCs and DJs p r e s i d e d . T h i s audience has p r e v a i l e d as a s i g n i f i c a n t r e c e i v e r o f h i p hop rap music and i t s messages. I n t e r a c t i o n w i t h "home boys" and "home g i r l s " or " p a r t y p e o p l e " a re p r e s e n t e d i n raps through a c a l l and response mechanism: A l l the l a d i e s i n the house, come on l e t me hear you say "owwwww" (owwwww) The home boys i n the house l e t me hear you say "ho" (ho) T h i s r a i s e s a q u e s t i o n of the b o u n d a r i e s of h i p hop membership. I t appears t h a t s t r i c t membership demands a l e v e l of commitment to and p a r t i c i p a t i o n i n h i p hop a c t i v i t i e s , but ' p a r t i c i p a t i o n 1 can be i n t e r p r e t e d as at t e n d a n c e t o rap p a r t i e s and p r o v i d i n g the e s s e n t i a l responses t o t h e i r c a l l s . However, a c c o r d i n g t o the i n v e s t i g a t o r ' s NYC i n f o r m a n t s , t h i s group i s not acknowledged as h i p hoppers per s e , but r a t h e r as peopl e who are "down" w i t h h i p hop. Hip hoppers a l s o t r y t o r e c r u i t o t h e r young p e o p l e , or at l e a s t convey t h e i r i d e o l o g i e s t o the u n i n i t i a t e d by drawing them i n through the music. 109 6.2 E f f e c t s o f Promotion t o a Wider Audience In i t s e a r l i e r history rap was performed and recorded exclusively for a limited in-group audience. Recording did expand the category beyond New York City ghettos into other black urban centers, such as Philadelphia and Los Angeles, so that "party people a l l across the nation" were included. But i t was by the mid-80's that rap music began reaching the mass youth audience. Although most themes and concerns remained stable and focussed on the in-group, some raps appear to be directed towards i t s newer audience. Raps, for example, which e x p l i c i t l y explained what hip hop was, i t s history and role emerged. Run-D.M.C, one of the most successful commercial rap groups, saw the need, for instance, to define 'bad' — "not bad meaning bad, but bad meaning good" (1986). This of course would be an absurd act when speaking only to the i n i t i a t e d . Or: From the streets came art, very new you see Now seen in the museum or gallery Not hung in mansions or hallow h a l l s but on buses, t r a i n s , even the walls G r a f f i t i ghetto art or tagging your name The a r t i s t ' s way of reaching for fame by the public l i k e a lightning storm Now recognized as a new art form (Grandmaster Caz and Chris Stein, "Wildstyle Theme Rap #1", 1983) It should also be noted that these declarations can function within the subculture as an aspect of identity construction. One's own verson of one's history is just as important to self-perception as i t i s to the projection of se l f to others. As 110 t h e i r a n t i c i p a t e d audience broadened so d i d t h e i r p e r c e p t i o n of t h e i r i n f l u e n c e and impact, f l a u n t i n g t h e i r c o n t r o l over a d e s i r e d p r o d u c t . Bronx i s the home of h i p hop You don't have t o b e l i e v e me And i f you don't agree Don't l i s t e n t o me J u s t look what i t s done to you Now dance s u c k e r (D. S t . , "Home of Hip Hop", 1985) Or: The Z u l u ' s run t h i s mother, not you The people of the w o r l d are caught i n the groove (Shango, "Zulu Groove", 1985) P e r f o r m i n g w i t h a mainstream audience i n mind c r e a t e d new meanings f o r them from those o r i g i n a l l y i n t e n d e d . How rap messages are r e c e i v e d by m a i n s t r e a m e r s , or why the a p p e a l e x i s t s i n the f i r s t p l a c e i s , an i s s u e not e x p l o r e d . However an e x p l a n a t i o n of t h i s consumption s h o u l d take i n t o account t h a t rap music, l i k e o t h e r forms of pop music, i s a d o l e s c e n t music and speaks t o a d o l e s c e n t p o w e r l e s s n e s s . In g e n e r a l terms rap e x p r e s s i o n s of s e l f - r e l i a n c e and i t s c r i t i q u i n g of s o c i e t y can be i n t e r p r e t e d by v i r t u a l l y any young person as r e l e v a n t t o t h e i r c i r c u m s t a n c e s , even i f the i n t e n d e d meaning was more s p e c i f i c a l l y g eared toward b l a c k g h e t t o y o u t h . As w e l l , i t i s w o r t h w h i l e to remember t h a t b l a c k g h e t t o k i d s are k i d s , t o o . In t h e i r case the sense of p o w e r l e s s n e s s i s t w o - f o l d . They are not o n l y b l a c k and g h e t t o i z e d , but a l s o e x p e r i e n c e the urge t o g a i n c o n t r o l of t h e i r l i v e s t h a t a l l t e e n a g e r s e x p e r i e n c e . I l l C o n s i d e r i n g a m a i n s t r e a m a u d i e n c e may have a l s o p r o m o t e d t h e d e v e l o p m e n t o f message r a p s s p e c i f i c a l l y c o n c e r n e d w i t h p r o b l e m s o f s o c i a l r e l a t i o n s w i t h t h e d o m i n a n t c u l t u r e . The B o o g i e Boys i n " C o l o r b l i n d W o r l d " (1986) p l e a d f o r a w o r l d w h ere r a c e i s i r r e l e v a n t and p e o p l e a r e j u d g e d f o r t h e i r i n n e r w o r t h . They c h a l l e n g e y o u n g p e o p l e t o a c c e p t and p r o m o t e r a c i a l e q u a l i t y . P r e j u d i c e d w e l l s i n t h e h e a r t s o f men Must we be j u d g e d by t h e c o l o r o f s k i n ? I g o t a message w o r t h more t h a n d i a m o n d s o r p e a r l s I wanna l i v e i n a c o l o r b l i n d w o r l d I n t h i s , o u r w o r l d , I s t a n d s u r p r i s e d Why we a r e l a b e l l e d as c i v i l i z e d ? We c a n ' t t a k e t h e t i m e t o f o r m a c o n g r e g a t i o n J u s t t o p u t an end t o r a c i a l s e g r e g a t i o n I t ' s a c r y i n g shame, b u t y e s i t ' s t r u e T h e r e ' s h a t e i n t h e w o r l d b u t i t ' s up t o y o u To make a change f o r t h e b e t t e r F o r g e t a b o u t r a c e , s t u d y my h e a r t and n o t my f a c e . Many r a p s a p p e a r t o a d d r e s s more t h a n one a u d i e n c e s i m u l t a n e o u s l y . I'm p r o u d t o be b l a c k and I ' l l s a y i t o u t l o u d and t h a t ' s a f a c t y o u a l l L i k e M a r t i n L u t h e r K i n g , I w i l l do my t h i n g L i k e M a l c o l m X s a i d , I won't t u r n a r i g h t c h e e k I a i n ' t no s l a v e , I a i n ' t b a l i n g no hay Don't g e t i n my way c a u s e I'm f u l l o f a m b i t i o n I'm p r o u d t o be b l a c k and I a i n ' t t a k i n g no c r a p I'm f r o n t o f t h e pack and I'm p r o u d t o be b l a c k . . . Any man w i t h a m i n d c o u l d c r e a t e L i k e Dr. K i n g s a i d , we s h a l l o v e r c o m e ( Run-D.M.C, " P r o u d t o be B l a c k " , 1986 ) A message o f b l a c k p r i d e i s n o t o n l y t o i n s p i r e p e e r s t o r e s i s t s u p p r e s s i o n b u t a l s o s e r v e s as a w a r n i n g t o t h e d o m i n a n t c u l t u r e t o make room f o r them o r t h e y w i l l t a k e i t . An e l e m e n t o f a m b i g u i t y no d o u b t o p e r a t e s , a t l e a s t i n p a r t , t o f a c i l i t a t e t h i s m u l t i v o c a l i s m . 112 Not a l l a d d r e s s e s t o the mainstream are as a n t a g o n i s t i c as the p r e v i o u s one: Wake up you mighty n a t i o n from your s l e e p A c t i v a t e your mind, get movin' b e f o r e we're a l l through Do your p a r t b e f o r e you d i e Search f o r t r u t h and freedom Get on the move w i t h o u t d e l a y , break the bonds Free y o u r s e l f , show the e a r t h your worth Free of d o u b t s , r e a s s u r e y o u r s e l f you can win S a c r i f i c e (The L a s t P o e t s , "Get Movin'", 1985) T h i s rap e x p r e s s e s both a sentiment of i n t e r n a l b l a c k c o n s c i o u s n e s s r a i s i n g as w e l l as a c a l l t o the dominant c u l t u r e t o r i s e to the c h a l l e n g e of d i s c r i m i n a t i o n . In g e n e r a l much of the power of rap l i e s i n i t s a b i l i t y t o be m u l t i v o c a l . Rap has b u i l t on the e x i s t i n g a m b i g u i t y i n t h e i r l e x i c o n t o convey d i f f e r e n t messages t o d i f f e r e n t segments of t h e i r audience i n a s i n g l e p h r a se. T h i s p r a c t i c e i s most r e p e a t e d l y used i n raps i n r e l a t i o n t o r e f e r e n c e s of " r o c k i n g " . R o c k i n g a p a r t y i n d i c a t e s s t i m u l a t i n g an a u d i e n c e , s p e c i f i c a l l y m o t i v a t i n g them to dance. However, to rock a l s o has the more p e r s o n a l meaning of engaging i n s e x u a l i n t e r c o u r s e . . Time and time a g a i n raps t r a n s m i t t h i s double meaning, f o r i n s t a n c e , " l i k e T and T, I'm dynamite, rock your body a l l n i g h t l o n g " or " I ' l l t a k e your mind p l a c e s your body's never been, I want t o rock you a g a i n and a g a i n and a g a i n " . One l a s t word i s r e q u i r e d on the impact t h a t the i n t r o d u c t i o n of rap performance to a wider audience has had. By i n f e r e n c e the promotion of raps i s t e s t i m o n y to i t s p o p u l a r i t y and s u c c e s s i n the music i n d u s t r y . As has been p o i n t e d out i n 113 c h a p t e r two, the new arena has become a new source of concern f o r c o m m e r c i a l l y s u c c e s s f u l rap groups. P r e v i o u s l y s u c c e s s was i n t e r n a l l y e v a l u a t e d by one's peers and rewards were l a r g e l y i n the form of s t a t u s and p r e s t i g e . More r e c e n t l y r a p p e r s have begun e v a l u a t i n g themselves i n terms of s u c c e s s i n the r e c o r d i n g b u s i n e s s as w e l l . Rappers have always been concerned about " c o l d cash money", i n the sense of d e s i r i n g i t , but r a r e l y have had any s u b s t a n t i a l amounts to d e a l w i t h . R e c e n t l y they have been e x p r e s s i n g through t h e i r raps ambiguous f e e l i n g s about t h e i r new-found w e a l t h . They a p p r e c i a t e the s t a t u s a t t a c h e d to i t and e n j o y s p e n d i n g i t , but a l s o i n d i c a t e a f e a r of l o s i n g t h e i r o r i g i n a l m o t i v a t i o n and r e d u c i n g h i p hop t o a b u s i n e s s v e n t u r e . Thus Whodini (1987) c l a i m t h a t , a l t h o u g h they have g o t t e n t h e i r w e l l - d e s e r v e d p i e c e of the p i e , they are not r o c k i n g f o r the money, f o r " t h i s comes from the h e a r t . . . i t ' s an a r t " . No matter how c o m m e r c i a l l y s u c c e s s f u l rap becomes, h i p hoppers are e x p r e s s i n g the concern t h a t i t must remain v i a b l e i n the s u b c u l t u r e or i t s potency w i l l be l o s t and i t w i l l become "lame". R e l a t e d concerns about j e a l o u s y and i n s i n c e r i t y ( " p e o p l e . f r o n t i n g f o r your money, a i n ' t even f u n n y " ) , or a b u s i n g t h e i r w e a l t h (e.g. u s i n g i t t o get hooked on drugs) are a l s o r a i s e d . N o n e t h e l e s s , s u c c e s s i n rap performance i s c l e a r l y h e l d as a v i a b l e and a c c e s s i b l e means of f i n a n c i a l g a i n . In "Rhyme Pays", (1987) I c e T t e l l s h i s s u c c e s s s t o r y and encourages o t h e r s to t r y i t as an a l t e r n a t i v e t o c r i m e . But h i s message a l s o s u g g e s t s t h a t they s h o u l d remember t h a t h i p hop has v a l u e i n o t h e r than monetary terms. 114 Rhyme pays, buys my food every n i g h t and day pays my r e n t , my b i l l s , I guess I'm d o i n g OK But when I say rhyme pays, I mean i n d i f f e r e n t ways Cause r a p p i n ' g e t s a l o t of k i d s out of the s t r e e t s each day. 6.3 Rap A e s t h e t i c s and t h e i r R e l a t i o n to C u l t u r a l S t y l e Any d i s c u s s i o n of h i p hop as a p e r f o r m a t i v e e n t e r p r i s e demands some e x p l o r a t i o n of h i p hop a e s t h e t i c s . At a s t r u c t u r a l l e v e l rap music u t i l i z e s a number of a e s t h e t i c d e v i c e s employed i n b l a c k e x p r e s s i v e n e s s i n g e n e r a l . C a l l and r e s p o n s e , r e p e t i t i o n , i m p r o v i s a t i o n ( a l t h o u g h r e s t r i c t e d by s t u d i o r e c o r d i n g ) , rhyme and rhythm, humour, m i m i c r y , p l a y on words and h y p e r b o l e , are a l l employed i n a good rap. Grandmaster Caz, when asked t o d e s c r i b e a c l a s s i c rap responded, "a c l a s s i c rap r e q u i r e s an o r i g i n a l use of s l a n g , unusual and unexpected rhymes and s t r o n g v i s u a l imagery" ( i n Hager 1984: 57). More s p e c i f i c a l l y , K o o l Moe Dee i n h i s "The B e s t " rap (1987) p r o v i d e s a check l i s t f o r e v a l u a t i o n s of the " a r t of rap". A c c o r d i n g t o him, a g r e a t MC needs t o e x h i b i t b r a i n power, a r t i c u l a t e n e s s , o r i g i n a l i t y , i n n o v a t i v e n e s s , and v e r s a t i l i t y i n the use of v o c a b u l a r y . He must be a b l e t o execute the rap i n a way t h a t shows he " f e e l s i t i n h i s h e a r t " as w e l l as be a b l e t o "take a crowd t o a mental orgasm". L a s t l y he must speak w i t h a l o u d v o i c e of a u t h o r i t y which can i n t i m i d a t e a l l comers. And, most i m p o r t a n t of a l l , t h i s a l l must be done at r e l e n t l e s s l y h i g h speed. At a m u s i c a l l e v e l f o r the DJ t o c r e a t e a heavy, p u l s a t i n g , d r i v i n g b e a t , y e t one t h a t i s r h y t h m i c and compels i t s 115 l i s t e n e r s t o move, i s the d e s i r e d a e s t h e t i c as p r e s e n t e d i n rap l y r i c s . A good DJ not o n l y can c u t and mix r e c o r d s w i t h speed, p r e c i s i o n and d e x t e r i t y , but must " a g i t a t e " the r e c o r d s , t h a t i s , keep the beats s t i m u l a t i n g and a g g r e s s i v e sounding. Thus MC spyder D can p r a i s e DJ D i v i n e f o r " c u t t i n g i t up so e x a c t " , f o r be i n g " s h o c k i n g and n o n - s t o p p i n g " (1985). Or Double T r o u b l e (1983) can r e f e r t o t h e i r DJ's music as "souped up sound, i f you st a n d t oo c l o s e you might be knocked down". The importance of speed i s demonstrated at the s t r u c t u r a l l e v e l by Grandmaster F l a s h . On one jam he c u t s i n " F l a s h i s f a s t " from another of h i s r e c o r d s t h r e e times i n r a p i d s u c c e s s i o n j u s t t o prove how f a s t he r e a l l y i s . Grandmaster B l a s t e r (1984: 28) c l a i m s t h a t "your rap has t o s t a y c o n s i s t e n t l y r a p i d [125-144 b e a t s / m i n u t e ] or you w i l l s t a r t t o l o o s e energy and f a d e . T h i s i s r e a l l y whack." The a s s o c i a t i o n of a ra p p e r ' s i d e n t i t y w i t h t h i s a e s t h e t i c of r a p i d movement i s made e x p l i c i t by one MC when he s a y s , "I'm so f u l l of a c t i o n my name s h o u l d be a v e r b " . The importance of speed, f o r example, i s not o n l y a v a l u e d i n g r e d i e n t of a r a p , but i s a s u r v i v a l t e c h n i q u e at the c u l t u r a l l e v e l as i s suggested i n the r a p , " S t i c k Up K i d " , i n which the b-boy e x p l a i n s t h a t he escaped robbery and c e r t a i n death when a t t a c k e d , thanks t o "the speed t h a t [he] p o s s e s s e d " . The a e s t h e t i c of speed not o n l y r e f l e c t s the b e l i e f t h a t g h e t t o l i f e i s an a c t i o n - o r i e n t e d " f a s t l i f e " , but a l s o t h a t one must a c t and t h i n k q u i c k l y i n or d e r t o s u r v i v e . A g a i n as Ice T (1987) p u t s i t , " j u s t l i v i n g i n the c i t y i s a s e r i o u s t a s k . B i t c h d i d n ' t know what h i t h e r , d i d n ' t have time t o ask". As 116 w e l l , t h e r e seems t o be the s u g g e s t i o n t h a t at another l e v e l g h e t t o l i f e breeds apathy and l e t h a r g y , hence t h e r e e x i s t s a need t o e n e r g i z e the community. The c a l l f o r m o t i v a t i o n i s e v i d e n t at the performance l e v e l , p a r a l l e l i n g the c u l t u r a l agenda of h i p hop. A common i n t e r a c t i o n i n raps between MCs and DJs i n v o l v e s the MC commanding the DJ t o " h i t me" or "put i t i n my f a c e " . To those u n f a m i l i a r t o the system t h e s e c o u l d be i n t e r p r e t e d as a g g r e s s i v e c h a l l e n g e s . T h i s i s not the c a s e , however. The r e f e r e n c e i s t o the l e v e l of i n t e n s i t y and power of the music. The DJ i s b e i n g asked to b l a s t out the b a s s , to advance the break or "go t o the b r i d g e " . At t h i s "breakdown" the music becomes so s t r o n g as t o seem t o h i t you i n the f a c e . And t h i s high-powered music a c t s as a m o t i v a t i o n a l f a c t o r f o r the MC, s p u r r i n g h i s rap on. Hip hop a e s t h e t i c s evoke the e s t a b l i s h e d concepts a s s o c i a t e d w i t h b l a c k n e s s . Not o n l y p e r f o r m e r s , but raps themselves are a r t i c u l a t e d i n terms of ' c o o l ' , 'bad', ' s o u l * and 'funk'. Being c o o l i n h i p h o p l a n d appears to f o l l o w the e s t a b l i s h e d b l a c k norms f o r t h i s b e h a v i o r a l code. I t s u g g e s t s t h a t the a c t o r must be a t once c o n t r o l l e d and l o o s e , both i n body and mind. C a s u a l n e s s , i n d i f f e r e n c e and a r e l a x e d a t t i t u d e ( " c h i l l " ) s i g n i f y c o o l . C o o l , a c c o r d i n g t o Thompson (1966), o p e r a t e s t o b a l a n c e e m o t i o n a l i n t e n s i t i e s — both "hot" s i t u a t i o n s and " s t o n e - c o l d " r i g i d i t y are n o r m a l i z e d through an a t t i t u d e of c o o l . He s u g g e s t s tHat to be c o o l an i n d i v i d u a l must f i r s t r e s o l v e the c o n f l i c t s of the s e l f and then d i s s o l v e the 117 d i f f e r e n c e s t h a t l i e between p e o p l e . L e a r n i n g t o speak c o o l i s t o l e a r n t o speak w i t h h i g h c h a r a c t e r i n o r d e r t o e n f o r c e peace, " t o c o o l down o t h e r s w i t h your mouth" (64). Thus not o n l y i n d i v i d u a l s , but e n t i r e groups can be c o o l e d down, s e t i n o r d e r , h a v i n g s e r e n i t y and s o c i a l e q u i l i b r i u m r e s t o r e d . A l t h o u g h never e x p l i c i t l y d i s c u s s e d i n the r a p s , the imagery of c o o l n e s s abound and when we c o n s i d e r e d the e x p r e s s e d agenda of h i p hop, then i t i s not un r e a s o n a b l e t o a c c e p t t h a t h i p hoppers are a p p l y i n g t h e i r c o o l n e s s t o m a t t e r s of s o c i a l b a l a n c e , as w e l l as a e s t h e t i c s u b s t a n c e . A c c o r d i n g t o b l a c k l i n g u i s t Roger Abrahams,bad i s an a l t e r n a t i v e e x p r e s s i o n of c o o l (1976: 84). On the one hand "bad" i s s i m p l y a l i n g u i s t i c r e l a b e l l i n g of mainstream v a l u e s of goodness. Y e t , much of what i s "bad" i s indeed n e g a t i v e b e h a v i o r i n mainstream terms. I t has been suggested t h a t s i n c e much of g h e t t o - s p e c i f i c b e h a v i o r i s bad, then badness has been bestowed w i t h the q u a l i t y of goodness so t h a t s e l f - e s t e e m s can remain i n t a c t ( i b i d . : 85). What seems l i k e l y i s t h a t the concept of 'being bad' i s a p o w e r f u l one because i t i n c o r p o r a t e s both p o s i t i v e and n e g a t i v e a s p e c t s . F o l b (1980: 116) p r o v i d e s some e v i d e n c e t o support t h i s i d e a . Her d e s c r i p t i o n of a "bad man" reads l i k e a modern-day urban t r i c k s t e r . The "bad man" i s v i o l e n t , dangerous and c o u r t s t r o u b l e , y e t o p e r a t e s w i t h i n a code of e t h i c s , has s t r e n g t h , courage and s t y l e and thus i s r e s p e c t e d and viewed by many as a c u l t u r a l hero and a r e a l man's man. W i t h i n h i p hop t h i s d u a l i t y of the "bad man" has been r e t a i n e d , a l b e i t i n image r a t h e r than a c t u a l i t y . 118 S o u l , as has a l r e a d y been mentioned, i s a r e w o r k i n g of the b l a c k c u l t u r a l h e r i t a g e of s t r u g g l e and s u f f e r i n g i n t o a s tatement of power and s t r e n g t h and has come to c h a r a c t e r i z e the essence of b l a c k p r i d e . Funk i s an i d e o l o g y t h a t c e l e b r a t e s t h a t which i s w i l d and raw, and i s viewed as a n a t u r a l , i n s t i n c t u a l way of b e i n g . Funk c e l e b r a t e s the body, embracing the sweat, t e a r s and semen of l i f e as something "sweet". And i n t e r a c t i o n w i t h the funky p a r t of l i f e , as has been p r e v i o u s l y mentioned, i s thought to be t h e r a p e u t i c ( P a s t e u r and T o l d s o n 1982: 145). I n t e r e s t i n g l y , the more n e g a t i v e c o n n o t a t i o n s of the term 'funky* t h a t e x i s t i n the g e n e r a l b l a c k v e r n a c u l a r ( i . e . s m e l l y , s l o b b y , d i r t y , e t c . ) never appear i n h i p hop l e x i c o n . I n s t e a d , funky has been a s s o c i a t e d w i t h the p o s i t i v e " c l e a n " a s p e c t s of h i p hop, as the term f o r s u p e r l a t i v e g r e a t n e s s , "funky f r e s h " , s u g g e s t s . Funk p a r a l l e l s much of what has been s a i d i n r e g a r d t o the h i p hop promotion of " g e t t i n g i l l " or w i l d as a r e v i t a l i z i n g p r o c e s s . To t h e s e t r a d i t i o n a l i d e o l o g i e s a new and c e n t r a l concept has been i n t r o d u c e d i n t o the b l a c k e x p r e s s i v e system by h i p hoppers. Performances may meet any number of o t h e r r e q u i r e m e n t s but i f they are not " f r e s h " they w i l l never "get o v e r " or as one rapper p u t s i t " i t ' s g o t t a be f r e s h to impress the r e s t " . 'Fresh' i s the l i t m u s t e s t f o r a l l h i p hop and i t i s i n terms of f r e s h t h a t the o l d e r c o n c e p t s appear to have been r e d e f i n e d . As LL has suggested h i p hop i s a l l about making the o l d new. At a s t r u c t u r a l l e v e l t h i s r e f e r s t o t a k i n g o l d s o u l and funk r e c o r d s l i k e those of James Brown and c r e a t i n g new sounds w i t h them. At the c u l t u r a l l e v e l i t s u g g e s t s r e w o r k i n g 119 t h e s e t r a d i t i o n a l i d e o l o g i e s by r e l a t i n g them to the h i p hop s e l f - i m a g e . Other than i t s d e s i g n a t i o n as a term of e x c e l l e n c e , f r e s h embodies a s e r i e s of c h a r a c t e r i s t i c s which d e s c r i b e not o n l y the e x p r e s s i v e forms but the c u l t u r a l o r i e n t a t i o n b e i n g endorsed by h i p hoppers. A l t h o u g h f r e s h i s never e x p l i c i t l y d e f i n e d i n rap l y r i c s , i t s c o n t e x t u a l use as w e l l as i n f o r m a t i o n p r o v i d e d by i n f o r m a n t s has a l l o w e d the i n v e s t i g a t o r to f o r m u l a t e an a e s t h e t i c of f r e s h . Most o b v i o u s l y f r e s h r e p r e s e n t s newness, o r i g i n a l i t y and i n n o v a t i o n , a f r e s h i d e a , one f u l l of new t r i c k s and s u r p r i s e s . And a s s o c i a t e d w i t h t h i s i s a q u a l i t y of y o u t h f u l v i g o u r and s t r e n g t h as w e l l as r e f e r e n c e s to c o o l and r e f r e s h i n g , e n e r g i z i n g and i n v i g o r a t i n g . F r e s h to h i p hop i s a l l t h i n g s b r i g h t and c l e a n , h a v i n g c o n n o t a t i o n s to a f r e s h , c l e a n l i f e , as w e l l as an i n v e r s i o n of the f i l t h t h a t d e f i n e s g h e t t o l i f e . But, a l t h o u g h f r e s h s i g n i f i e s a new b e g i n n i n g f o r h i p hoppers, i t a l s o s u g g e s t s a r e t e n t i o n of t r a d i t i o n a l machoism. To be f r e s h thus connotes the a b i l i t y t o be saucy, i m p e r t i n e n t , b o l d and impudent. Indeed f r e s h , l i k e funk, i s sometimes a s s o c i a t e d w i t h n a t u r a l 'rawness* and w i t h both the f r e n z i e d i n t e n s i t y and s t r i v i n g t o e x c e l t h a t d e f i n e s " w i l d s t y l e " . T h i s p r o m o t i o n of an a c t i v e s p i r i t u a l s t r e n g t h i s s a n c t i o n e d by a r t i c u l a t i o n s of f r e s h i n terms of moral s u p e r i o r i t y ( " i f i t ' s f r e s h , i t ' s g o t t a be r i g h t " ) . F r e s h , as the c e n t r a l d e f i n i n g c h a r a c t e r of h i p hop, r e i n f o r c e s the s u g g e s t i o n t h a t h i p hop i s concerned w i t h p r o v i d i n g g h e t t o youths w i t h an a l t e r n a t i v e way i n which to view themselves and the w o r l d . 120 The a e s t h e t i c of f r e s h i s i n k e e p i n g w i t h the 'work f o r the f u t u r e w h i l e r e t a i n i n g your r o o t s ' m e n t a l i t y t h a t d e f i n e s h i p hop. And, i n d e e d , the need f o r ever new c o m b i n a t i o n s and r e c o m b i n a t i o n s of e x i s t i n g sounds i n s e a r c h of something g r e a t can be seen as analogous t o the r e d e f i n i n g of e x i s t i n g c u l t u r a l b e l i e f s and l i f e s t y l e s i n a s e a r c h f o r a b e t t e r way of l i f e . A l t h o u g h no e x p l i c i t c o n n e c t i o n s are made w i t h i n r a p s , l i n k i n g the a e s t h e t i c canons t o t h e i r v a l u e system or c u l t u r a l s t y l e , the p a r a l l e l s are q u i t e e v i d e n t . S t y l e i n p r e s e n t a t i o n , a u t h e n t i c i t y , r e s o u r c e f u l n e s s , b a l a n c e , and q u i c k r e f l e x e s have been o u t l i n e d e a r l i e r as v a l u e d a b i l i t i e s f o r the h i p hop male. And we have o n l y to r e c a l l K u r t i s Blow's d e s i r e to keep h i s b a l a n c e i n the f a c e of hard times or the h i p hop command to "rock s t e a d y " or t o note t h a t the g r e a t e s t MCs and DJs are those who are r e c k l e s s , t h a t i s , w i l l i n g t o t a k e a r t i s t i c r i s k s , t o r e c o g n i z e a c o n s i s t e n c y between the a e s t h e t i c and the c u l t u r a l r e a l m s . 6.4 E v a l u a t i o n of a Poor Performance J u s t as h i p hop music r e v e a l s the s t a n d a r d s by which a good performance i s e v a l u a t e d , i t i s e q u a l l y c l e a r about what i s a poor performance. The r e f e r e n c e t o "sucker MCs" suggests t h a t by b e i n g l e s s than e m o t i o n a l l y s i n c e r e or a u t h e n t i c i n one's performance one can be d i s c r e d i t e d . And a u t h e n t i c i t y must be proven i n more than e m o t i o n a l terms. M a t e r i a l must e x h i b i t an o r i g i n a l and i d e n t i f i a b l e s t y l e . And c o n s i s t e n t l y a sucker DJ i s 121 one t h a t i s unable to c r e a t e the i n t r i c a t e c u t s and mixes w i t h o u t r e s o r t i n g t o f a k e r y . As Ice T (1987) e x p l a i n s : ' t h a t E v i l E i s the g r e a t e s t , h i s c u t s are r e a l , not f a k e , not emulated e f f e c t s or a p l a y b a c k tape l i k e s u c k e r DJs". Sucker MCs and DJs a r e r e f e r r e d t o as s o f t and s e x u a l l y i m p o t e n t , thus are l a c k i n g the t o ughness, s t r e n g t h and v i r i l i t y r e q u i r e d t o be a g r e a t p e r f o r m e r as w e l l as a g r e a t man — f o r a u t h e n t i c i t y i s a v a l u e d t r a i t at the c u l t u r a l l e v e l as w e l l . Rather than v a l u i n g " f r o n t i n g " , or p r o j e c t i n g a f a l s e image, "the o n l y way t o s u r v i v e i s t o be y o u r s e l f " . And what i t i s t o "be y o u r s e l f " i s to work hard at a l e g i t i m a t e e n t e r p r i s e , l i k e h i p hop, r a t h e r than " t r y i n g hard to make i t through the easy way of l i f e , t h i n k i n g you can f a k e i t w i t h a p i s t o l or a k n i f e " . A sucker emerges as one who i s both i n e p t and e a s i l y duped and i s approached w i t h contempt and c o n d e s c e n s i o n . A poor performance i s a l s o d i s c u s s e d i n terms of ' s t a l e ' , ' s o f t ' , 'whack' and 'lame'. A s t a l e rap " s m e l l s " and i s not o n l y o l d , u n o r i g i n a l and n o n - p r o g r e s s i v e (as opposed t o a f r e s h r a p ) , but i s a l s o " s o f t " , or i m p o t e n t , t h a t i s , not e x h i b i t i n g the h a r d , l o u d and a g g r e s s i v e sound t h a t i s e x p e c t e d . A "whack" rap i s one t h a t i s u n o r i g i n a l or s i m p l y i s not performed at p a r . I t i s out of whack, not i n the groove, i t f a i l s t o l i v e up t o the p r o s c r i b e d c r i t e r i o n . A "lame" rap a g a i n has no s t r e n g t h , i t i s weak, but more, because i t i s slow i t does not m o t i v a t e or s t i m u l a t e an audience t o move, t o dance. The d e n o t i n g of people or t h i n g s found l a c k i n g w i t h l i m i t e d m o b i l i t y r e i n f o r c e s the p o s i t i v e c o n n o t a t i o n s , both at the l i n g u i s t i c and 122 c u l t u r a l l e v e l s , to rapid and unrestricted movement (Kockman 1972a,: 160). Elsewhere lame talk has been referred to as "shooting blanks", associating impotence in verbal power with physical combat (Folb 1980: 43). And, ultimately, i f a rapper's music i s deemed "lame", "soft " , et cetera, so too is the rapper, being denounced as e a s i l y taken advantage of and unworthy of respect. Another category of lesser performers, in addition to suckers, are "toys" (or "Fisher Price MCs"). These are not as aggressively c r i t i c i z e d as suckers, rather they are dismissed as inexperienced rookies or as lacking dedication to hip hop. They play at hip hop, rather than operate at the l e v e l of commitment and d i s c i p l i n e of a master or expert. A master, on the other hand, has both the s k i l l s and perseverence to succeed. Jam Master Jay, the big beat blaster He gets better cause he knows he hasta It's '83 and he's a l i t t l e faster And only practice makes a real jam master (Run-D.M.C, "Here We Go", 1985) The virtues of a master apply to the c u l t u r a l as well as aesthetic realm for the implications are of someone with leadership q u a l i t i e s who can control power and command respect. Ultimately, hip hop performance i s a performance of contest and, although every one may claim to be number one, just as in l i f e , there c l e a r l y are winners and losers. 123 6.5 Summary of Rap A n a l y s i s The p r e c e d i n g a n a l y s i s of h i p hop's rap music i l l u s t r a t e s the p o l y s e m i c n a t u r e of t h i s genre of communication. Through i t a d i s t i n c t image of the h i p hopper has emerged. Both c o n t e n t of l y r i c s and, t o a l e s s e r degree, the s t r u c t u r e of the music i t s e l f , has s e r v e d t o r e v e a l the h i p hopper's p e r c e p t i o n of h i s i d e n t i t y . H i s p e r s o n a , h i s s i g n i f i c a n t s o c i a l (and power) r e l a t i o n s , h i s r o l e i n the community and h i s w o r l d view and a e s t h e t i c s are o u t l i n e d . Together they a r t i c u l a t e an i d e n t i t y t h a t t y p i f i e s the t r a d i t i o n a l g h e t t o male image, one t h a t r e t a i n s the e x i s t i n g measure of a man through e x t e n s i o n s of the s e l f — h i s p e r s o n a l i t y , the c l o t h e s he wears, the p o s s e s s i o n s he d i s p l a y s , the women he c l a i m s as h i s own, the males he can i n t i m i d a t e and, not the l e a s t , h i s a b i l i t y t o rap ( F o l b 1980: 38). But the r o l e of a h i p hopper, p o r t r a y e d through the r a p s , i s much more than j u s t another r e n d i t i o n of the same o l d song; r a t h e r i t s u g g e s t s a r e a r r a n g i n g of the tough guy image, combining i t w i t h o t h e r models a v a i l a b l e t o b l a c k y o u t h s — c i v i l r i g h t s and b l a c k power l e a d e r s , g o s p e l p r e a c h e r s and s o c i a l l y c o n s c i o u s p e r f o r m i n g e n t e r t a i n e r s . Hip hop i n v o l v e s both a h i g h l y f o r m a l i z e d attempt a t r e d e f i n i t i o n and a r e t e n t i o n of c e n t r a l community v a l u e s . The r e s u l t i s a person who, a l t h o u g h he appears a g g r e s s i v e , m a n i p u l a t i v e , tough and c o m p e t i t i v e i s a l s o committed, not o n l y t o s e l f - i m p r o v e m e n t and achievement, but t o i n s p i r i n g h i s f e l l o w 124 g h e t t o youth t o do the same, t o a v o i d the p i t f a l l s of g h e t t o l i v i n g ( a pathy, d r u g s , c r i m e , v i o l e n c e , e t c . ) and t o use the s t r e n g t h i t p r o v i d e s i n the p u r s u i t of s e l f - f u l f i l l i n g g o a l s . At once the e d u c a t o r , the h e a l e r , the e n t e r t a i n e r , the d e c e p t o r , the f i g h t e r — t h e h i p hopper n e g o t i a t e s power through t h e s e r o l e s and through h i s competence i n rap i t s e l f . T h i s power g i v e s him a sense of c o n t r o l — c o n t r o l over h i m s e l f and h i s w o r l d . And he a p p l i e s t h i s f e e l i n g of p o w e r f u l n e s s , t o g e t h e r w i t h t h a t g r a n t e d him through h i s p o s i t i o n as a c u l t u r e hero, to e n e r g i z i n g h i s community and i n s t i l l i n g i t w i t h a sense of s e l f - w o r t h and p r i d e . Seemingly c o n t r a d i c t o r y s t a t e m e n t s appear w i t h i n the e x p r e s s i v e form, but r a t h e r than c o n t r a d i c t perhaps these o p p o s i n g o r i e n t a t i o n s complement one a n o t h e r . i n any case they presumably o p e r a t e at two d i f f e r e n t l e v e l s . B o a s t i n g and e x a g g e r a t e d s e l f - g l o r i f i c a t i o n ( " t a l k i n g s h i t " ) c o - e x i s t s w i t h a c a l l t o "be y o u r s e l f " and not " f r o n t " o t h e r s . The f i r s t a r t i c u l a t i o n o p e r a t e s as an a s p e c t of image management i n which an i l l u s i o n i s c r e a t e d through r o l e - p l a y i n g . And, a l t h o u g h t h i s p r a c t i s e may indeed l e a d to a c t u a l e x p e r i e n c e s of s e l f - p r i d e and p o w e r f u l n e s s , i t i s d i s t i n g u i s h a b l e from the r e a l i t y of p r e s e n t i n g y o u r s e l f i n a f a l s e l i g h t -- t o y o u r s e l f or t o o t h e r s . As w i t h o t h e r forms of b l a c k e x p r e s s i v e n e s s , the raps suggest t h a t h i p hop i s a t t e m p t i n g to b a l a n c e arrogance w i t h s i n c e r i t y , a g g r e s s i o n w i t h t e n d e r n e s s , an e x p l o s i o n of raw energy w i t h s e l f - d i s c i p l i n e d containment ( P a s t e u r and T o l d s o n 1982: 203). 125 i n f o r m u l a t i n g rap music i t s c r e a t o r s i l l u s t r a t e t h e i r r o o t e d n e s s both w i t h i n the c u l t u r a l h e r i t a g e and t h e i r immediate c u l t u r a l environment and t h e i r i n v o l v e m e n t w i t h the wider mainstream c u l t u r e . The a e s t h e t i c and l i n g u i s t i c c h o i c e s made r e f l e c t a l l t h r e e i n f l u e n c e s . The q u a l i t i e s of good c h a r a c t e r advocated by h i p hoppers, through t h e i r rap l y r i c s , f o r i n s t a n c e , not o n l y are t o some e x t e n t i n keeping w i t h mainstream v a l u e s of hardwork and d i s c i p l i n e , but a l s o w i t h g h e t t o - s p e c i f i c v a l u e s of extreme c o m p e t i t i v e n e s s and s t y l e , and f i n a l l y , by p a r a l l e l i n g the q u a l i t i e s r e q u i r e d f o r s u c c e s s f u l e x e c u t i o n of a rap perfor m a n c e , are i n keep i n g w i t h a s p e c i f i c h i s t o r y of such a l i n k between c u l t u r e and performance. The combining of s p i r i t u a l u p l i f t i n g w i t h s e c u l a r concerns about l i f e i s a l s o e v i d e n t i n g o s p e l and s o u l m usic, f o r example. And the g e n e r a l c a t e g o r i e s of themes -- the ego, the community, sex, v i o l e n c e and dan c i n g — have f o r m u l a t e d the b a s i s of b l a c k sung communication s i n c e the b e g i n n i n g of A f r o - A m e r i c a n c u l t u r e (Lomax 1966: 123). T h i s a n a l y s i s , due t o i t s emphasis on the c o n t e n t of r e c o r d e d r a p s , a l t h o u g h u n c o v e r i n g much of the s u b c u l t u r e ' s agenda, has l i m i t e d v a l u e i n d e t e r m i n i n g the f u n c t i o n of the s t r e e t a c t i v i t y . And o b v i o u s l y the a c t of r e c o r d i n g raps i n a s t u d i o i s f a r removed from b a t t l i n g a g a i n s t a r i v a l MC or DJ i n P r o s p e c t Park i n the Bronx. Keeping i n mind e n t h n o g r a p h i c a c c o u n t s , i t i s not u n r e a s o n a b l e t o suggest t h a t at the s t r e e t end of the continuum r a p p e r s may indeed be i n v o l v e d i n a r i t u a l a c t of v i o l e n c e containment by e x p r e s s i n g i t i n s a f e ways, but t h a t at the p r o f e s s i o n a l end the f o c u s i s more l i k e l y t o be on 126 e n t e r t a i n m e n t , f i n a n c i a l g a i n , fame and " t a l k i n g to the p e o p l e " . Both however are founded on a h i g h l y c o m p e t i t i v e s p i r i t and i n v o l v e the n o t i o n of s e l f - i m p r o v e m e n t and r e s t r u c t u r i n g the community i n a p o s i t i v e manner. The system appears t o accommodate both the maintenance of p e r s o n a l honour and p r e s t i g e a t the community l e v e l and the d e s i r e t o succeed w i t h i n the wider mainstream c u l t u r e . U l t i m a t e l y , however, the a n a l y s i s has been of a communication system, and has been concerned w i t h the e x p r e s s i v e , not the e x p e r i e n t i a l , l e v e l of rap. And a l t h o u g h the messages conveyed i n the raps cannot be taken as c o n c l u s i v e nor n e c c e s s a r i l y comprehensive., they do c o n t a i n s u g g e s t i o n s of i t s f u n c t i o n s . Rap music i s more than f l a u n t and t a u n t , a l t h o u g h i t i s t h a t t o o . Rap music aims t o do more than e n t e r t a i n , a l t h o u g h i t does t h a t t o o . W h i l e p r o f e s s i n g h i s own c o o l , a rapper heats up the environment and c o n t r o l s h i g h v o l t a g e s i t u a t i o n s i n an e f f o r t t o s t i m u l a t e the minds and b o d i e s of h i s f o l l o w e r s . 127 CHAPTER SEVEN GRAFFITI: GETTING YOUR NAME OP 7.1 Moving Onto the Subway T r a i n s You know what i t e v o l v e d from? The toug h e s t guy on the bl o c k always had h i s name the b i g g e s t i n the s t r e e t . I t t o l d everybody i t was h i s a r e a , t h a t he had the j u i c e t o do what he wanted and nobody c o u l d mess w i t h him (Tracy 168 i n Hager 1984: 13). Hip hop g r a f f i t i was the f i r s t of the h i p hop e x p r e s s i v e forms t o be s y s t e m a t i c a l l y d e v e l o p e d , b e g i n n i n g t o d i s t i n g u i s h i t s e l f w i t h i n the gang i n s t i t u t i o n by 1969. U n l i k e the o t h e r two forms which have a l i n e a g e t o t r a d i t i o n a l b l a c k dance and music, i t has a more r e c e n t and l e s s e t h n i c a l l y bound urban h e r i t a g e , p r i m a r i l y as gang t e r r i t o r i a l markers used t o i n t i m i d a t e r i v a l s (Ley and C y b r i s k y 1974). Kohl and Hi n t o n have suggested t h a t the h i p p i e movement w i t h i t s " f l o w e r power" p s y c h o d e l i c g r a f f i t i a s s e r t e d an i n f l u e n c e on the u s u a l gang i n s c r i p t i o n s . As w e l l , community a r t p r o j e c t s began at t h i s time w i t h p r o f e s s i o n a l mural a r t i s t s e n c o u r a g i n g g h e t t o youths t o b e a u t i f y , r a t h e r than deface the i n n e r c i t i e s (1972: 132-133). As " t a g g i n g " ( w r i t i n g your name on p u b l i c space) became more i m p o r t a n t t o some members than o t h e r gang a c t i v i t i e s , they broke o f f t o form w r i t i n g crews, and the w r i t i n g was e l a b o r a t e d both a r t i s t i c a l l y and through the development of b e h a v i o u r a l codes. A c c o r d i n g t o the f i l m documentary S t y l e Wars (1982) i n the p i o n e e r phase (1970-1974) " g e t t i n g up", t h a t i s , w r i t i n g one's name as o f t e n as p o s s i b l e and i n as many p l a c e s as p o s s i b l e , was the p r i n c i p l e g o a l . To f u r t h e r t h i s end the NYC 128 t r a n s i t system became the most d e s i r a b l e s u r f a c e , a l l o w i n g f o r maximum v i s i b i l i t y . As one w r i t e r , B l a d e , put i t , " g r a f f i t i i s aboutbecoming famous because your name i s a l l over the c i t y , on the t r a i n s " ( i n G r a f f i t i 1983: 12). Much l a t e r , i n the mid 80's, due t o a c c e l e r a t i o n s i n p o l i c i n g and " b u f f i n g " ( c l e a n i n g of the t r a i n s ) the w r i t e r s were p r e s s u r e d t o reduce subway "bombing", moving h i p hop g r a f f i t i back onto s t r e e t w a l l s and h a n d b a l l c o u r t s . 7 .2 The Development of S t y l e As t h i s form of e x p r e s s i o n g a i n e d s t a t u s , p a r t i c i p a n t s began i n v e s t i n g more of themselves i n i t s development. Magic markers were r e p l a c e d by c o l o u r f u l s p r a y c a n p a i n t s , names got b i g g e r than l i f e and moved t o the o u t s i d e of the t r a i n s , l e t t e r s were e l a b o r a t e d and d i s t i n c t r e g i o n a l and p e r s o n a l s t y l e s emerged. In 1975 o n l y f o u r main s t y l e s were used but by 1983 t h i s had expanded to over t h i r t y ( i b i d . : 56). By 1977, s p u r r e d on by i n t e n s e c o m p e t i t i o n , a second c r i t e r i o n f o r e v a l u a t i n g g r a f f i t i , and hence i t s c r e a t o r s , had emerged. To the v a l u e of how many people knew your name was added the q u a l i t y of t h a t name. One's name c o u l d no l o n g e r o n l y be a " t a g " but s h o u l d be a (master) " p i e c e " as w e l l . As one w r i t e r e x p l a i n s , "anybody can be a w r i t e r , but i f you're r e c o g n i z e d i t means you're a master" ( i n M a i l e r 1974: n.p.). I n t e r e s t i n g l y t h i s d u a l s t a t u s system p a r a l l e l s the gang t r a d i t i o n of measuring a man's r e p u t a t i o n by both the e x t e n t t o which h i s name was known and by how "bad" i t was (Ho r o w i t z 1983: 129 PHASE 2: THE EVOLUTION OF A STYLE, 1971-1982 130 Phase 2 con'd (Hager, 1984, pp. 28-29) 131 90). In h i p hop, however, the p r o c e s s i s r e v e r s e d . One's name does not become b i g i n accordance w i t h one's r e p u t a t i o n , r a t h e r one's r e p u t a t i o n i s measured by how b i g (and s t y l i s h ) one's name l i t e r a l l y a ppears. One's name, s i m p l y w r i t t e n , was no l o n g e r s u f f i c i e n t t o convey one's i d e n t i t y . E m b e l l i s h m e n t s , backgrounds, images, p e r i p h e r a l epigrams -- i n a word, subs t a n c e was added. J u s t as g r a f f i t i w r i t i n g moved from s t a t i c w a l l g r a f f i t i t o motion bombing on t r a i n s , s t a t i c d e s i g n s were r e p l a c e d w i t h e l e c t r i f i e d , a c t i v e forms -- q u i t e p o s s i b l y s i g n i f y i n g a c u l t u r e "on the move". L e t t e r s t y l e s , such as b u b b l e , 3-D, computer and m e c h a n i c a l , were adapted from the v a s t p o o l of American p o p u l a r c u l t u r e — T.V., v i d e o s , a d v e r t i s i n g , c o m i c s , p o s t e r s , f i l m s — as were the f i g u r e s , l i k e Snoopy, Underdog and the P i n k P a n t h e r , t h a t became i n c o r p o r a t e d i n t o p i e c e s , o f t e n r e p r e s e n t i n g the w r i t e r ' s s e l f - i m a g e . By r e c o n t e x t u a l i z i n g these well-known c h a r a c t e r s , members of the s u b c u l t u r e r e d e f i n e d them i n terms of t h e i r own s e l f - i m a g e . One w r i t e r whose tag read "Stay High 149" t r a n s f o r m e d the h a l o e d s t i c k f i g u r e i n s i g n i a from the T.V. show "The S a i n t " by g i v i n g him a j o i n t t o smoke (Cooper and C h a l f a n t 1984: 15). V i o l a t i o n of an orthodox i c o n , through an i n v e r s i o n o f i t s s i g n i f i c a n c e , c o n f r o n t e d the s t r a i g h t w o r l d w i t h i t s c o n t r a d i c t i o n s . But of c o u r s e the s a i n t f i g u r e i t s e l f , as a p o p u l a r c u l t u r e form, was a p l a y on, an i n t e r p r e t a t i o n o f , t r a d i t i o n a l r e l i g i o u s c u l t u r e . There i s l i t t l e doubt t h a t the development of d i s t i n c t s t y l e s of w r i t i n g e x p r e s s e s the 132 i n v e s t m e n t of the ego w i t h i n the form and t h a t the ego, l i k e the g r a f f i t i , was enhanced and d i s t i n g u i s h e d through the p r o c e s s . 7.3 A System of Communication The q u e s t i o n of t o whom h i p hop g r a f f i t i w r i t e r s . a r e communicating and what i t i s t h a t they are a t t e m p t i n g t o communicate i s c e n t r a l t o u n d e r s t a n d i n g h i p hop i n g e n e r a l , and subway g r a f f i t i i n p a r t i c u l a r . Due to i t s p u b l i c v i s i b i l i t y i t might be assumed t h a t w r i t e r s are merely c o n v e y i n g messages to the g e n e r a l p u b l i c , i n a s u b v e r s i v e manner. However, a c c o r d i n g t o a l l a c c o u n t s , the i n t e r n a l d i a l o g u e between g h e t t o males who are p r o c l a i m i n g t h e i r images of power through b o l d , d u r a b l e , c o n f i d e n t , t o u g h - l o o k i n g j s i g n a t u r e s i s the p r i m a r y communication g o a l . We're t r y i n g t o produce something. I t ' s a c h a l l e n g e . L i k e g o i n g a l l c i t y so p e o p l e w i l l know who I am and knowing I can do i t . I t s f o r me and o t h e r g r a f f i t i w r i t e r s . I don't c a r e i f anyone e l s e sees i t or can read i t -- a l l those o t h e r p e o p l e who c a n ' t read i t , t h e y ' r e e x c l u d e d — they don't matter t o me. Tt a i n ' t about them — i t s f o r us ( i n S t y l e Wars 1982). Or: Other w r i t e r s -- t h a t ' s the o n l y t h i n g t h a t m a t t e r s . We want the p u b l i c to l i k e us, but o t h e r w r i t e r s i s what i s i m p o r t a n t . We want r e c o g n i t i o n (Smith i n C h a l f a n t and P r i g o f f 1987: 28). To r e i n f o r c e the n o t i o n of e x c l u s i v i t y names are encoded i n the p o p u l a r " w i l d s t y l e " or i n "camouflage" s t y l e . The l e t t e r s are so e n t a n g l e d as to be v i r t u a l l y i n d e c i p h e r a b l e to any but the i n i t i a t e d . (As w r i t i n g , l i k e the o t h e r forms of h i p hop, moves 133 away from the g h e t t o - s p e c i f i c s t r e e t c u l t u r e end of the continuum towards the mainstream p r o f e s s i o n a l end, of cour s e more con c e r n i s e x p r e s s e d about r e c o g n i t i o n i n mainstream terms of fame and f i n a n c i a l s u c c e s s ( G r a f f i t i 1983).) Not o n l y the need t o communicate w i t h o t h e r s but a l s o t o compete w i t h them m o t i v a t e s w r i t e r s . As Tracy 168 e x p l a i n s : One t h i n g t h a t kept me w r i t i n g on t r a i n s and s e e i n g my name a g a i n . You thought your t a g would j u s t d i s a p p e a r because t h e r e were so many t r a i n s . But then i t would come back the next day and you'd see somebody e l s e ' s t ag r i g h t next t o y o u r s . That was p a r t of the communication t h i n g . . . . C o m p e t i t i o n was i m p o r t a n t too ( i n Hager 1984: 1 8 ) . The a c t i v i t y i n g e n e r a l , by p r o v i d i n g a means of e v a l u a t i n g peer s t a t u s and r e c o g n i t i o n i n terms of e x c e l l e n c e and p r o d u c t i v i t y i n w r i t i n g , a f f i r m s the importance of c o m p e t i t i o n as a mechanism of i d e n t i t y c r e a t i o n i n t h i s community. Evidence f o r t h i s a l s o appears w i t h i n forms of the g r a f f i t i . W r i t t e n c h a l l e n g e s , i n c o r p o r a t e d i n t o the " p i e c e s " , are thrown out t o o t h e r w r i t e r s -- "Can you burn t h i s ? " . To " h i t " someone's name by g o i n g over i t i s read as a k i l l i n t h i s system ( M a i l e r 1974) and i s c o n s t r u e d as a v i o l a t i o n of the code of b e h a v i o u r , the p e r p e t r a t o r b e i n g denounced. Hence c o m p e t i t i o n i s not a r b i t r a r y but o p e r a t e s w i t h i n s t r i c t r e g u l a t i o n s . No " k i n g s " would ever " h i t " another w r i t e r ' s p i e c e , nor would he " b i t e " someone's s p e c i f i c d e s i g n s . Honour, both one's own and t h a t of one's opponents, i s a r e s p e c t e d a t t r i b u t e 134 of a h i p hopper's i d e n t i t y , as i t was f o r the e a r l i e r gang member. To be a k i n g of the t r a i n s i s t o r e s p e c t the code w h i l e p r o d u c i n g " b u r n e r s " ( d a z z l i n g , b r i g h t l y c o l o u r e d o r i g i n a l and e l a b o r a t e d e s i g n s , f r e e of d r i p s ) which are "def" and thus c a p a b l e of t a k i n g out the c o m p e t i t i o n (Cooper and C h a l f a n t 1 9 8 4 : 3 1 ) . As a p u b l i c performance which i s s u b j e c t t o c r i t i c a l e v a l u a t i o n and r e f l e c t s one's s t a t u s i n the community, any m i s t a k e s i n e x e c u t i o n c a l l f o r e x p l a n a t i o n s and a p o l o g i e s i n o r d e r t o save f a c e . A g a i n t h e s e are i n c o r p o r a t e d i n t o the p i e c e s : "too f u c k i n ' dark i n dem t u n n e l s " , "too l a t e , too t i r e d " , " s o r r y no more b l u e " , "cheap p a i n t " , " s o r r y about the d r i p s " , "chased", " f u c k e d up, my hands were c o l d " ( i b i d . : 3 8 ) . Viewed w i t h i n i t s c u l t u r a l c o n t e x t , h i p hop g r a f f i t i , a l t h o u g h i l l e g a l i n the eyes of the law, i s not i n t e n d e d as an a c t of v a n d a l i s m , a l t h o u g h p a r t of i t s a p p e a l f o r some may be a s s o c i a t e d w i t h the r i s k s i n v o l v e d i n d e f y i n g a u t h o r i t y . Slogans such as "a dream of some, a nightmare t o o t h e r s " or " g r a f f i t i i s an a r t and i f a r t i s a c r i m e , l e t god f o r g i v e me" suggest t h a t w r i t e r s , a l t h o u g h aware of the mainstream r u l e s , are p r e p a r e d t o d e f y them (or perhaps d i s m i s s them as i r r e l e v a n t ) i n f a v o u r of t h e i r own agenda. As T a k i 1 8 3 put i t , " I t ' s an e x p r e s s i o n of my s e l f , a way of s a y i n g 'I am h e r e ' " ( i n F l i n k e r and Romanowski 1 9 8 5 : 3 0 ) . And, i f i t i s a s i g n of r e b e l l i o n a g a i n s t the wider dominant c u l t u r e , then i t i s t o c h a l l e n g e them to see the beauty i n i t and i n them. "The r e a l v a n d a l i s m i s what you'd see i f they 135 s c r a p e d the windows [of the subway c a r s ] c l e a n " , c l a i m s w r i t e r A l i ( i b i d . : 33). A common p r a c t i s e i s to b e g i n a p i e c e by f i r s t p a i n t i n g a s i m u l a t e d b r i c k w a l l , so r e p r e s e n t a t i v e of the decay of the g h e t t o s , and then t o p a i n t one's b r i g h t , s t r o n g and c o l o u r f u l name over i t , s u g g e s t i n g the power to overcome t h e i r environment and make something p o s i t i v e out of t h e i r l i v e s . A r t i c u l a t i o n s of t h e i r renewed s e l f - i m a g e and o p t i m i s m appear f r e q u e n t l y as a s i d e s , complementing the g r a p h i c s t a t e m e n t s made by the artwork i t s e l f : "we are u n s t o p p a b l e , we are u n c a t c h a b l e , we are n a s t y " ; "we are the sons of the g h e t t o and we w i l l s u r v i v e " ; " e x t r a , e x t r a , TNT (The N a t i o n ' s Top) takes, over New York C i t y " . Use of the i m p e r a t i v e when a d d r e s s i n g those i n a u t h o r i t y and e x p r e s s i o n s of t h e i r own i n f l a t e d importance u n d e r s c o r e s the d e s i r e f o r a sense of c o n t r o l and a p o s i t i o n i n s o c i e t y — t o be news h e a d l i n e r s . W r i t e r s appear to be c l a i m i n g a r i g h t t o t h e i r v e r y e x i s t e n c e . Almost a l l t a g s , f o r i n s t a n c e , a r e accompanied w i t h an (R) or a (C^ symbol s u g g e s t i n g t h a t t h e i r names, or egos, are b e i n g p u b l i c l y r e g i s t e r e d and c o p y r i g h t e d a g a i n s t v i o l a t i o n s of a u t h e n t i c i t y . P i e c e s are f r e q u e n t l y e m b e l l i s h e d w i t h "cosmic" images — c l o u d s , s t a r s , m e t e o r i t e s , r a i n b o w s , thunder and l i g h t n i n g . Tags appear t o be b u s t i n g o u t , w i t h c o l o u r s ^ f l y i n g o f f them i n t o space. The s i g n i f i c a n c e of t h e s e r e f e r e n c e s i s made e x p l i c i t i n one p i e c e by B i l l B l a s t (1982) i n which "Sky's the L i m i t " f l o a t s above the S t a t u e of L i b e r t y , the words beingformed out of the f l a m e s and smoke e m i t t i n g from the s t a t u e ' s t o r c h . A g i a n t g h e t t o b l a s t e r , s y m b o l i z i n g h i p hop, s t a n d s a l o n g s i d e , 136 Figure 2. "Sky's the Limit" by B i l l y "Wise" B l a s t , 1982. (George, e t a l , 1985, p. 43) 137 music notes r i s i n g out of i t and f l o a t i n g i n t o the sky. The imagery i s e l a b o r a t e ; the message c l e a r . These young men of the g h e t t o b e l i e v e t h a t they, are f r e e i n g themselves and s e i z i n g power through t h e i r a r t s . Another s e l f - p o r t r a i t p i e c e shows the b-boy as a robot who has broken out of the c h a i n s t h a t b i n d him and b u r s t through the g h e t t o w a l l s . He i s armed w i t h a huge s p r a y c a n i n s c r i b e d w i t h "Beyond C o n t r o l " . Maze One and Blade c o l l a b o r a t e d on a p i e c e t h a t both s y m b o l i c a l l y , through i t s imagery, and l i t e r a l l y , through i t s i n s c r i p t i o n , t e s t i f i e s t o t h e i r b e l i e f t h a t they a re making c o n s t r u c t i v e headway i n t h e i r l i v e s , or " b r e a k i n ground" as the p i e c e reads. i n the h i p hop documentary by C h a r l e s Ahearn, W i l d s t y l e (1982), Zoro i s d i s c u s s i n g i d e a s f o r a new p i e c e . He imagines a g i a n t s t a r r a d i a t i n g energy and l i g h t r i s i n g out of an image of gloom and doom. A d m i t t i n g t h a t the s t a r r e p r e s e n t s h i m s e l f , he e v e n t u a l l y p a i n t s the p i e c e w i t h the hands of doom s u r r o u n d i n g h i s p e r s o n a l h i p hop c h a r a c t e r , whom Zoro c l a i m s i s und e f e a t e d by h i s environment. T h i s metaphor of b r e a k i n g out appears over and over a g a i n . Another w r i t e r , Lee, f o r example, who c l a i m s t h a t h i s l i f e s t o r y i s p a i n t e d i n h i s murals ( C h a l f a n t and P r i g o f f 1987: 1 4 ) , p o r t r a y s h i m s e l f i n h i s work as a ch a i n e d l i o n f r e e i n g h i m s e l f — the f i e r c e p r o t e c t o r of the urban j u n g l e b r e a k i n g l o o s e of e n v i r o n m e n t a l r e s t r a i n t s . As w i t h the o t h e r forms of h i p hop e x p r e s s i o n , the o v e r a l l image b e i n g conveyed i s of a tough, a g g r e s s i v e youth who i s e x e r t i n g h i s power t o overcome. And a l t h o u g h t h i s message i s b e i n g e x p r e s s e d t o s i g n i f i c a n t o t h e r s , i t i s a l s o b e i n g spoken t o the s e l f . 138 Figure 3. (Chalfant and P r i g o f f , 1987, p. 27) 139 7.4 I n d i v i d u a l Competitiveness and C o l l e c t i v e Cooperation As i s e v i d e n t from the p r e c e d i n g d i s c u s s i o n , t h e r e i s , p r e d i c t a b l y , a c o n s i s t e n c y between the sta t e m e n t s made by i n f o r m a n t s about the s i g n i f i c a n c e of h i p hop w r i t i n g and the a c t u a l messages communicated through the works — messages w r i t t e n e x p l i c i t l y , and those suggested s y m b o l i c a l l y and a e s t h e t i c a l l y . A c l o s e r e x a m i n a t i o n of p a r t i c u l a r p i e c e s can then r e v e a l f u r t h e r e v i d e n c e t o s u p p o r t the emerging n o t i o n t h a t g r a f f i t i , l i k e the o t h e r forms of h i p hop e x p r e s s i v e n e s s , s e r v e s two c u l t u r a l agendas — i n d i v i d u a l c o m p e t i t i v e n e s s and the s e a r c h f o r a p o w e r f u l s e l f - i m a g e and c o l l e c t i v e c o o p e r a t i o n s t r e s s i n g a s t r o n g moral s e n s i b i l i t y . By v i e w i n g i t as an attempt t o f u l f i l l b o t h these agendas the apparent c o n t r a d i c t i o n between i n t e r n a l s t y l e wars among w r i t e r s and u n i f y i n g ephigrams of "make peace, not war" can be un d e r s t o o d . The s t r o n g i d e n t i f i c a t i o n of the s e l f w i t h the a r t i s e v i d e n t i n Lee's comment which appears w i t h i n h i s 1982 " S i l e n t Thunder" p i e c e : " L e e . . . a l i v e a g a i n . . . . There i s o n l y one reason f o r a r t , t o know t h a t you are a l i v e " . In another mural the w r i t e r l i t e r a l l y has become h i s a r t as he p a i n t s h i m s e l f as a g i a n t , t o u g h - l o o k i n g , animated s p r a y c a n . These b-boy c h a r a c t e r s which appear a l o n g s i d e the e l a b o r a t e tags are i d e n t i f i a b l e by t h e i r d i r e c t p i c t o r i a l r e f e r e n c e s t o the h i p hop image — Kangol h a t s , K a z o l frames, nameplate b e l t s and w i d e - l a c e d r u n n e r s . Poses are a g g r e s s i v e and Figure 4. "Lee — S i l e n t Thunder", 1982. 141 Figure 5. 142 t o u g h - l o o k i n g . O f t e n t h e s e personas are h o l d i n g one of two o b j e c t s , which appear t o be i n t e r c h a n g e a b l e — a gun and a s p r a y c a n . S p raycans, a g g r e s s i v e l y p o i n t i n g outward, and marked "danger", s u b s t i t u t e as symbols of toughness — j u s t as i n f o r m a n t s c l a i m t h a t h i p hop s u b s t i t u t e s f o r gang v i o l e n c e . One g r a f f i t i p i e c e makes the p o i n t most g r a p h i c a l l y . A b-boy garbed i n army camouflage f a t i g u e s has a gun on one s i d e and a s p r a y c a n on the o t h e r . The o b j e c t i v e of t h e s e a g g r e s s i v e b-boy f i g u r e s i s not t o suggest a v i o l e n t t h r e a t to s o c i e t y (as has been m i s i n t e r p r e t e d by o u t s i d e r s ) , but as w r i t e r P a r i s h e x p l a i n s : t o make you look "bad". You know, i t ' s l i k e an image of y o u r s e l f and what you were t h i n k i n g about t h a t n i g h t . . . . I t ' s l i k e a statement t o another w r i t e r . You're t r y i n g t o t a l k t o another w r i t e r w i t h o u t r e a l l y meeting him. The way he sees your name, he sees c h a r a c t e r s , he can p i c t u r e i t i n h i s head. The t a s k f o r c e say when they see these c h a r a c t e r s , they f e e l v i o l e n c e . I don't understand t h a t . I don't see a n y t h i n g v i o l e n t about the way i t ' s on t h e r e . I c o u l d see i f you were drawing a bunch of people k i l l i n g one a n o t h e r , but nobody draws a n y t h i n g l i k e t h a t . The b-boy c h a r a c t e r p r o j e c t s the image f o r another w r i t e r . He's not t r y i n g to show t h a t t o the c i t y ( i n C&a&caer.]i aeid P r i g o f f 1987: 12). In a system where t o be someone i s t o " d e s t r o y " a l l comers, one's h i p hop name i s s y m b o l i c a l l y armed to k i l l . As one w r i t e r c l a i m s , by o v e r - d e c o r a t i n g t h e i r names they are imbued w i t h power and are "armed t o combat" (Rammelzee i n G r a f f i t i 1983: 56). The message of s t r e n g t h may be b l a t a n t , as i n one p i e c e which shows a huge b-boy r u n n i n g shoe c r u s h i n g the c i t y ' s s k y l i n e as a s k e l e t a l f i g u r e , s w i n g i n g a b l a d e , pronounces "Death". A bomb, b u r n i n g on a s h o r t f u s e , s u b s t i t u t e s f o r the '0' i n one w r i t e r ' s t a g . O f t e n , however, the image i s coded and 143 144 o n l y c o m p r e h e n s i b l e t o those f a m i l i a r w i t h the system. Arrows i n p i e c e s , f o r example, s y m b o l i z e a t t a c k . They are c o n s i d e r e d to be e q u i v a l e n t t o weapons. The d i r e c t i o n of the arrow s i g n i f i e s the i n t e n t of the b a t t l e . R e p r e s e n t i n g s e l f - d e s t r u c t i o n , f o r example, i s f e l t t o be the u l t i m a t e statement of power and i s i n d i c a t e d by h a v i n g a l l the arrows i n a p i e c e p o i n t i n g i n w a r d . A c c o r d i n g t o one i n f o r m a n t , t h i s i s s a y i n g t h a t , "at ground ze r o e v e r y t h i n g i s d e s t r o y e d , o b l i t e r a t e d . . . . T h i s i s d e f i n i t e b a t t l e s t y l e . T h i s p i e c e i s so armed f o r w a r f a r e i t ' s r i d i c u l o u s . T h i s was a kamikaze run and the s o l e purpose of t h i s p i e c e was t o d e s t r o y a l l o t h e r p i e c e s next t o i t and i t s e l f " (Doc i n C h a l f a n t and P r i g o f f 1987: 38). In c o n t r a s t t o t h i s e l a b o r a t e means of e s t a b l i s h i n g i n d i v i d u a l s e l f - w o r t h through c o m p e t i t i o n s of s t y l e and c o o l are the a c c e s s i b l e , e a s i l y read p e r i p h e r a l messages which suggest a concern f o r communal v a l u e s . W r i t e r s produce a r u n n i n g commentary on t h e i r l i v e s and c o n c e r n s : " l o v e s t i n k s " , " I l o v e my Mom", "dump Koch", " p l a n e t r o c k , don't s t o p " , " s t o p r e a l c r i m e " , " s t o p the A t l a n t a k i l l i n g s " . Many h i p hop g r a f f i t i w r i t e r s appear t o see themselves as s e l f - a p p o i n t e d s o c i a l r e f o r m e r s and are s e n s i t i v e t o the immediate p e r i l s t h a t t h r e a t e n t h e i r g h e t t o p e e r s . The r e c e n t drug e x p l o s i o n i n American i n n e r c i t i e s , f o r example, has e l i c i t e d commentaries denouncing t h e i r use: A w o r l d so d i f f e r e n t , c a l l i t a wack f r u s t r a t i o n t o l i v e f o r a rock i n such a hard p l a c e . The w o r l d goes around, but c r a c k c u t s you down — Stop Crack Or: 145 For those of you t h a t meet me you never f o r g e t me. I became your ev e r y t h o u g h t , your w o r r i e s , your p a i n — but once you've met me your l i f e w i l l never be the same — I'm Monster Crack. W r i t e r s a l s o look beyond t h e i r immediate s o c i a l e n vironment, l e n d i n g t h e i r v o i c e s t o the w o r l d f i g h t f o r peace, p r o v i d i n g p r e a c h e r - l i k e m i n i sermons on the g h e t t o w a l l s : " s t o p the bomb", " s t o p the d r a f t " , "no s t a r wars", "peace:war", " E l S a l v a d o r Vietnam No. 2", " u n i t e d a r t i s t s a g a i n s t a p a r t e i d " , "we are the w o r l d " . Other murals are p a i n t e d as memorials t o c u l t u r e heroes such as M a r t i n L u t h e r K i n g and James Dean. Hip hoppers, l i k e M i c h a e l Stewart who d i e d from a b e a t i n g r e c e i v e d from NYC p o l i c e when caught " t a g g i n g " , are o f t e n p a i d t r i b u t e . K i n g P i n , when commenting on the s o c i a l c o n s c i o u s n e s s a s p e c t of h i p hop g r a f f i t i s u g g e s t s t h a t one s t r o n g m o t i v a t i o n i n the p r a c t i c e i s f o r young p e o p l e t o work t o g e t h e r " t o change t h i n g s i n l i f e / s o c i e t y t h r ough a r t " ( i n i b i d . : 8 6 ) . 7.5 "Rocking A l l C i t y " : An A e s t h e t i c and C u l t u r a l Concern I f , as has been suggested by a number of g r a f f i t i w r i t e r s ( W i l d s t y l e 1982), the p r i m a r y aim of w r i t i n g i s t o "rock the c i t y " (as indeed i t i s f o r a l l of h i p hop), t h a t i s , t o take out a l l c o m p e t i t o r s w i t h one's s t y l e , then i t s h o u l d be c l e a r t o p a r t i c i p a n t s how t o e v a l u a t e " r o c k i n g " . "To rock on a t r a i n , the p i e c e needs movement.... I t ' s l i k e the p i e c e i s t e a r i n ' i t s e l f a p a r t " (Shane 181 i n C h a l f a n t and P r i g o f f 1987: 9 ) . Indeed, 146 movement, e s p e c i a l l y r a p i d movement, appears to be a p r i n c i p l e a e s t h e t i c of h i p hop i n g e n e r a l . The e x e c u t i o n of g r a f f i t i , both m e c h a n i c a l l y and t o a v o i d p o l i c e a p p r e h e n s i o n , demands t h a t w r i t e r s work at a f u r i o u s pace. And not o n l y do the names, when on subway t r a i n s , q u i t e l i t e r a l l y f l y a c r o s s the c i t y , but i n a f o r m a l a s p e c t appear t o be b u r s t i n g w i t h a c t i o n . L e t t e r s c r a c k , m e l t , t w i s t , t u r n , b l e e d , e x p l o d e . They are p a i n t e d on a s l a n t or on wheels t o suggest movement. They f l o w i n t o arrows which are s h o o t i n g energy out i n a l l d i r e c t i o n s . B l o c k b u s t e r l e t t e r s tumble as i f they are w a l k i n g . F u t u r a 2000 e x p l a i n s h i s o u t e r space imagery as "a j o u r n e y t o where t h e r e i s l i g h t and movement" and Crash has developed a " t o r n a d o - e f f e c t " t o emphasize movement i n h i s l e t t e r s ( i n G r a f f i t i 1983: 30). Even on s t a t i o n a r y w a l l p i e c e s i t i s common t o r e t a i n the i l l u s i o n of movement by d e p i c t i n g subway c a r s s p e e d i n g towards the v i e w e r . C h a r a c t e r s a s s o c i a t e d w i t h the w r i t e r s i n the p i e c e s a l s o s y m b o l i z e r a p i d speed. Superman, a f r e q u e n t l y used c h a r a c t e r , f o r i n s t a n c e , i s of c o u r s e " f a s t e r than a s p e e d i n g b u l l e t " . There i s e v i d e n c e t o suggest t h a t t h i s a e s t h e t i c c o n c e r n w i t h speed r e f l e c t s a s o c i a l o r i e n t a t i o n h e l d by h i p hoppers. The concept of s e l f - m o t i v a t i o n i n making something out of one's l i f e i n the f a c e of c u l t u r a l apathy may be r e p r e s e n t e d h e r e . At another l e v e l the a c t i o n - o r i e n t a t i o n of s t r e e t l i f e may be echoed i n the a r t . Tracy 168 d i s c u s s e s w r i t e r s who d i e d : G r a f f i t i a r t i s t s l i v e f a s t and d i e young. I t ' s p a r t of the way you a r e . A g r a f f i t i a r t i s t i s d i f f e r e n t . I t ' s the way you l i v e . . . a l i t t l e b i t more than most. You're more open, 147 you're "here I am", you're l o u d e r , you want t o show people t h a t you're t h e r e , you l i v e a w i l d e r l i f e and p e o p l e t h a t a r e seen too much u s u a l l y d i e a l o t f a s t e r and a l o t of them d i e d f a s t ( i n i b i d . : 92). Or, as Fab F i v e Freddy s i m p l y p u t s i t , " i f i t ' s t r u e t h a t t h i s s t u f f r e f l e c t s l i f e , i t ' s a f a s t l i f e " ( i n George 1985: 111). The second c r i t e r i o n f o r " r o c k i n g " i s t o do something " w i l d s t y l e " . New York C i t y g r a f f i t i i s c h a r a c t e r i z e d , more than by any o t h e r s t y l e , by l e t t e r s which are t a n g l e d and c o n t o r t e d beyond r e c o g n i t i o n and produce a f e e l i n g of i n t e n s e energy. The a e s t h e t i c of w i l d s t y l e i s t o r e d e f i n e the concept ' l e t t e r ' , c r e a t i n g something new and e x c i t i n g ( C h a l f a n t and P r i g o f f 1987: 75). W i l d s t y l e , however, i s more than an a r t i s t i c canon, f o r , as Tracy 168 p u t s i t : W i l d s t y l e i s p e o p l e . I t a i n ' t even a r t . I t has a l o t t o do w i t h how you a c t and who you a r e . You g o t t a be good at what you're d o i n g . The b e s t w r i t e r s were from a crew " W i l d s t y l e " ( i n i b i d . : 31). As has been p o i n t e d out i n the case of r a p p i n g (and a l s o i s e x p r e s s e d i n r e s p e c t t o b r e a k d a n c i n g (Mr. F r e s h and the Supreme Rockers 1984: 41)), both r o c k i n g and w i l d s t y l e suggest a p h i l o s o p h y t h a t promotes e x c e l l i n g i n whatever you do — t o be the b e s t t h a t you can be (Hager 1984: 109-110). I f we acc e p t the premise t h a t a g r a f f i t i t a g r e p r e s e n t s the w r i t e r ' s ego, then through w i l d s t y l e more than j u s t l e t t e r s are cut up and recombined i n new ways, but f r e s h s e l f - i m a g e s are b e i n g c r e a t e d i n the s e a r c h f o r a sense of power. As b l a c k l i n g u i s t , Grace Sims H o l t , has p o i n t e d o u t , power i s the a b i l i t y t o r e d e f i n e (1972: 157). 148 We have only to look at the tags selected by hip hop g r a f f i t i writers to represent themselves to appreciate that, as writer Cay states, "the name i s the f a i t h of g r a f f i t i " (in Mailer 1974: np). Taken together Revolt, Zepher, Crash, Futura 2000, Quik, Blade, Blast, Phase 2, Skeme, Freedom, Vulcan, Ex-Vandal, Sane, Daze, Flash, Style Messiah, Wizzard and Dream create an undeniable synthesis of an identi t y based on optimism, energy, confidence and v i s i o n . As depicted here hip hoppers see themselves, as one rapper puts i t , as "a new kind of hero that's what we're going to be, the fresh e x t r a t e r r e s t r i a l brothers, i t ' s the l a t e s t , you know i t ' s the best" (in Style Wars 1982). 149 CHAPTER EIGHT BREAKDANCING: ROCKING WITH BODY LANGUAGE 8.1 B a t t l i n g i n the Inner C i t i e s The summer of 1975 found s c o r e s of young A f r o - A m e r i c a n k i d s d a n c i n g i n f r o n t t h e 77th S t r e e t f o u n t a i n i n C e n t r a l Park. The music they danced t o was l a r g e l y p r o v i d e d by James Brown. Brown appeared on numerous te e n T.V. shows ( e . g . " S o u l T r a i n " ) and h i s dance moves, many based on e a r l y A f r o - A m e r i c a n dances (e.g. the knocked-kneed camel walk and the b a c k s l i d e ) , became the ac c e p t e d s t a n d a r d . As e a r l y as 1969 b l a c k gang members i n the Bronx were d o i n g the Good Fo o t , t o Brown's "Get on the Good F o o t " , which i n v o l v e d q u i c k complex f o o t w o r k , drops and s p i n s . At t h i s time i n d i v i d u a l f r e e s t y l e dancers would compete on the s t r e e t s , but i t was not u n t i l the e a r l y 70's t h a t dance crews began t o form and t o d e v i s e s t r u c t u r e d dances, s p e c i f i c a l l y f o r c o m p e t i t i o n . (Holman 1984: 45). I t i s c l a i m e d by e a r l y p a r t i c i p a n t s i n the dance t h a t i t emerged as an a l t e r n a t i v e v e h i c l e f o r s t a t u s and image e v a l u a t i o n . As one br e a k e r e x p l a i n s : You see, b r e a k d a n c i n g was c r e a t e d by some r e a l tough gangs i n New York. That's the t r u t h . The bottom l i n e i s t h a t they got t i r e d of f i g h t i n g w i t h guns, k n i v e s and bombs; they stopped b r e a k i n g each o t h e r w i t h weapons and s t a r t e d b r e a k i n g w i t h music and i n c r e d i b l e dance s t e p s (Watkins and F r a n k l i n 1984 : 2). T h i s usage of the word 'break' s u g g e s t s one o r i g i n of the name, but t h e r e are a l s o o t h e r s r e p o r t e d . Some i n f o r m a n t s c l a i m t h a t i t comes from the p r a c t i c e of gangs b r e a k i n g from t h e i r f i g h t s t o s o c i a l i z e a t p a r t i e s , i n which d a n c i n g and dance c o n t e s t s were 150 the primary a c t i v i t i e s (Hazzard-Gordon 1983b). Hip Hop his t o r i a n Curtis Marlow suggests that i t i s derived from the vernacular term 'to break', which is a generalized expression for an outbreak of anger and that the dance i s associated with i t due to i t s intense and aggressive nature (1984: 14). What i s now known as breakdancing was o r i g i n a l l y three d i s t i n c t street dance forms that merged and were subsumed under "breakdancing" or "breaking". Two of these forms, breaking and uprocking, originated in the South Bronx. The third was a Cal i f o r n i a n form introduced by Californian dancers moving to New York and joining New York breaking crews. E l e c t r i c boogie, as i t is c a l l e d , although performed competitively, did not originate as an alternative to gang violence as the other two reportedly did. Original breaking, or downrocking as i t i s sometimes referred to, constitutes the gymnastic, acrobatic aspects of the dance executed low to the ground. Uprocking i s the kung fu mimed fi g h t i n g moves, and e l e c t r i c boogie forms the spasmatic, isolated , mime il l u s i o n - t y p e gestures. In general the moves developed demand extreme physical strength, control and a g i l i t y . Although both breaking and uprocking emerged as types of r i t u a l dance battles, the l a t t e r proved unsuccessful as an alternative to f i g h t i n g . It involved two opposing dancers dance-fighting one-on-one at close range, using extremely aggressive movements. The object was to humiliate your opponent through kinetic taunts. In most cases i t served to stimulate outbursts of violence, rather than deter them, and was eventually adapted, having i t s movements incorporated into solo breaking (Mr. Fresh and the Supreme Rockers 1984: 22). 151 B r e a k i n g , from the b e g i n n i n g , was a t e a m - s t r u c t u r e d dance i n which one or more members e n t e r e d i n t o the c e n t r e of a c i r c l e or s e m i - c i r c l e of dancers and s p e c t a t o r s t o p e r f o r m t h e i r b r i e f , but i n t e n s e , r o u t i n e b e f o r e making way f o r a dancer on the o p p o s i t e team. Never would both crews be p e r f o r m i n g s i m u l t a n e o u s l y and t h i s i s b e l i e v e d t o have c o n t r i b u t e d t o the containment of v i o l e n c e . As w i t h gang w a r f a r e , v e r b a l c o n f r o n t a t i o n forms a s i g n i f i c a n t preamble t o a c t u a l " b a t t l e s " . Dance crews egg on t h e i r opponents w i t h t a u n t s i n t e n d e d t o i n i t i a t e a p h y s i c a l c o n f r o n t a t i o n — "You boys are b i t e r s " , " I t h i n k I hear your mommy c a l l i n g you", "You're l o o k i n g at d e a t h , man, you're g o i n g t o have t o put a bag over t h a t f a c e t o hi d e the shame", ( i n Beat  S t r e e t 1984 and B r e a k i n ' 1984). T h i s heated exchange i s c o n t i n u e d i n dance form through a c a l l and response format. Dancers are i n t e r r u p t e d by opponents t h r o w i n g p h y s i c a l t a u n t s , p erformances are p u n c t u a t e d w i t h g e s t u r e d b o a s t s and moves are r e p e a t e d f o r emphasis. In b r e a k i n g t o " c u t " someone w i t h your moves i s a p h y s i c a l e x t e n s i o n of v e r b a l disparagement. A l t h o u g h a s p e c i f i c and h i g h l y r i t u a l i z e d format s t a n d a r d i z e s the dance, i n d i v i d u a l s t y l e and i n v e n t i v e i n n o v a t i o n s a re a c e n t r a l c r i t e r i o n f o r e v a l u a t i o n s . As w i t h the o t h e r forms of h i p hop, the dance p r o v i d e s a p l a y f u l , y e t c o m p e t i t i v e , means of n e g o t i a t i n g p e r s o n a l power, r i v a l r y and s t a t u s . Shaming a n o t h e r , making one's opponent look s t u p i d w h i l e e n h a ncing o n e s e l f , i s the o b j e c t i v e of " c u t t i n g " , " b u r n i n g " or " b u s t i n g " w i t h i n t h i s b a t t l e c h a l l e n g e (Hazzard-Gordon 1983b: 247-252). 152 Dancers are h i g h l y p r o t e c t i v e of t h e i r moves and have d e v i s e d a s t r a t e g y f o r c o m p e t i t i o n . As one dancer e x p l a i n s i t : I watch him [the opponent] dance and see how good he i s . I f he i s not so good, then I j u s t use my cheap moves. When I dance, I save my good moves. Then i f he comes back w i t h something good, I p u l l out my good moves (Mr. F r e s h and the Supreme Rockers 1984: 28). "Taking someone o u t " by u s i n g the same move as he does, but w i t h s u p e r i o r e x e c u t i o n , i s c o n s i d e r e d d e s i r a b l e s i n c e i t a l l o w s a dancer t o save h i s o r i g i n a l moves from p o t e n t i a l t h e f t or " b i t i n g " . S t r a t e g i e s are c a r e f u l l y planned to best enhance r e p u t a t i o n s . Going a g a i n s t an i n f e r i o r crew, f o r i n s t a n c e , w i l l a rouse c r i t i c i s m and d e r i s i v e j o k e s , y e t g o i n g a g a i n s t dancers who are too good i s t o r i s k d e f e a t . The performance of the dance i s a h i g h l y managed a f f a i r s i n c e so much of a dancer's ego i s i n v e s t e d i n i t and i n d e e d m a i n t a i n e d through i t . A l t h o u g h , i n i t i a l l y , b r e a k i n g r e p o r t e d l y f u n c t i o n e d as a s e r i o u s means of c o n t a i n i n g v i o l e n c e , i t was from the b e g i n n i n g , and c o n t i n u e s t o be, a form of e n t e r t a i n m e n t as w e l l . Indeed, i n g e n e r a l American b l a c k s e x h i b i t a c u l t u r a l p r e d i s p o s i t i o n towards v i e w i n g c o m p e t i t i v e a c t i v i t i e s as a s o u r c e of e n t e r t a i n m e n t , j u s t as p e r f o r m a n c e , t o be e n t e r t a i n i n g , s h o u l d be h i g h l y c o m p e t i t i v e i n n a t u r e (Kochman 1981: 144). 8 . 2 Breaking as C u l t u r a l C o n t i n u i t y To c o n s t r u c t a complete p i c t u r e of b r e a k d a n c i n g i t i s n e c e s s a r y t o see i t w i t h i n a c u l t u r a l h e r i t a g e of b l a c k dance which reaches beyond the immediate c o n t e x t w i t h i n which i t 153 a r o s e . A c u l t u r a l c o n t i n u i t y both of analagous f u n c t i o n s and s p e c i f i c dance f o r m a t i o n s s u g g e s t s a r e t e n t i o n of A f r i c a n dance a r t i c u l a t i o n s e x t e n d i n g throughout American b l a c k dance. As documented by Thompson (1986) and o t h e r s (Banes 1985; Marlow 1984), the f o u n d a t i o n upon which b r e a k d a n c i n g developed has d i r e c t r o o t s t o A f r i c a , however recombined and blended w i t h o t h e r i n f l u e n c e s these o r i g i n s may be. The p o s s i b l e t h r e a d s of t h i s l i n e a g e are many and the few p r o v i d e d here are s i m p l y examples. T r a d i t i o n a l l y i n West A f r i c a , p a r t i c u l a r l y i n M a l i , Gambia and S e n e g a l , c o m p e t i t i v e and w a r r i o r dances p r o v i d e d an arena f o r j u d g i n g the s t r e n g t h and endurance of p o t e n t i a l l e a d e r s , c o n t r i b u t i n g to male i d e n t i t y c o n s t r u c t i o n and moral e d u c a t i o n (Marlow 1984: 10), as w e l l as s e r v i n g as s t a t u s markers, c h a n n e l s f o r a g g r e s s i o n and v e h i c l e s f o r s e x u a l d i s p l a y (Hanna 1979: 180-181). Another type of t r a d i t i o n a l A f r i c a n dance t h a t s h a r e s i t s f u n c t i o n w i t h b r e a k d a n c i n g i s the dance of d e r i s i o n , which forms a b a s i s f o r s o c i a l c o n t r o l and a d i s p l a y of e t h i c s . Through mime, the p r i d e and p r e t e n t i o n s of o t h e r s are a t t a c k e d and b e h a v i o u r i s m o n i t o r e d and d i r e c t e d (Thompson 1966: 96). Dance as a p r i m a r y s o u r c e of e x p r e s s i o n moved w i t h A f r i c a n s t o the A m e r i c a s . Elements of s e l f - a s s e r t i o n and of r i d i c u l e and mockery of o t h e r s ( i n t h i s case d i r e c t e d towards w h i t e m a s t e r s ) , so e v i d e n t i n b r e a k d a n c i n g , were i n o p e r a t i o n d u r i n g s l a v e t i m e s . And s t r e e t dance i s by no means a r e c e n t phenomenon i n the Bronx and Harlem. The tap dancers of the 154 1900's t o the 1930's would g a t h e r on s t r e e t c o r n e r s and back a l l e y s t o c h a l l e n g e and s t i m u l a t e one a n o t h e r . One t a p p e r r e f e r r e d t o these s t r e e t performances as b e i n g " l i k e f i g h t i n g " (Hanna 1983: 49). Another s t a t e s t h a t he hated v i o l e n c e and t r i e d t o convey t h a t through h i s dance ( i b i d . : 56). And, as w i t h b r e a k d a n c i n g , a r e l a t i o n s h i p w i t h the mainstream c u l t u r e f a c t o r e d i n e a r l y A f r o - A m e r i c a n dance. Tappers and C h a r l e s t o n d ancers performed on the s t r e e t s , not o n l y f o r t h e i r own p l e a s u r e and e x p r e s s i o n , but i n hopes of e a r n i n g money and r e c o g n i t i o n by t h o s e i n a p o s i t i o n to g i v e both ( S t e a r n s and S t e a r n s 1964). These e a r l y s t r e e t dancers longed t o be d i s c o v e r e d and promoted t o s t a g e p e r f o r m e r s j u s t as t o d a y ' s b r e a k d a n c e r s see t h e i r s t r e e t performances as an o p p o r t u n i t y f o r fame and f o r t u n e . Not o n l y s i m i l a r i t i e s i n f u n c t i o n but s i m i l a r i t i e s i n a c t u a l dance v o c a b u l a r y have moved down the body l i n e i n t e r g e n e r a t i o n a l l y through b l a c k c u l t u r e . The body waves, f o r example, of the t r a n c e d h e a l e r s and the f a s t moving s p o r t s - l i k e dance b a t t l e s of East A f r i c a ' s Kongo, p r e c i s e l y p a r a l l e l b r e a k i n g moves. The nsunsa i s comparable to b r e a k d a n c i n g ' s u p r o c k i n g , s h a r i n g an o r i e n t a t i o n towards mimed dance combat based on l u n g i n g , k n i f e - s l a s h i n g movements and m a r t i a l p o s i n g . West A f r i c a n dances, such as the I b e d i - B e d i , c o n s i s t of a s e r i e s of hand s p i n s and f r e e z e p o s i t i o n s s i m i l a r t o those i n b r e a k i n g (Marlow 1984: 10). Shadowboxing movements appear i n A f r o - B r a z i l i a n C a p o r i e r a and the p r e l i m i n a r y s t e p s r e f e r r e d to as 155 Figure 7. Nigerians doing headslides (Holman, 1984, p. 48) 156 "the e n t r y " i n b r e a k i n g are i d e n t i c a l to an A f r o - H a i t i a n move c a l l e d "the break". From the r a p i d , f a n c y footwork of A f r o - A m e r i c a n s l a v e dances l i k e the V i r g i n i a Essence, i n which p o s s i b l y the f i r s t moonwalk was e x e c u t e d , t o e a r l y v a u d e v i l l e performances l i k e the c o m p e t i t i v e V i r g i n i a Breakdance, the w i l d d e r r i e r e s p i n s of the B l a c k Bottom, the s o l o male Juba c i r c l e dance, t o more r e c e n t p o p u l a r b l a c k dance forms, such as the a c r o b a t i c f l a s h d a n c i n g of the 1920's and the L i n d y Hop, f o r m a l a s p e c t s have been p e r p e t u a t e d . The d e v e l o p i n g l i n e a g e i s by no means a s t r a i g h t -f o r w a r d or pure one, however. Many a s p e c t s r e q u i r e d to e s t a b l i s h d i r e c t correspondence a r e l a c k i n g and the c o m p l e x i t i e s of i n f l u e n c e s are not always c l e a r l y p e r c e i v e d . For example, the moves of e a r l y v a u d e v i l l i a n s were not l i m i t e d to A f r i c a n i n s p i r a t i o n s but i n c o r p o r a t e d o t h e r e t h n i c moves, such as R u s s i a n elbow s p i n s and I r i s h j i g s (Holman 1984: 49). N o n e t h e l e s s , i n the case of b r e a k d a n c i n g , t h e r e i s e v i d e n c e t o suggest a d i r e c t c o n n e c t i o n between the A f r i c a n and the A f r o - A m e r i c a n dance f o r m a t i o n s as a r e s u l t of the r e c e n t r e v i v e d i n t e r e s t i n t h e i r A f r i c a n r o o t s by A f r o - A m e r i c a n c h o r e o g r a p h e r s . S e v e r a l New York-based dance t r o u p e s , such as the Chuck Davis Dance Co., t r a v e l l e d t o A f r i c a i n the l a t e 1970's, r e t u r n i n g t o p e r f o r m the r e d i s c o v e r e d dances i n community c e n t r e s and s c h o o l s t h r o u g h o u t the i n n e r c i t i e s ; no doubt b e i n g seen by a s p i r i n g s t r e e t dancers (Marlow 1984: 10). One reason f o r e x p l o r i n g c u l t u r a l c o n t i n u i t y i n the case of b r e a k i n g i s t h a t i t r e i n f o r c e s , through h i s t o r i c a l 157 Figure 8. Flashdancing i n the 1920's. (Holman, 1984, p. 51) 158 p r e c e d e n c e , t h e c l a i m s c o n c e r n i n g t h e use o f b r e a k i n g as a p r o b l e m - s o l v i n g m e c h a n i s m , s p e c i f i c a l l y as a means o f c o n t a i n i n g a g g r e s s i o n and e v a l u a t i n g m a s c u l i n i t y . A c c o r d i n g t o b l a c k c u l t u r a l i s t Thomas Kochman (1981: 144) c o m p e t i t i v e n e s s i s a w e l l - e s t a b l i s h e d and c e n t r a l a s p e c t o f b l a c k a e s t h e t i c s . I n a d d i t i o n t o t h e h i s t o r i c a l e v i d e n c e t o s u p p o r t t h i s c l a i m , t h e r e i s l i n g u i s t i c e v i d e n c e , e s p e c i a l l y i n r e l a t i o n t o d a n c e . The v e r n a c u l a r t e r m ' t o t h r o w down' i s u s e d t o s i g n i f y a c o n t e s t o r f i g h t , as w e l l as s u p e r i o r d a n c i n g a b i l i t y o r t o compete t h r o u g h d a n c e ( F o l b 1980: 104). 'To go' a l s o i s u s e d b o t h f o r ' t o f i g h t ' t a n d ^ ' t o d a n c e ' . S i m i l a r l y , t h e h i p hop t e r m ' r o c k i n g ' i n d i c a t e s b o t h c o m p e t i n g s t y l i s h l y and s t i m u l a t i o n t h r o u g h e n e r g e t i c d a n c e . T h e r e i s a f i n a l a s p e c t i n w h i c h b r e a k d a n c i n g c o n s t i t u t e s a f o r m o f c u l t u r a l c o n t i n u i t y , one e s p e c i a l l y s i g n i f i c a n t when v i e w i n g i t as a s u c c e s s f u l s e l f - i m a g i n g m e c h a n i s m . A c c o r d i n g t o s o c i o l o g i s t and b l a c k d a n c e h i s t o r i a n , H a z z a r d - G o r d o n , t h e r e e x i s t s a g e n e r a l c u l t u r a l p r e d i s p o s i t i o n i n A f r o - A m e r i c a n c u l t u r e t o v i e w d a n c e as a c o r e b l a c k e x p e r i e n c e . Not o n l y i s c u l t u r a l i n t e g r i t y , o n e's i n - g r o u p s t a t u s o r s i m p l y p u t o n e ' s ' b l a c k n e s s ' r e i n f o r c e d t h r o u g h d a n c e , b u t t h e v e r y f a c t o f b e i n g known as "a d a n c e r " i n b l a c k c u l t u r e c a r r i e s w i t h i t a p o s i t i v e s e n s e o f i d e n t i t y . B e i n g a d a n c e r i s e q u i v a l e n t t o b e i n g somebody — and t o be good a t d a n c i n g i s t o be a man w i t h s t r o n g s e l f - e s t e e m and p e e r - r e c o g n i t i o n (1983a: 21-25). T h e r e i s no q u e s t i o n t h a t b r e a k d a n c i n g , a t one l e v e l , i s a n a t u r a l c o n t i n u a t i o n o f t h i s c u l t u r a l c o n d i t i o n , however " f r e s h " i t s e x p r e s s i o n may be. 159 8.3 A d d i t i o n a l Sources f o r the Dance Beyond r e f l e c t i n g t h e i r b l a c k dance h e r i t a g e , b r e a k d a n c e r s a l s o draw on a r i c h v a r i e t y of s o u r c e s f o r i n s p i r a t i o n i n f o r m u l a t i n g t h e i r dance. A c t i v i t i e s which enjoy h i g h s t a t u s i n the community have become i n c o r p o r a t e d and r e a f f i r m e d i n the new system of r e p r e s e n t a t i o n . The h i g h p r o f i l e g i v e n c o m p e t i t i v e s p o r t s s u p p o r t s the a t h l e t i c t h r u s t d e v e l o p e d i n the dance. Boxing moves, a c r o b a t i c s and m a r t i a l a r t s became r i c h s o u r c e s , c o n t r i b u t i n g an e n e r g e t i c and a g g r e s s i v e movement v o c a b u l a r y and a l l o w i n g f o r the r e t e n t i o n of f i g h t i n g prowess and p h y s i c a l s t r e n g t h as measures of male a p t i t u d e . P e r s o n a l c u l t u r a l e x p e r i e n c e s a l s o have r e p o r t e d l y been i n c o r p o r a t e d . The t h r e e d ancers c r e d i t e d w i t h i n v e n t i n g the e l e c t r i c boogaloo r e c a l l b e i n g impressed by the e c s t a t i c f i t s of B a p t i s t Church members. T h i s , combined w i t h an attempt t o i m i t a t e the e f f e c t s of a s t r o b e l i g h t , the p a s s i n g of e l e c t r i c i t y t h rough the body and the j e r k y , p o o r l y s y n c h r o n i z e d movements of c a r t o o n v i d e o f i g u r e s , as w e l l as a response t o the r e l e n t l e s s b e a t s emerging from the drum machines used i n b l a c k music, and f i n a l l y M i c h a e l J a c k s o n ' s e l e c t r i f i e d v e r s i o n of the robot performed on "Dance Machine", r e s u l t e d i n the v i o l e n t body wave motions. I t has a l s o been suggested t h a t these moves were i n t r o d u c e d by gang members who were not i n v o l v e d i n b r e a k i n g . By mocking the dancers through f a c i a l and body c o n t o r t i o n s they s i m p l y gave them another s o u r c e of g e s t u r e s t o l a t c h onto (Watkins and F r a n k l i n 1984: 2 ) . In a c t u a l i t y i t does not seem l i k e l y t h a t a l l of t h e s e s o u r c e s were combined d i r e c t l y or 160 c o n s c i o u s l y t o c r e a t e the dance form. More l i k e l y a number of r e l a t e d and u n r e l a t e d e x p e r i e n c e s r e i n f o r c e d the moves by p r o m o t i n g one another toward an o v e r a l l g e s t a l t . N o n e t h e l e s s , t h i s a r t i s t i c c o l l a g i n g i s a common and r e p e a t e d p r a c t i c e found t h r o u g h o u t h i p hop, and i s i n d i c a t i v e of the a e s t h e t i c of f r e s h and i t s o r i e n t a t i o n towards making something new by combining a v a i l a b l e m a t e r i a l s i n s u r p r i s i n g and e x c i t i n g ways. T e l e v i s i o n and f i l m s appear t o have p r o v i d e d r o l e models f o r the c u l t or comic book hero image the dancers c r e a t e f o r t h e m s e l v e s . Steve M a r t i n d o i n g a K i n g Tut r o u t i n e on " S a t u r d a y N i g h t L i v e " i s a t t r i b u t e d w i t h i n s p i r i n g the t u t move. The smurf walk was taken d i r e c t l y from the c a r t o o n c h a r a c t e r s . The robot dance i n c o r p o r a t e d i n t o b r e a k i n g was developed from the r o b o t c h a r a c t e r on the program " L o s t i n Space" (Holman 1984: 130). S h i e l d s and Y a r n e l l , a well-known s t r e e t and t e l e v i s i o n mime c o u p l e , p r o v i d e d a model f o r humorous mime. Others p o i n t t o o l d F r e d A s t a i r e , Donald O'Connor and Gene K e l l y movies as i n s p i r a t i o n s , e s p e c i a l l y f o r combining dance and comedy. Al t h o u g h the most o b v i o u s i n f l u e n c e of p o p u l a r c u l t u r e on b r e a k d a n c i n g i s i n the c r e a t i o n of dance moves, i t must be s t r e s s e d t h a t i t s impact goes f a r beyond these s u p e r f i c i a l a d o p t i o n s . For example, m a r t i a l a r t s f i l m s , as w e l l as i n s p i r i n g a c t u a l moves such as the w i n d m i l l and the b a c k s p i n , a l s o p r o v i d e a comic s t r i p - l i k e image of the superhero engaged i n choreographed f i g h t - d a n c i n g which a p p e a l s to h i p hop s e n s i b i l i t i e s (Toop 1984: 129; Holman 1984: 27). But they do more than t h i s , as the p o p u l a r 1979 Chuck N o r r i s f i l m , A F o r c e 161 of One i l l u s t r a t e s . Not o n l y are macho men e x e c u t i n g e x q u i s i t e l y b a l l e t i c k i c k b o x i n g ( a l l the more p o w e r f u l i n the s p a r r i n g s c e n e s ) , but the movie makes a d i r e c t a ppeal t o i n n e r c i t y y o u t h . i n i t the Chuck N o r r i s c h a r a c t e r ' s adopted son i s a s t r e e t w i s e b l a c k k i d who has a l l the p h y s i c a l a b i l i t i e s to be a g r e a t f i g h t e r , but the wrong a t t i t u d e . The r i g h t a t t i t u d e , a c c o r d i n g t o the f i l m , i s t o abandon revenge and v i o l e n c e f o r i t s own sake and seek i n n e r c o n t r o l . With i t one can overcome any o b s t a c l e . As w e l l , the movie su g g e s t s t h a t v i o l e n c e i s c o n t a i n a b l e w i t h i n a c o m p e t i t i v e y e t honourable o r g a n i z a t i o n . And, t o f u r t h e r a s s o c i a t e i t s message w i t h h i p hop members, the f i l m uses g r a f f i t i e d w a l l s as backdrops f o r s t r e e t performance sc e n e s . While b r e a k i n g , as the l a t e s t i n a l o n g l i n e of b l a c k v e r n a c u l a r dances, i s r o o t e d i n the p a s t , the c h o i c e s made i n i t s c o n s t r u c t i o n a l s o i n d i c a t e t h a t i t i s a p r o d u c t of the immediate p r e s e n t , w h i l e o r i e n t a t i n g i t s e l f towards the f u t u r e . T h i s e x p a n s i v e n e s s p a r a l l e l s the f l e x i b i l i t y e x h i b i t e d i n the e x e c u t i o n of the dance moves, as w e l l as s u g g e s t i n g a mental and c u l t u r a l f l e x i b i l i t y t h a t f a c i l i t a t e s the s h i f t i n one's image-management machinery t h a t h i p hop r e p r e s e n t s . 8 . 4 An A n a l y s i s of Form: E x p r e s s i o n s of Male I d e n t i t y When a t t e m p t i n g t o i n t e r p r e t an e x p r e s s i v e form such as dance the v a r i o u s l e v e l s a t which the phenomenon i s o p e r a t i n g w i t h i n the c u l t u r e s h o u l d be d i s t i n g u i s h e d from one a n o t h e r . However, at l e a s t i n the case of b r e a k d a n c i n g , i t seems t h a t the 162 e x p e r i e n t i a l l e v e l (both i n d i v i d u a l and c o l l e c t i v e e x p e r i e n c e ) i l l u s t r a t e s a h i g h degree of c o n s i s t e n c y w i t h the e x p r e s s i v e l e v e l . Thus what i s s a i d about the na t u r e and s i g n i f i c a n c e of the dance p a r a l l e l s the messages encoded w i t h i n the dance moves th e m s e l v e s . I n f o r m a n t s , when s p e a k i n g about the e x p e r i e n c e of b r e a k d a n c i n g , r e f e r t o a h e i g h t e n e d e u p h o r i c , yet f r e n z i e d s t a t e , a sense of u n l i m i t e d c o n f i d e n c e and i n v i n c i b i l i t y . The i n v e s t i g a t o r has w i t n e s s e d a dance crew u s i n g t h e i r dance as a means of i n c r e a s i n g s e l f - e s t e e m . On o c c a s i o n s when the group has been r e q u i r e d t o do something which demands a sense of s e l f - w o r t h (such as s e e i n g b o o k i n g a g e n t s , r e c o r d i n g p r o d u c e r s , c a l l i n g a g i r l ) t h ey w i l l dance as a p r e p a r a t i o n f o r the e n c o u n t e r , e x p l i c i t l y t o psych themselves up f o r i t . Comments such as " b r e a k i n g out on the dance f l o o r i s g e t t i n g r e a l " , "you do i t t i l you f e e l good", " g l i d e s make me f e e l suave and s o p h i s t i c a t e d " , "when you b r i n g your r i b cage i n you f e e l l i k e the H u l k " , " s l i d i n g on the f l o o r you look and f e e l l i k e you're w a l k i n g on a i r " , " i t ' s a f r e a k show on the dance f l o o r " , a l l t e s t i f y t o a t r a n s f o r m a t i o n o c c u r r i n g w i t h i n the i n d i v i d u a l d a n c e r s . The c h a r a c t e r of t h i s t r a n s f o r m a t i o n , one i n which the dancer's sense of s e l f - w o r t h and p e r s o n a l power i s enhanced, i s c o n s i s t e n t w i t h the images conveyed w i t h i n the dance forms and i t can be argued t h a t the a c t of engaging i n the dance s t e p s e f f e c t s the e m o t i o n a l change (Fernandez 1986). T h i s empowering i s c o n c r e t i z e d through m i m e t i c movements drawing on t r a d i t i o n a l g h e t t o r e p r e s e n t a t i o n s of s t r o n g men — pimps, g a n g s t e r s , muscle 163 men and tough guys. The d e s i r e t o t r a n s c e n d the mundane and soar t o g r e a t h e i g h t s f r e e d from e a r t h l y bounds (much l i k e the space, imagery on g r a f f i t i ) i s a l l u d e d to i n moves dubbed "moonwalking", "hang g l i d i n g " and the " h e l i c o p t e r " . The s e r i e s of e l e c t r i c b o o g i e moves i s based on imagery of e n e r g i z i n g the s e l f and the e n t i r e dance v o c a b u l a r y , w i t h i t s emphasis on e x e c u t i n g moves which appear undoable, and communicates a g e n e r a l d e s i r e t o t e s t the l i m i t s of human a b i l i t y and c r e a t e a persona t h a t i s omnipotent and can defy n a t u r a l laws. A p p e a r i n g t h r o u g h o u t the dance v o c a b u l a r y i s a metaphor of the machine. Dancers become r o b o t s and h e l i c o p t o r s and s i m u l a t e the pops and shocks of v i d e o games or the e f f e c t s of s t r o b e l i g h t . i s o l a t i o n movements are sharp and e x p l i c i t l y e x e c u t e d so t h a t "the more you look l i k e a machine, the b e t t e r " ( i n " L e t ' s Break" 1984). The o v e r a l l appearance suggests a w i l d , out of c o n t r o l e l e c t r i f i c a t i o n , y e t at the same t i m e , an i n c r e d i b l e body c o n t r o l and p r e c i s i o n . Seeming at once r i g i d l y t i g h t and c o n t a i n e d , y e t l o o s e , f l e x i b l e and j o i n t l e s s i s a k i n e t i c a r t i c u l a t i o n of the c o n t r o l l e d l o o s e n e s s embodied i n the concept ' c o o l ' . As Thompson has p o i n t e d out (1966: 85-97), b a l a n c e i s the p r i n c i p l e a e s t h e t i c component of c o o l and i s g i v e n f u r t h e r k i n e t i c e x p r e s s i o n i n b r e a k i n g through the d e f i a n c e of g r a v i t y , the t e e t e r i n g on the edge of e q u i l i b r i u m t h a t i s e v i d e n t i n the h e a d s p i n s , h a n d s p i n s , elbow and k n e e s p i n s . In a d d i t i o n t o c o o l , another aspect of t y p i c a l male g h e t t o i d e n t i t y which i s m a n i f e s t e d i n the dance form i s s e x u a l v i r i l i t y . Dancers b l a t a n t l y hump the dance f l o o r , f a n t h e i r 164 Figure 9. Manny demonstrates a handspin-. begin with a handstand, twisting legs to one side; then spin, balancing on one hand. Figure 10. Laurie does an airplane—which makes him look like a pinwheel spinning out of control. Both arms are extended to the sides and he spins on knee. He keeps the left leg in the air and the left foot off the floor as he does his airplane spin. (Nadell and Small, 1984, p. 55? p. 53) 165 p e l v i c areas ( s u g g e s t i n g t h a t i t i s too hot to handle) and mime s e x u a l b e h a v i o u r i n a f l a u n t i n g f a s h i o n . Even f e m i n i n e r o l e - p l a y i n g g e s t u r e s , w i t h eye b a t t i n g and h i p s w i n g i n g , and t y p i c a l homosexual g e s t u r e s , e n t e r the v o c a b u l a r y , presumably as b o a s t s of u l t r a - m a s c u l i n i t y . These young men are s a y i n g t h a t they are so c o n f i d e n t i n t h e i r m a s c u l i n i t y t h a t they can even do t h i s and s t i l l be p o t e n t men. I t s h o u l d be mentioned, however, t h a t t h e s e moves ( a l o n g w i t h o t h e r s such as miming a baby s u c k i n g i t s thumb) a l s o p r o v i d e comic r e l i e f and e l i c i t much l a u g h t e r from o n l o o k e r s , i f not from opponents, t o whom they are d i r e c t e d . A number of movements i n b r e a k d a n c i n g have come d i r e c t l y i n t o the dance from the commonplace b l a c k s t r e e t c u l t u r e body language. The use of b l a c k handslap s a l u t a t i o n s , f o r example, emerge i n the dance t o i n t e n s i f y e n e r g i e s , acknowledge comradery and l e n d s u p p o r t and a p p r o v a l t o crew members. Another form of g r e e t i n g , t h a t of c u p p i n g the hands over the g e n i t a l s , has become a dominant b r e a k i n g s t a n c e , as has the hands on the h i p , s i g n i f y i n g a g g r e s s i o n and deep involvement (Johnson 1975: 304-305). These g e s t u r e s appear i n the dance as p a r t of f o r m a t t e d poses or " f r e e z e s " w h i c h , i n g e n e r a l , have been d e v i s e d t o communicate d e f i a n c e and mockery towards opponents ( M o l l o v 1984: 15). i n a d d i t i o n to s t o p p i n g w i t h s t y l e , as indeed f r e e z i n g i s , the predominant movement a r t i c u l a t i o n i n b r e a k i n g i s w a l k i n g w i t h s t y l e and a g a i n i n d i c a t e s a t r a n s f e r of s t r e e t " s t y l i n 1 o u t " i n t o the dance ar e n a . A c c o r d i n g t o Johnson, r h y t h m i c s t y l e s of 166 walking, akin to dance, declare that the street man is strong, b e a u t i f u l , cool, yet dis d a i n f u l and insolent (1975: 301). One par t i c u l a r mode of walking, a quick pivot presenting one's back to others at close range while r a i s i n g the head and b r i s k l y s t r u t t i n g o f f , signals both derision and superiority and is in common use within breaking. Finding as many ways as possible of propelling the se l f through space seems to be the aesthetic c r i t e r i o n on which breaking has developed. "Moonwalking", "the spider walk", "the crab", "the worm", "the smurf walk", "the tut walk", "the ET walk" are testimony to the search for elaborate and new alternatives in locomotion (and are reminiscent of the e a r l i e r Afro-American walk dances such as the camel walk and the cake walk). Knees, hands and even heads are walked on. Spins are discussed in terms of walking ("walk around the floor in a c i r c l e on your hands"); s l i d e s and glides, slow motion and high speed walking, running on the spot, miming walking against the wind or in a weightless vacuum a l l feature in routines. It i s tempting to infer from the predominance of imaginative and seemingly endless variations of locomotion within i t , that the dance, at least at one l e v e l , represents a metonym for survival on the streets, where one's a b i l i t y to maneuver cre a t i v e l y may l i t e r a l l y save one's l i f e . And the notion that an a c t i v i t y can be carried on in new ways i s , of course, consistent with the concern of hip hoppers to find alternative ways of exis t i n g in the ghetto. Further, the speed, f l e x i b i l i t y and a g i l i t y with which dancers switch characters — one second walking l i k e a robot, the next l i k e a centipede, the next l i k e a 167 Figure 11. Spiderwalk on finger taps. 168 pimp -- s u g g e s t s a c u l t u r a l p r e d i s p o s i t i o n t o w a r d s a d a p t a b i l i t y and r o l e p l a y i n g . And, o n c e a g a i n , we a r e r e m i n d e d o f H o l t ' s p o i n t t h a t power i s t h e a b i l i t y t o r e d e f i n e . The r o l e o f body movement i n e f f e c t i n g a c t u a l c h a n g e s w i t h i n t h e p a r t i c i p a n t i s , o f c o u r s e , a c o m p l e x o ne, y e t i s an e s p e c i a l l y i m p o r t a n t one when e x a m i n i n g b l a c k c u l t u r e -- f o r i n b l a c k e x p r e s s i v e n e s s c o g n i t i o n and movement a r e c l o s e l y a l i g n e d ( H a l e - B e n s o n 1986: 7 5 ) ; o r as P a s t e u r and T o l d s o n (1982) p u t i t " t h e way you move c a n c h a n g e t h e way you t h i n k and f e e l " ( 2 4 1 ) . T h e r e i s e v e n e v i d e n c e a t t h e l i n g u i s t i c l e v e l t o s u p p o r t an a s s o c i a t i o n b e t w e e n k n o w l e d g e and movement. To be " h i p " , f o r e x a m p l e , i s t o have u n d e r s t a n d i n g o f a s i t u a t i o n , b u t t o be h i p i n t h e f u l l e s t b l a c k s e n s e o f t h e t e r m you must l i t e r a l l y u s e y o u r h i p s (Kochman 1 9 7 2 a : 1 6 9 ) . T h i s i s no s m a l l p o i n t i f we a r e t o s u r m i s e t h a t d u r i n g t h e p e r f o r m a n c e o f b r e a k d a n c i n g t h e d a n c e r e x p e r i e n c e s a t r a n s f o r m a t i o n o f t h e s e l f and c r e a t e s , a t l e a s t m o m e n t a r i l y , a new r e a l i t y , one t h a t c o n t r a s t s t h e r e a l i t y o f t h e e v e r y d a y w o r l d . F i n a l l y , t h e h i g h s p e e d w i t h w h i c h most b r e a k i n g moves a r e e x e c u t e d and e v a l u a t e d by ( " I f y o u ' r e s l o w you b l o w b u t i f y o u ' r e f a s t y ou p a s s . " ) i s c o n s i s t e n t b o t h w i t h t h e g e n e r a l a e s t h e t i c o f h i p hop and w i t h t h e c u l t u r a l o r i e n t a t i o n o f g h e t t o s t r e e t l i f e w i t h i t s i n t e n s e s p u r t s o f h i g h - p o w e r e d a c t i o n . B o t h Kochman (1 9 7 2 b : 263) and F o l b ( 1 9 8 0 : 128) a g r e e t h a t g h e t t o s u r v i v a l comes down t o movement and t h e c r e a t i o n o f a c t i o n i n a s t a t i c and r e s t r i c t i v e e n v i r o n m e n t . S t r e e t a c t i v i t y i s d o m i n a t e d by a k i n e t i c e l e m e n t . R e p u t a t i o n s a r e b u i l t i n t e r m s o f s u c c e s s 169 his hips, lifts his hands off the ground, pushing off again with hands. Figure 12. (Nadell and Small, 1984, pp. 48-49) 170 i n a c t i o n a c t i v i t i e s . Even the power p l a y i n g and m a n i p u l a t i v e b e h a v i o r i s , by i t s v e r y n a t u r e , k i n e t i c and demands q u i c k r e f l e x e s . O p p o r t u n i t i e s t o c r e a t e a c t i o n p r o v i d e an arena f o r s t a t u s n e g o t i a t i o n and t e s t i n g s e l f - a w a r e n e s s . C o n v e r s e l y , t o move s l o w l y or s t o p moving i s t o be v u l n e r a b l e (Abrahams 1976: 88). In t h i s l i g h t , b l a c k performance i n g e n e r a l , and b r e a k i n g i n p a r t i c u l a r , i s indeed a statement of p e r s o n a l and s o c i a l a c t i o n . As has been i m p l i e d i n t h i s d i s c u s s i o n of h i p hop, the c r e a t i o n of a s t r o n g s e l f - i m a g e based on power r e q u i r e s not o n l y s e l f - i n f l a t i o n , but the d e f l a t i o n of o t h e r s . The c u l t u r a l c o n t e x t i n which b r e a k d a n c i n g g e n e r a l l y o c c u r s promotes a system based on c o m p e t i t i o n through which a male can be e v a l u a t e d . As w e l l , w i t h i n the dance r o u t i n e s t h e m s e l v e s , r i t u a l i n s u l t s and shaming are g i v e n k i n e t i c e x p r e s s i o n . The presence of these a g g r e s s i v e g e s t u r e s h e l p s s u b s t a n t i a t e the c l a i m s t h a t b r e a k i n g may f u n c t i o n as a mechanism f o r v i o l e n c e containment. M i m e t i c moves are p a r t i c u l a r l y s u c c e s s f u l i n f u l f i l l i n g t h i s r o l e . Two team members w i l l mime w a l k i n g a dog, the one p l a y i n g the dog w i l l l i f t h i s l e g and u r i n a t e towards the op p o s i n g crew, who respond w i t h lewd f i n g e r and arm g e s t u r e s or by h o l d i n g t h e i r noses t o suggest t h a t the dancer s t i n k s . Common v e r b a l t a u n t s such as "eat my d i c k " , "suck on i t " , " s h i t on you", " k i s s my a s s " and " j e r k o f f " are a l l g r a p h i c a l l y a c t u a l i z e d i n dance g e s t u r e s . For example, a dancer w i l l mime pumping h i s p e n i s and s p r a y i n g h i s opponent. I n s t e a d of b l o w i n g a k i s s i t i s thrown o f f the hand onto the f l o o r and stomped on. The Zulu 171 N a t i o n l o v e and peace s i g n , or the more t r a d i t i o n a l 'V s i g n are a g g r e s s i v e l y f l a s h e d i n opponents' f a c e s accompanied w i t h i r o n i c l e e r s i n a t t e m p t s t o unnerve them. Not a l l s i g n a l s of a g g r e s s i o n and combat are as o v e r t as t h e s e , however. Symbolic codes a r e a l s o e v i d e n t . A s i g n i f i c a n t degree of p o i n t i n g , f o r i n s t a n c e , accompani-es a g g r e s s i v e moves and r e p r e s e n t s , according, t o one of t h e i n v e s t i g a t o r ' s NYC i n f o r m a n t s , the dance e q u i v a l e n t to the arrows s h o o t i n g out of armed g r a f f i t i names. And, as w i t h g r a f f i t i , a kamakaze approach i s s y m b o l i z e d i n the " s u i c i d e " dance move. Thus f a r t h i s a n a l y s i s of b r e a k i n g has been f o c u s s i n g on the i n d i v i d u a l d a n c e r , however i t i s e v i d e n t t h a t much of what he i s i m p a r t i n g through the dance are c o l l e c t i v e concerns and b e l i e f s shared by the group. A l t h o u g h few s o c i a l messages a r e v i s i b l e i n the dance movements themselves ( o n l y the o c c a s i o n a l r e f e r e n c e s t o the h azards of smoking are mimed, f o r example), both the e x p e r i e n c e and e x p r e s s i o n of s e l f - c o n f i d e n c e and s e l f - w o r t h ("I am somebody") appears to be t r a n s f e r r e d , a t l e a s t m o m e n t a r i l y , to those i n the community who w i t n e s s the dance ("we are somebody"). O b s e r v i n g the i n f e c t i o u s e l a t i o n and o v e r f l o w of power from p e r f o r m e r s to a u d i e n c e , as w e l l as the p a r t i c i p a t i o n of o n l o o k e r s through c l a p p i n g , waving, c h e e r i n g and u l t i m a t e l y d e t e r m i n i n g the w i n n e r s , one cannot h e l p but be reminded of o t h e r , more v e r b a l l y o r i e n t e d , forms of c o n s c i o u s n e s s - r a i s i n g i n b l a c k e x p r e s s i v e t r a d i t i o n . 172 The g e n e r a l ethos of the dance denotes an approach t o the,problems of growing up male i n the g h e t t o t h a t i s i n d i c a t i v e o f h i p hop. Breakdancers on a dance f l o o r do the i m p o s s i b l e --t h e i r moves d e f y g r a v i t y , c r e a t e i l l u s i o n s ; dance l o c o m o t i o n and k i n e t i c s are r e d e f i n e d . And the dance r e f l e c t s the c u l t u r a l agenda. I t r e f l e c t s a c u l t u r a l c oncern w i t h m a i n t a i n i n g e q u i l i b r i u m i n the f a c e of p o v e r t y , v i o l e n c e and r a c i s m , of r e d e f i n i n g r e a l i t y and t r a n s f o r m i n g t h e i r e x p e r i e n c e s of the w o r l d . As one rap song so a p t l y warns, a warning echoed i n the dance v o c a b u l a r y : "don't push me cause I'm c l o s e t o the edge, I'm t r y i n g not t o l o s e my head". The concerns encoded i n the dance — a g g r e s s i o n , r i s k - t a k i n g , m a n i p u l a t i o n , b a l a n c e and c o n t r o l , p r o j e c t i o n of an image of power, s t r e n g t h and speed — a r e not new, they c o n s t i t u t e the p r i m a r y s u r v i v a l t a c t i c s used i n g h e t t o l i v i n g (Hannerz 1969). However, the means by which h i p hoppers have chosen, not merely t o n e g o t i a t e t h e i r c u l t u r a l agenda, but a l s o t o combat apathy and s e l f - d o u b t , are a r t i s t i c ones c o n v e y i n g a c o n s t r u c t i v e p e r s o n a l i d e n t i t y and s o c i a l c l i m a t e of l i m i t l e s s p o t e n t i a l and p o s s i b i l i t y f o r the f u t u r e . L i k e the e l e c t r i c b o ogie dancers who s e e m i n g l y draw an energy sou r c e out of t h i n a i r w i t h which t o e n e r g i z e t h e i r b o d i e s , h i p hoppers p u l l out of t h e i r l i m i t e d environment and r e s o u r c e s the means to m o t i v a t e t h e m s e l v e s . 173 CONCLUSION H i p hop i s an a t t i t u d e w h i c h made i t s mark on f o r m s o f e x p r e s s i o n t h a t had been a r o u n d f o r y e a r s -- d a n c i n g , f a s h i o n , g r a f f i t i , d i s c - j o c k e y i n g and s c h o o l y a r d r a p p i n g (Toop 1984: 140). The p r e c e d i n g p r e s e n t a t i o n o f t h e g h e t t o y o u t h movement, h i p hop, has drawn on t h r e e g e n e r a l t y p e s o f d a t a i n t h e c o n s t r u c t i o n o f a r e a d i n g o f t h e s u b c u l t u r e . A v a i l a b l e d e s c r i p t i v e m a t e r i a l , i n c l u d i n g t h e a c c o u n t s o f p a r t i c i p a n t s , p r o v i d e d t h e i n i t i a l f r a m e w o r k f o r v i e w i n g t h e e x p r e s s i v e f o r m s . T h e s e i n t u r n were e x a m i n e d f o r e v i d e n c e t o a f f i r m ( o r d i s p u t e ) c l a i m s made a b o u t t h e n a t u r e and f u n c t i o n i n g o f h i p hop. And f i n a l l y t h e m e s s a g e s c o m m u n i c a t e d t h r o u g h t h e e x p r e s s i v e f o r m s were u n p a c k e d , n o t o n l y w i t h r e f e r e n c e t o e t h n o - h i s t o r i c a l i n f o r m a t i o n on h i p hop, b u t a l s o t o g e n e r a l b l a c k e x p r e s s i v e t r a d i t i o n s . T h i s s t u d y b r i n g s t o g e t h e r d i s p a r a t e d a t a , and f r o m t h e i r s y n t h e s i s I has been a b l e t o e x t r a c t a p e r s p e c t i v e f r o m w h i c h t o v i e w t h e phenomenon. D r a w i n g c o n c l u s i o n s c o n c e r n i n g t h e a c t u a l n a t u r e o f h i p hop f r o m an a n a l y s i s of e x p r e s s i v e f o r m s i s a p r e c a r i o u s e n t e r p r i s e , h o w e v e r . To i n f e r " h i p hop i s " f r o m " r a p ( o r g r a f f i t i o r b r e a k i n g ) c o m m u n i c a t e s " r e q u i r e s a l e a p o f f a i t h on o u r p a r t ; t h u s i t i s w i t h c a u t i o n and some r e s e r v a t i o n t h a t I d o e s j u s t t h a t . W i t h o u t f u r t h e r q u a l i f i c a t i o n , t h e n , t h e s t u d y c o n c l u d e s t h a t t h r o u g h h i p hop an a t t e m p t i s made t o p r o v i d e a v i a b l e a l t e r n a t i v e l i f e s t y l e and i d e o l o g y t o yo u n g g h e t t o m a l e s who: 174 1. c o n s t r u c t an image of power f o r themselves based on c r e a t i v e c o m p e t i t i v e n e s s and s e l f - g l o r i f y i n g r o l e - p l a y i n g and 2. a p p l y t h i s sense of g r e a t n e s s t o community concerns and, by e s t a b l i s h i n g themselves as c u l t u r a l heroes and l e a d e r s , attempt t o o u t l i n e a s t r a t e g y f o r c o p i n g w i t h t h e i r e x i s t e n c e by r e e n e r g i z i n g i t and t r a n s f o r m i n g i t i n t o a p o s i t i v e e x p e r i e n c e . At one l e v e l h i p hop r e p r e s e n t s a s u s p e n s i o n of r e a l i t y , or the c o n s t r u c t i o n of a new one, through image-making and f a n t a s y and can be seen as no more than an e x p r e s s i v e o u t l e t engaged i n d u r i n g l e i s u r e t i m e . Y e t , on a n o t h e r , i t i n v o l v e s v e r y r e a l f e a t s of g r e a t n e s s and a very r e a l c a l l f o r c u l t u r a l change and o f f e r s s o l u t i o n s t o s t r u c t u r a l and e x i s t e n t i a l problems these young men f a c e . i t c o n s t i t u t e s a t e s t i n g ground f o r q u e s t i o n s about t h e i r w o r l d and t h e i r r e l a t i o n s h i p to i t . Hip hop not o n l y p r o v i d e s a means f o r e x p r e s s i n g t h e i r c u l t u r a l agenda, but a l s o c o n s t i t u t e s a p r o c e s s through which i t can be a c t u a l i z e d . Hip hop appeared i n New York C i t y ' s g h e t t o s at the peak of a p e r i o d of r e p o r t e d c u l t u r a l apathy and d e s p a i r , c o u p l e d w i t h a marked i n c r e a s e i n gang v i o l e n c e . I t c o n s t i t u t e d a f o r m a t i o n of s e l f - p r i d e and optimism w i t h i n an a r t i s t i c movement. I t appears t o have a r i s e n t o p r o v i d e an a l t e r n a t i v e way of measuring s e l f - w o r t h and commanding r e s p e c t and r e c o g n i t i o n from p e e r s . The model enacted drew on a v a r i e t y of a v a i l a b l e o r i e n t a t i o n s . T r a d i t i o n a l communication c o n v e n t i o n s -- b o a s t i n g , t a u n t i n g , t e s t i f y i n g -- were r e t a i n e d . E s t a b l i s h e d a e s t h e t i c canons of rhyme, rhythm, humour, r a p i d movement, c a l l and response, among 175 o t h e r s , were employed. Many r o l e models from the e x i s t i n g r e p e r t o i r e — the c o o l s t o i c , the r e b e l , the badman, the a c t i v i s t , the e n t e r t a i n e r , the - a t h l e t e , the preac h e r — were combined t o c r e a t e a d i s t i n c t s y n t h e s i s of a superman empowered w i t h the a b i l i t y t o r e d e f i n e h i m s e l f and s u c c e s s f u l l y c o n t r o l h i s environment. The h i p hop image i s one of l o o k i n g tough, i n v i o l a t e , f e a r l e s s , v i r i l e , s e c u r e and c o o l . And h i p hop a c t i v i t i e s p r o v i d e the stage f o r e n a c t i n g t h i s r o l e . S t r o n g i d e n t i f i c a t i o n of the p a r t i c i p a n t w i t h the e x p r e s s i v e form i n d i c a t e s a b e l i e f t h a t you are what you do. An e n t i r e i d e n t i t y w i t h an accompanying code of b e h a v i o r , v a l u e s and b e l i e f s i s pe r f o r m e d , e v a l u a t e d , c r e a t e d and changed through p a r t i c i p a t i o n i n h i p hop. Hip hoppers appear t o be s e e k i n g s o l u t i o n s t o t h e i r c o n c erns about g h e t t o v i o l e n c e , p o v e r t y and low morale. The i n i t i a l i n t e n t i o n was r e p o r t e d l y t o p r o v i d e a s u b s t i t u t e mechanism f o r c h a n n e l i n g i n t e r p e r s o n a l h o s t i l i t y t h a t e x i s t e d w i t h i n the gang i n s t i t u t i o n and t h e r e i s e v i d e n c e w i t h i n the e x p r e s s i v e forms t o s u b s t a n t i a t e t h i s c l a i m . More than s i m p l y c o n t a i n i n g v i o l e n c e , however, h i p hop has developed as a g e n e r a l means of r e e n e r g i z i n g a d y s f u n c t i o n a l c u l t u r e . Hip hoppers appear t o b e l i e v e t h a t p a r t i c i p a t i o n i n h i p hop can reduce i n t e r n a l problems as w e l l as p r o v i d e a means of i n d o c t r i n a t i n g o t h e r s w i t h t h e i r p h i l o s o p h y and l e a d t o c u l t u r a l change. R e g a r d l e s s of the n a t u r e of the problem, i n g e n e r a l h i p hop o p e r a t e s as a p r o b l e m - s o l v i n g mechanism, and, whether at the 176 s t r e e t l e v e l or the p r o f e s s i o n a l l e v e l , e x p r e s s e s the i n t e n t i o n of c r e a t i n g an i d e n t i t y through c o m p e t i t i o n and s e l f - i m p r o v e m e n t . A s p e c t s of t r a d i t i o n a l g h e t t o i d e o l o g y are upheld ( p r i m a r i l y the emphasis on c o m p e t i t i v e n e s s and c o n f r o n t a t i o n ) , a l t h o u g h g i v e n new e x p r e s s i o n , w h i l e o t h e r s ( p r i m a r i l y the d e f e a t i s t " g h e t t o m e n t a l i t y " ) are c h a l l e n g e d . Through the development of new d e f i n i n g c o n c e p t s , both used as a e s t h e t i c canons and c u l t u r a l mandates, h i p hop e x p r e s s e s a m a s t e r p l a n f o r c o n f r o n t i n g the r e s t r i c t i o n s and f r u s t r a t i o n s of g h e t t o l i v i n g . ' F r e s h 1 , ' w i l d s t y l e ' and ' r o c k i n g ' d e f i n e the h i p hop i d e o l o g y which r e p r e s e n t s an o p t i m i s t i c and e n t h u s i a s t i c b e l i e f i n t h e i r powers t o improve t h e i r e x i s t e n c e and to overcome a d v e r s i t i e s through p e r s e v e r e n c e and s e l f - c o n f i d e n c e and a s s e r t i o n . L i k e o t h e r forms of b l a c k e x p r e s s i o n , h i p hop r e p r e s e n t s a s t r u g g l e t o b a l a n c e h a r d s h i p s w i t h c e l e b r a t i o n — a c e l e b r a t i o n of s e l f , b l a c k n e s s , maleness and a b e l i e f i n the f u t u r e . Much of h i p hop c u l t u r a l and a r t i s t i c s t y l e i n v o l v e s the n e g o t i a t i n g of see m i n g l y o p p o s i t i o n a l f o r c e s , not the l e a s t of which i s the i n t e g r a t i n g of i n d i v i d u a l c o m p e t i t i v e n e s s and c o l l e c t i v e c o o p e r a t i o n and, as Abrahams (1976: 82) has s u g g e s t e d , " i t i s p r e c i s e l y i n the way t h a t a c u l t u r e chooses t o d r a m a t i z e t h e s e o p p o s i t i o n s t h a t i t a s s e r t s i t s own c h a r a c t e r i s t i c p a t t e r n s of l i f e — as w e l l as a r t — style",... As a r e v i t a l i z i n g movement w i t h i n the g h e t t o , h i p hop's p r i m a r y c o n c e n t r a t i o n appears to be on b u i l d i n g up the l o c a l community and f u l f i l l i n g i t s e l f i n t e r n a l l y . Yet i t a l s o 177 c o n cerns i t s e l f w i t h the l a r g e r w o r l d . Here a c e r t a i n a m b i valence i s sensed. On the one hand, h i p hop, by denouncing v i o l e n c e and crime i n f a v o u r of s t a t u s measurements somewhat more i n k e e p i n g w i t h the mainstream and, by s e i z i n g modern h i g h t e c h n o l o g y (both i n imagery and i n e n g i n e e r i n g p r a c t i c e s ) w i t h a vengeance, i t perhaps i s a p p r o p r i a t i n g dominant i d e o l o g i e s and a t t e m p t i n g to b r i d g e the gap. On the o t h e r hand a c e r t a i n r e s i s t a n c e and a g g r e s s i o n toward the wider c u l t u r e and a p r o t e c t i v e e x c l u s i v e n e s s are b e i n g e x p r e s s e d . Hip hop i s n o t , however, i n any sense a r e v o l u t i o n a r y or p a r t i c u l a r l y s u b v e r s i v e w h o l e s a l e r e j e c t i o n of the dominant c u l t u r e as seen i n Punk or Heavy M e t a l m u s i c a l s u b c u l t u r e s . P a r t i c u l a r l y as h i p hop a c t i v i t i e s become l e g i t i m i z e d i n the mainstream, h i p hoppers appear t o be p l a y i n g both s i d e s of the f e n c e , r e t a i n i n g t h e i r b i c u l t u r a l i s m , by f u l f i l l i n g the g h e t t o - s p e c i f i c code w h i l e s t r i v i n g f o r the s o - c a l l e d "American Dream". Throughout t h i s p r e s e n t a t i o n the l a b e l s ' r a p p e r ' , ' g r a f f i t i w r i t e r ' and ' b r e a k d a n c e r ' have been used i n t e r c h a n g e a b l y w i t h the term ' h i p hopper', f o r indeed r a p p e r s , g r a f f i t i w r i t e r s and b r e a k d a n c e r s c o n s i d e r themselves members of the h i p hop movement. However, not a l l h i p hoppers p a r t i c i p a t e i n a l l t h r e e a c t i v i t i e s , nor can we a u t o m a t i c a l l y assume t h a t the t h r e e are i d e n t i c a l i n t h e i r d e f i n i n g c h a r a c t e r i s t i c s . T h e r e f o r e some d i s t i n c t i o n s , as w e l l as s i m i l a r i t i e s , among the t h r e e have been a l l u d e d t o throughout the t e x t . 178 Rapping and b r e a k d a n c i n g are most c l o s e l y a l i g n e d as performance a r t s which grew out of a l o n g h i s t o r y of b l a c k c u l t u r a l t r a d i t i o n s . G r a f f i t i w r i t i n g , on the o t h e r hand, i s l e s s e t h n i c a l l y bound and performance-based, and s t a n d s a l o n e as the o n l y s a n c t i o n e d c r i m i n a l a c t i v i t y promoted by h i p hop. Y e t , a l l t h r e e were w e l l - e s t a b l i s h e d forms of e x p r e s s i o n s w i t h i n the g h e t t o . G r a f f i t i and dance were p a r t i c u l a r l y t i e d t o gang a c t i v i t i e s — g r a f f i t i as an i m p o r t a n t aspect of gang b u s i n e s s ; dance more as a s o c i a l o u t l e t . D J i n g and MCing, on the o t h e r hand, o r i g i n a l l y d i d not b e g i n as a gang e n t e r p r i s e , but were adopted i n t o h i p hop, o f t e n by ex-gang members s e e k i n g an a l t e r n a t i v e image-management mechanism. A l l t h r e e forms s t r e s s c o m p e t i t i v e n e s s and containment of a g g r e s s i o n and i n v o l v e a s t r o n g commitment of the s e l f to the r e s p e c t i v e e n t e r p r i s e . A l l t h r e e e x p r e s s the c e n t r a l i d e o l o g i e s and a e s t h e t i c s of f r e s h , w i l d s t y l e and r o c k i n g , e t c e t e r a , and a l l t h r e e s t r i v e not o n l y to empower the p a r t i c i p a n t s , but o t h e r s as w e l l , through e n e r g e t i c and s t r o n g imagery. And, a l t h o u g h the way of l i f e and p a r t i c u l a r s of t h e i r c u l t u r a l agenda are not as e v i d e n t i n the o t h e r forms as they are i n the rapped a r t i c u l a t i o n s , t e s t i m o n i e s of p a r t i c i p a n t s suggest a degree of c o n s i s t e n c y of b e l i e f s , d r e s s , s t y l e and b e h a v i o r throughout the system. The o v e r a l l i n t e n t i o n i s t o c r e a t e a u n i f i e d d e c l a r a t i o n of s e l f , a t o t a l mode of e x i s t e n c e t h a t s t r e s s e s a c t i v e l y t a k i n g charge of s h a p i n g one's own d e s t i n y , drawing s t r e n g t h from one's c i r c u m s t a n c e s r a t h e r than succumbing t o the 179 p i t f a l l s , p o s s e s s i n g s e l f - p r i d e and demanding r e s p e c t . A v i s i o n of both p e r s o n a l and c u l t u r a l t r a n s f o r m a t i o n i s b e i n g communicated as h i p hoppers a p p l y t h e i r f i g h t i n g s p i r i t t o the c h a l l e n g e s of coming up i n the g h e t t o . The s t o r y of h i p hop, l i k e most t r u e s t o r i e s , has no d i s c r e t e e n d i n g . I t c o n t i n u e s l o n g a f t e r the r e c o u n t e r has summed up and t i e d a l l the l o o s e ends t o g e t h e r . Be i t an e p i l o g u e or s i m p l y the as y e t u n t o l d e n s u i n g c h a p t e r , t h e r e i s a f i n a l note t h a t t h i s i n v e s t i g a t o r wishes to make i n her s t o r y of h i p hop. Dick Hebdige (1979), i n h i s d i s c u s s i o n of y o u t h s u b c u l t u r e s , has suggested t h a t t h a t which was o r i g i n a l l y an a c t of r e s i s t a n c e i s l a t e r i n c o r p o r a t e d back i n t o t h a t which was r e s i s t e d . I t appears t h a t t h i s i s happening i n the case of h i p hop. What began as a r e s i s t a n c e a g a i n s t g h e t t o gangs has now come f u l l c y c l e . A s p e c t s of h i p hop, i n p a r t i c u l a r rap music, has been adopted by the r e c e n t l y formed i n n e r c i t y drug gangs as p a r t of t h e i r i d e n t i f i c a t i o n . The i r o n y i s t h a t the r i t u a l a g g r e s s i o n so p r e v a l e n t i n raps has come to r e p r e s e n t the v e r y r e a l a g g r e s s i o n p r a c t i s e d by the drug gangs. Drug gangs, e s p e c i a l l y those of Jamaican o r i g i n , r e f e r t o themselves as p o s s e s , as do h i p hop crews. Both c l a i m symbols of the u l t r a r i c h , such as Rolex watches, huge g o l d c h a i n s and f l a s h y c a r s , as tokens of t h e i r image, and both u t i l i z e g r a f f i t i as a means of i n t e r n a l communication (Morganthau et a l 1988). Here, however, a s i g n i f i c a n t d i f f e r e n c e e x i s t s . The s c r a w l e d 180 codes of the gang g r a f f i t i e x h i b i t s none of the a r t i s t i c s o p h i s t i c a t i o n , b r i g h t c o l o u r s or e l a b o r a t i v e s t y l e of h i p hop g r a f f i t i . R a t h e r , i t i s a l l b l a c k , harsh l e t t e r i n g which s p e l l s out v e r y r e a l t h r e a t s , not r i t u a l image-management t a u n t s . There i s a l s o e v i d e n c e t o suggest t h a t the c y c l e w i l l i n deed r e p e a t i t s e l f . A g a i n r e p o r t s of gang members l e a v i n g the f o l d t o pursue c a r e e r s i n rap are emerging; i c e T b e i n g the most n o t a b l e example. Ice T was a New York C i t y k i d who moved t o Los Angeles and got h e a v i l y i n v o l v e d i n gang w a r f a r e . Yet he was a l s o drawn t o h i p hop and e v e n t u a l l y used i t t o h e l p him break away from the gang l i f e . Many of h i s r a p s , however, r e p r e s e n t a new s t r a t e g y t h a t i s emerging i n the genre — one d e v i s e d t o c o n f r o n t the gang i n s t i t u t i o n once more. The persona he r e p r e s e n t s i n h i s raps i s t h a t of the gang member t e l l i n g i t how i t i s -- " I am a nightmare w a l k i n g , psychopath t a l k i n g , k i n g of the j u n g l e , j u s t a g a n g s t e r s t a l k i n g , l i v i n g l i f e l i k e a f i r e c r a c k e r - q u i c k i s my fuse....My l i f e i s v i o l e n t but v i o l e n t i s l i f e , peace i s a dream, r e a l i t y ' s a k n i f e " ( " C o l o r s " 1988). Rather than l e a v i n g i t at t h a t , t h i s new breed of r a p p e r s c o n t i n u e , t r y i n g t o e x p l a i n the s o c i a l c o n d i t i o n s t h a t make gangs i n e v i t a b l e and, u l t i m a t e l y c h a l l e n g i n g young g h e t t o men not t o waste t h e i r l i v e s , but r a t h e r t o d e velop the mental s t r e n g t h t o a v o i d the " f a t a l m i s t a k e " of j o i n i n g a gang (MC Shan, "A Mind i s a T e r r i b l e Thing t o Waste", 1988). These r a p p e r s are aware t h a t they must f i r s t win the c o n f i d e n c e of t h e i r l i s t e n e r s b e f o r e they can b e g i n t o preach and t e a c h . As KRS 1 of the South Bronx d e s c r i b e s h i s approach: 181 Here's someone you can f o l l o w who's j u s t l i k e you a r e , who sees the t h i n g s you see. Now t h e y ' r e l i s t e n i n g and t h i s i s the second c h a p t e r of what I see as a book or a k i n d of a p r o c e s s of e d u c a t i o n . On the f i r s t album, I t a l k about s u p e r h e r o e s . On t h i s one I t a l k about AIDS and c o n t r a c e p t i o n . On the f i r s t album, we had a t r a c k c a l l e d "9 mm Goes Bang" and o n l y now, at t h i s p o i n t , am I a b l e t o say "Stop the V i o l e n c e " ( i n McCready 1988: 99). R e p o r t e d l y (Lamar 1988: 21) New York C i t y , d u r i n g the 1980-1987 p e r i o d , had the l e a s t i n c r e a s e per c a p i t a of d r u g - r e l a t e d j u v e n i l e a r r e s t s of a l l major American urban c e n t e r s . And, a c c o r d i n g t o s e v e r a l of the i n v e s t i g a t o r ' s i n f o r m a n t s , a l l t h r e e e x p r e s s i v e forms of h i p hop are a l i v e and w e l l i n NYC and a c t i v e l y competing w i t h the gangs f o r membership. 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Boston: Houghton M i f f l i n Co. Sommer, S a l l y 1983 The P e o p l e Dance. In In Performance, D e c . Pp. 26-27. Spencer, P a u l 1985[ed] S o c i e t y and the Dance. Cambridge: Cambridge U n i v e r s i t y P r e s s . S t e a r n s , M a r s h a l l and Jean S t e a r n s 1968 J a z z Dance: The S t o r y of American V e r n a c u l a r Dance. New York: Schirmer Books. S t e w a r t , James B. 1980 P e r s p e c t i v e s on B l a c k F a m i l i e s from Contemporary S o u l M usic: The Case of M i l l i e J a c k s o n . P h y l o n 41(1):57-71. S u l l i v a n , J i m and L o r i C a l i c o t t 1984 Break Dancing 1 ( 1 ) . S k o k i e , I l l i n o i s : P u b l i c a t i o n s I n t e r n a t i o n a l L t d . S u t t o n - S m i t h , B r i a n and Diana K e l l y - B r y n e 1984[eds] The Masks of P l a y . New York: L e i s u r e P r e s s . Thomas, P i r i 1970 Down These Mean S t r e e t s . New York: A l f r e d A. Knopf. Thompson, Robert F a r r i s 1966 An A e s t h e t i c of the C o o l : West A f r i c a n Dance. A f r i c a n Forum 2(2):85-97. 1973 An A e s t h e t i c of C o o l . A f r i c a n A r t s 7 ( l ) : 4 1 - 6 7 . 1986a P e r s o n a l Communique. February 6. 1986b Hip Hop 101. R o l l i n g Stone, March 27. Pp. 95-101. Toop, David 1984 The Rap A t t a c k : A f r i c a n J i v e t o New York Hip Hop. B oston: South End P r e s s . T u r n e r , V i c t o r 1982[ed] C e l e b r a t i o n s : S t u d i e s i n F e s t i v i t y and R i t u a l . Wash., DC: S m i t h s o n i a n . W a l l a c e , Anthony F. 1956 A c c u l t u r a t i o n : R e v i t a l i z a t i o n Movements. American A n t h r o p o l o g i s t 58(2 ) : 264-281. W a t k i n s , W i l l i a m and E r i c F r a n k l i n 1984 Breakdance. Chic a g o : Contemporary Books, I n c . W i l k i n s o n , D o r i s Y. and Ronald L. T a y l o r 1977[eds] The B l a c k Male i n A merica: P e r s p e c t i v e s on h i s S t a t u s i n Contemporary S o c i e t y . Chicago: N e l s o n - H a l l . W o l f f , J a n e t 1981 The S o c i a l P r o d u c t i o n of A r t . London: M a c M i l l i a n . 189 DISCOGRAPHY Extended P l a y S i n g l e s 1979 S u g a r h i l l Gang, "Rapper's D e l i g h t " , S u g a r h i l l . 1981 F u r i o u s F i v e / S u g a r h i l l Gang, "Showdown", S u g a r h i l l . Grandmaster F l a s h and the F u r i o u s F i v e , "Wheels of S t e e l " , S u g a r h i l l . 1982 A f r i k a Bambaataa and the S o u l s o n i c F o r c e , " L o o k i n g f o r the P e r f e c t Beat", Tommy Boy. 1983 G.L.O.B.E. and Whiz K i d , " p l a y That Beat Mr. DJ", Tommy Boy. Grandmixer D. S t . and the I n f i n i t y Rappers, "Grandmixer (Cut I t Up)", C e l l u l o i d . Jonzen Crew, "Space Cowboy", Tommy Boy. Shango, "Shango's Message", C e l l u l o i d . S p e c i a l Request, " S a l s a Smurph", Tommy Boy. 1984 A f r i k a Bambaataa/James Brown, " U n i t y " , Tommy Boy. A f r i k a Bambaataa and the S o u l s o n i c F o r c e , "Renegades of Funk", Tommy Boy. Boogie Boys, "Do or D i e " , [ l a b e l unkown]. D i s c o 3, "Fat Boys", S u t r a . Grandmaster M e l l e Mel and the F u r i o u s F i v e , "Beat S t r e e t " , S u g a r h i l l . K u r t i s Blow, "AJ S c r a t c h " , Mercury. K u r t i s Blow, "8 M i l l i o n S t o r i e s " , Mercury. Pumpkin, "Here Comes That Beat", P r o f i l e . Run-D.M.C, "30 Days", P r o f i l e . Run-D.M.C, "Rock Box", P r o f i l e . W h o d i n i , " F r i e n d s " / " F i v e Minutes of Funk", S u t r a . 190 1985 The B Boys, "Stick Up Kid"/"GirIs", Vintertainment. Bad Boys (with K Love), [ u n t i t l e d ] , S t a r l i t e . Boogie Boys, "City Life"/"A Fly G i r l " , C a pital. Doug E. Fresh and MC Ricky D, "La-Di-Da-Di", Reality. Grandmaster Flash, "Larry's Dance Theme", Elektra. Marley Marl with MC Shan, "Marley Marl Scratch", Nia Records Run-D.M.C., "Can You Rock It Like This", P r o f i l e . 1986 . Run-D.M.C., "Together Forever(Krush-Groove 4)", P r o f i l e . Boogie Boys, "Colorblind World", Capital. Doug E. Fresh and the Get Fresh Crew, " A l l the Way to Heaven"/"Nuthin'", Reality. Albums 1980 Kurtis Blow, Kurtis Blow, Mercury. 1981 The Sugarhill Gang, 8th Wonder, Sug a r h i l l . 1982 Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, The Message, Sugarh i l l . Various a r t i s t s (including Capt. Sky, Count Coolout, Dr. Ice, Treacherous Three, Disco Four), Rap Tracks, V i r g i n . 1983 Kurtis Blow, Party Time?, Mercury. Various a r t i s t s (including Grandmaster Caz and Chris Stein, The Chief Rocker Busy Bee, L i l Rodney Cee with DJ Grandwizard Theodore, Cold Crush Bros., The Fantastic Freaks, Double Trouble), Wildstyle, Animal Records. 1984 Fat Boys, Fat Boys, Sutra. Grandmaster Melle Mel and the Furious Five, [ u n t i t l e d ] , Sugarhill. 191 1984 con'd V a r i o u s a r t i s t s ( i n c l u d i n g Grandmaster F l a s h and the F u r i o u s F i v e , T w i l i g h t 2 2 ) , Breakdance, K - T e l . 1985 LL C o o l J , R a d i o , Def Jam R e c o r d i n g s . UTFO, [ u n t i t l e d ] , S e l e c t Records. V a r i o u s a r t i s t s ( i n c l u d i n g Shango, D. S t . , M a t e r i a l , Time Zone, L a s t P o e t s ) , New A f r i c a 2, C e l l u l o i d . V a r i o u s a r t i s t s ( i n c l u d i n g Dr. J e c k y l l and Mr. Hyde, K o o l K y l e and B i l l y B i l l , Run-D.M.C), Rap 2, P r o f i l e . V a r i o u s a r t i s t s ( i n c l u d i n g Force MDs, Lovebug S t a r s k i ) , R a p p i n ' , A t l a n t i c . V a r i o u s a r t i s t s ( i n c l u d i n g A f r i k a Bambaataa and the S o u l s o n i c F o r c e , A f r i k a Bambaataa and the J a z z y 5, P r e s s u r e Drop, Force MD's, B e a t m a s t e r ) , Tommy Boys G r e a t e s t B e a t s , Tommy Boy. 1986 F a t s Boys, B i g and B e a u t i f u l , S u t r a . Run-D.M.C, R a i s i n g H e l l , London. 1987 Fat Boys, C r u s h i n ' , Polygram. Grandmaster F l a s h , Ba-Dop-Boom-Banq, E l e k t r a . I c e Tea, Rhyme Pays, S i r e . K o o l Moe Dee, K o o l Moe Dee, J i v e . LL C o o l J , Bad, Def Jam R e c o r d i n g s . W h o d i n i , Open Sesame, J i v e . 192 LIST OF FILMS AND VIDEOS Style Wars, Tony Si l v e r and Henry Chalfant, 1982. Wildstyle, Charles Ahearn Productions, 1982. Beat Street, Orion Pictures, 1984. Breakin', Cannon Group Inc., 1984. "Breakdance", K-Tel, 1984. "Let's Break", I M A Inc., 1984 Breakin' II, Cannon Group Inc., 1985. Rappin', Cannon Group Inc., 1985. 193 APPENDIX I SELECTION OF RAPS "Throughout Your Years" K u r t i s Blow Throughout your y e a r s , your ups and downs Your h i g h s and your lows I'm the man w i t h the mike who ro c k s the house The man c a l l e d K u r t i s Blow So get out of your s e a t and grab a g i r l Because I'm about ready t o rock the w o r l d And l i s t e n t o my s t o r y cause i t ' s g o t t a be t o l d L i k e an Oscar w i n n i n g a c t o r when he's p l a y i n ' a r o l e When I went t o bed t h e r e was something i n my head To be a rapper was my dream L i k e i n the morning w i t h the bacon and eggs the c o f f e e and the cream So I made up my mind t h a t I would always t r y t o be the best t h a t I c o u l d be Now here I am r a p p i n ' a t the jam w i t h t h e , huh, f l y guys and the young l a d i e s [ b r i d g e ] You j u s t take your t i m e , you don't have t o h u r r y Hang i n tough, you don't have t o worry In s o c i e t y , the s t r o n g s u r v i v e So r a p , so s i n g , get a n i n e t o f i v e With a l i t t l e hard work and d e d i c a t i o n W e ' l l p u l l t o g e t h e r and rock the n a t i o n So i f you do the do and you t h i n k you're g r e a t Come on everybody, p a r t i c i p a t e [ c h o r u s ] Say ho-oo (ho-oo) You got t o say ho-oo i f you're ready t o go Say owwww (owwww) You got t o say owwww i f you're ready r i g h t now say p r i d e ( p r i d e ) Cause p r i d e ' s what we got i n s i d e To the top (top) We're g o i n g t o the top and we a i n ' t gonna s t o p Get down When I s t a r t e d out the way wasn't c l e a r There was much c o n f u s i o n and a l o t of f e a r W a l k i n g i n the shadow, s e a r c h i n g f o r the l i g h t t o be the me t h a t I c o u l d be t h a t might make i t r i g h t Cause i t a i n ' t a l l champagne and c a v i a r R i d i n ' 'round the town i n the f l y e s t c a r L i v i n ' i n the s k y l i f e of l u x u r y 194 "Throughout Your Years" ( c o n t ' d ) and b e i n g seen around the w o r l d i n the p l a c e t o be Letdowns, no j o b s , f a l s e handshakes, hang-ups s e t b a c k s and, huh, bad breaks So you've got t o b e l i e v e you can be the best You've got t o work r e a l hard t o a c h i e v e s u c c e s s So l i s t e n c l o s e cause I i n s i s t , I got some and i t goes l i k e t h i s [ b r i d g e ] [ c h o r u s ] There's a man up t h e r e who c a l l s the s h o t s He says who's gonna have and, huh, have not There's o n l y one way t o s t a k e your c l a i m You g o t t a beat the man, you g o t t a p l a y the game Some people you may be around have n e g a t i v e v i b e s and t r y t o get you down But i f your mind i s sound and your w i l l i s s t r o n g You've got the f a i t h t o o v e r r i d e the wrong W i n t e r , summer, f a l l and s p r i n g G i v e i t your a l l and your e v e r y t h i n g Don't be no o t h e r , be y o u r s e l f You can do t h a t b e t t e r than anyone e l s e Now I can't t e l l you what t o do But the t h i n g s I say are sure enough t r u e [ b r i d g e ] Say na-na-na-na-na-na-na-na-na (na-na-na-na-na-na-na-na-na) [ r e p e a t e d 4 t i m e s ] Owww! 195 "The Message" Grandmaster F l a s h & the F u r i o u s F i v e 1982 I t ' s l i k e a j u n g l e sometimes i t makes me wonder how I keep from g o i n g under Broken g l a s s everywhere, peo p l e p i s s i n g on the s t a g e you know they j u s t don't c a r e I c a n ' t t a k e the s m e l l , can't t a k e the n o i s e Got no money t o move o u t , I guess I got no c h o i c e Rats i n the f r o n t room, roaches i n the back J u n k i e s i n the a l l e y w i t h a b a s e b a l l bat I t r i e d t o get away but c o u l d n ' t get f a r cause a man w i t h a r e p o s s e s s e d my car Don't push me cause I'm c l o s e t o the edge I'm t r y i n g not t o l o s e my head I t l i k e a j u n g l e sometimes i t makes me wonder how I keep from g o i n g under S t a n d i n g on the f r o n t s t o o p , hanging out the window Watching a l l the c a r s go by, r o a r i n g as the breezes blow A c r a z y l a d y l i v i n g i n a bag, e a t i n g out of garbage p a i l s used to be a f a g hag Had a sex change, seems t o l o o s e her senses Down at the peep show, w a t c h i n g a l l the creeps so she can t e l l the s t o r i e s to the g i r l s back home She went t o the c i t y and got s o c i a l s e c u r i t y She had t o get a pimp, she c o u l d ' t make i t on her own [ c h o r u s ] My b r o t h e r ' s d o i n g bad, s t o l e my mother's T.V. S a i d she watches i t too much, i t j u s t not h e a l t h y A l l My C h i l d r e n i n the d a y t i m e , D a l l a s a t n i g h t Can't even see the game or the Sugar Rae f i g h t The b i l l c o l l e c t o r s they r i n g my phone and s c a r e my w i f e when I'm not home Got a bum e d u c a t i o n , double d i g i t i n f l a t i o n Can't t a k e the t r a i n t o the job t h e r e ' s a s t r i k e a t the s t a t i o n Neon K i n g Kong s t a n d i n g on my back Can't s t o p to t u r n around, broke my s a c o r i l l i a c [ s i c ] Mid-range, m i g r a i n e s , c a n c e r , membranes Sometimes I t h i n k I'm g o i n g i n s a n e I swear I might h i j a c k a p l a n e [ c h o r u s ] My son s a i d , "Daddy, I don't want t o go t o s c h o o l cause the t e a c h e r ' s a j e r k , he must t h i n k I'm a f o o l And a l l the k i d s smoke r e e f e r , I t h i n k i t ' d be cheaper 196 "The Message (cont'd) i f I j u s t got a j o b , l e a r n e d t o be a s t r e e t sweeper I'd dance t o the b e a t , s h u f f l e my f e e t and wear a s h i r t and t i e and run w i t h the c r e e p s cause i t ' s a l l about money, a i n ' t a damn t h i n g funny You got t o have a con i n t h i s l a n d of m i l k and honey They pushed t h a t g i r l i n f r o n t of the t r a i n Took her t o the d o c t o r ' s , sewed her arm on a g a i n Stabbed the man r i g h t i n h i s h e a r t Gave him a t r a n s p l a n t f o r a brand new s t a r t I c a n ' t walk through the park cause i t ' s c r a z y a f t e r dark Keep my hand on my gun cause they got me on the run I f e e l l i k e an o u t l a w , broke my l a s t g l a s s jaw I hear them say you want some more l i v i n g on the s e a s h o r e " [ c h o r u s ] A c h i l d i s born w i t h no s t a t e of mind b l i n d t o the ways of mankind God i s s m i l i n g on you, but he's f r o w n i n g , too because o n l y God knows what you're g o i n g through Y o u ' l l grow i n the g h e t t o , l i v i n g second r a t e and your eyes w i l l s i n g a song of deep hate The p l a c e s you p l a y and where you s t a y l o o k l i k e one g r e a t b i g a l l e y w a y Y o u ' l l admire a l l the number book t a k e r s Thugs, pimps and pushers and the b i g money makers D r i v e b i g c a r s , s pending 20's and 10's and you want t o grow up to be j u s t l i k e them Smugglers, s c r a m b l e r s , b u r g l e r s , gamblers p i c k - p o c k e t , p e d d l e r s , even p a n - h a n d l e r s You say, "I'm c o o l , huh, and I'm no f o o l " but then you wind up d r o p p i n g out of h i g h s c h o o l Now you're unemployed, a l l n o n - v o i d w a l k i n g around l i k e you're P r e t t y Boy F l o y d Turn s t i c k - u p k i d , but look what you done d i d Got send up f o r an e i g h t year b i d Now your manhood i s t o o k , and you're a maytag Spent the next 2 y e a r s as an undercover f a g b e i n g used and abused, j u s t s e r v e d l i k e h e l l t i l l one day you was found hung dead i n a c e l l I t was p l a i n to see your l i f e was l o s t You was c o l d and your body swung back and f o r t h But now your eyes s i n g the sad, sad song of how you l i v e d so f a s t , but d i e d so young [ c h o r u s ] 197 "Shango's Message" Shango 1983 We a r e Shango, the gods of Thunder We came t o p r o t e c t you and g i v e a h e l p i n g hand Don't f o l l o w f a k e r e l i g i o n s Do what you know i s r i g h t J u s t l i s t e n t o Shango We p r o t e c t the s h i n i n g l i g h t J u s t funk t o our rhythms and get on down We are the a l m i g h t y Shango and we don't fuck around Take heed you f o o l i s h p eople The w o r l d i s out of hand and i f you don't b e l i e v e us then you are damned, damned, damned J 198 " B a s k e t b a l l Throwdown" Cold Crush Brothers vs. 1983 the F a n t a s t i c Freaks W e l l I'm a T (Theodore) I'11 dog my f a c e When I get you on the c o u r t I ' l l beat C h a r l i e Chase ( C o l d Crush) C h a r l i e Chase, as cute as c o u l d be You'd s e l l your s o u l t o the d e v i l t o p l a y l i k e me W e l l , I'm the R (Ruby Dee) and you got a l o t of nerve when you p l a y a g a i n s t me You know you're gonna get s e r v e d ( C o l d Crush) Davy L, the l o r d of l o r d s Ruby Dee's my man You're s h i t i s on the boards You a l l can't b a l l , you a l l can't b a l l I'm t h e K ( K e v i e Kev) and not the f i n k You know I ' l l eat your ass up l i k e the s t a k e ( ? ) you t a k e ( C o l d Crush) You know y ' a l l the game l e g i t and when we get the c o u r t I'm gonna s t i c k your s h i t The W (Whipper Whip) and I'm here t o say I c o u l d rock the w o r l d l i k e t he Dr. J . ( C o l d Crush) Toney Tone, known t o be i l l but everyone knows I can d e a l w i t h the p i l l I'm the D (Dota Rock) on t h i s here c o u r t Been n i n e y e a r s p l a y i n g t h i s here s p o r t ( C o l d Crush) Hey, Dee, h i g h e s t degree w e l l I'm a b e t t e r jump shot than R i c k B e r r y 199 " B a s k e t b a l l Throwdown" ( c o n t ' d ) W e l l I'm the M (Master Rob) L i k e a l l the g i r l s I ' l l s e r v e your monkey ass l i k e E a r l the P e a r l ( C o l d Crush) I'm Master Caz or G.M.C. I'm gonna s t i c k i t on the board Now c a n ' t you see - P l a y b a l l ! (Bad Crush) 200 " W i l d s t y l e Subway Rap #2" Grandmaster Caz & C h r i s S t e i n 1983 South Bronx, New York, what do I see? K i d s growing up i n the community South Bronx, New York, what do I see? K i d s growing up i n the community Hey, Caz, Caz, look at those k i d s over t h e r e - check 'em out Yeh, you know C h a r l e s Chase, those k i d s now t h e y ' r e the grown-ups of tomorrow, man, t h e y ' r e the f u t u r e I hear t h a t , I know where you're comin' from, man That's what I'm t a l k i n g about, man S t r e e t s are f i l t h y , crime i s h i g h P e o p l e look s u s p i c i o u s when you walk by Those s m i l e s and g r i n s as the c i t y s i n s And when i t comes t o v i o l e n c e nobody wins Man, look how d i r t y e v e r y t h i n g i s , man I hear t h a t , hey look at t h a t I hate t h i s p o v e r t y , man I t ' s not l i k e t h a t everywhere, though I j u s t hate to see i t - t e r r i b l e Look p a s t the garbage, over the t r a i n s Under the r u i n s , t h r ough the remains Around the crime and p o l l u t i o n And t e l l me where do I f i t i n ? South Bronx, New York, t h a t ' s where I d w e l l To a l o t of peopl e i t ' s a l i v i n g h e l l F u l l of f r u s t r a t i o n and p o v e r t y But, w a i t , t h a t ' s now how i t l o o k s t o me I t ' s a c h a l l e n g e , an o p p o r t u n i t y I t r i s e s above the s t i n k and d e b r i s Got t o s t a r t w i t h n o t h i n g and then you b u i l d F o l l o w your dream u n t i l i t ' s f u l f i l l e d I can d i g t h a t - about f o l l o w i n g a dream, man cause I got a dream I t ' s t o be number one i n the number f i v e l i n e My dream i s the same as y o u r s I wanta be up t h e r e - w e l l , we a l l have our dreams I'm a w a r r i o r , my a r t i s my sword A p l a c e i n s o c i e t y i s my reward A mind i s a t e r r i b l e t h i n g t o waste Success i s something we a l l want t o t a s t e Everyone's got a t a l e n t on the e a r t h 201 " W i l d s t y l e Subway Rap #2" ( c o n t ' d ) And you can t a k e i t or l e a v e i t f o r what i t ' s worth No matter how hard t h i n g s may seem You've got the p o t e n t i a l - f u l f i l l your dream We're the f u t u r e , i t ' s up t o us To make our home g r e a t and A p l u s L e t your mind be pure and f e e d i t - c r e a t e Use the beat i n your h e a r t And aim t o be g r e a t Word! That's what i t ' s about, man I'm gonna do my t h i n g and l e t n o t h i n g e l s e h o l d me back, you know J u s t t r y t o be number one - always That's the same t h i n g I t o l d my l i t t l e b r o t h e r He s a i d he wanted t o drop out of s c h o o l and I had t o t e l l him, man, you know, you g o t t a push, push That's what i t ' s a l l about, man I hear t h a t , C h a r l e s South Bronx, New York, what do I see? T a l e n t r i s i n g out of the community [ c h o r u s r e p e a t e d 6 t i m e s ] 202 "The T r u t h " Grandmaster Mel l e Mel and 1984 the F u r i o u s F i v e Rap i s our way of l i f e , t h a t ' s why we do what we do Born t o rock the mike l i k e E. F. H u t t o n , don't say n u t h i n ' Yo, I am the man c a l l e d S c o r p i o The one t h a t ' s seen but never heard But a l l my sons j u s t r u n n i n g t h e i r mouths So i t ' s time f o r daddy to speak h i s word You see the b i g g e s t problem w i t h a l l the MCs i s t h a t I look good and they are u g l y They a l l get t o g e t h e r , say I'm not c o o l The c u r l s i s o u t , b e i n g my f o o l Cause I'm the f i r s t a t t r a c t i v e , e x o t i c male t o walk around town w i t h beads i n h i s h a i r Be stopped on the s t r e e t by the people I meet s a y i n g where'd you get your beads? Cause you look so sweet Hey, f o r any f e l l o w s who t h i n k I'm gay I ' l l p u l l f i v e g i r l s r i g h t i n your f a c e I'm not s a y i n g t h a t I'm the p l a y b o y k i n g cause I d i d n ' t make i t up, but I made i t swing I spent more on s p i c e than they d i d on c l o t h e s So how can they f r o n t t h a t they've go gusto They j u s t b a r e l y made enough f o r a gram of blow To s t a r t hoping and p r a y i n g b e f o r e t h e i r next show But a b r o t h e r l i k e me c o u l d rock i t a l l day But I'm smarter than t h a t i n my own way And you know what I'm s a y i n g i s a n a t u r a l f a c t cause momma says he's o u t s i d e , Where's they a t ? Check me out w h i l e I run my game There's not another MC t h a t can make me f e e l shame My name's Cowboy, not g i v e n no s l a c k I'm l i k e 4,5,6 b e t t e r known as Headcrack I've been r o c k i n g the p a r t y e i g h t y e a r s of my l i f e Got shot w i t h a gun, stabbed w i t h a k n i f e Had t o pay my dues, had t o l e a r n the r u l e s Had t o s e p a r a t e the smart from the f o o l s P e o p l e t a l k b ehind my back, but never t o my f a c e But they make a c l e a r p ath when I s t e p i n the p l a c e I can make them c l a p t h e i r hands, stomp t h e i r f e e t Make them p a r t y t o the rhythm seven days a week Make them s h i v e r and shake, j u s t l i k e an earthquake Making people jam w i t h o u t a m i s t a k e I can c r u i s e around the w o r l d , a l l a c r o s s the n a t i o n Get a b i g k i c k out of c o m p e t i t i p a t i o n Make them h i p t o the hop and a l l t h a t s t u f f Cause the o t h e r MCs know I'm j u s t too much 203 "The T r u t h " (cont'd) My eyes are brown, my l e g s are b o l d I can t e l l an MC r i g h t where to go I can get a young l a d y w i t h a wave of my hand I can s t r e t c h out l o n g l i k e a rubber band S a y i n g , one f o r the t r o u b l e , two f o r the bass Cause I'm the Cowboy — put a s m i l e on your f a c e You know 'K' i s f o r K o o l , i t runs through the v e i n s I g o t t a smarter bunch so I show no shame I n t e l l i g e n c e and dex and t h a t s t a n d s f o r ' I ' I t ' s something you i n h e r i t and you can not buy 'N' i s f o r K n i g h t , I'm gonna s h i n e S l a y i n g o t h e r MCs w i t h v i c i o u s - s t y l e rhymes And 'G' i s f o r g r e a t , t o d e s c r i b e t h i s man My name i s K i n g Lou, I got a m a s t e r p l a n From the shores of P a r i s t o the s t r e e t s of Maine There's a c e r t a i n r e p u t a t i o n I've got t o m a i n t a i n I've got t o w r i t e good rhymes and say them w e l l And i f I don't do t h a t I know I've f a i l e d These are a few t h i n g s I use to get me ovuh They a l l f i t t o g e t h e r l i k e a f o u r l e a f c l o v e r F i r s t and most i m p o r t a n t i s o r i g i n a l i t y You got t o be an i n n o v a t o r , v e r s a t i l e as can be Second on the l i s t you got t o know how to fake G o t t a make the crowd s h o u t , cause a major earthquake Make them stomp on the f l o o r and scream f o r more From the v e r y f i r s t minute t h a t you walk i n the door Moving r i g h t a l o n g t o the end of the l i n e You got t o get a f l y g i r l on your d e v i n e Have her come t o your shows wea r i n g n i c e f a n c y c l o t h e s L o o k i n g sharp as a t h o r n on the stem of a rose M e l l e Mel i s p o t e n t , super h i g h powered To make o t h e r MCs f e e l devoured Taught a l l the MCs the b i r d s and the bees But they s t i l l c a n't get your young l a d y W e l l , I'm a legend i n l e a t h e r — the l o r d of the rhymes I f you can't see t h a t you must be b l i n d I always wear b l a c k and I alway w i l l Cause I'm d r e s s i n g f o r your f u n e r a l Heads are gonna r o l l , r a p p e r s gonna d i e And who ever wants a b a t t l e , I'm gonna g i v e him a t r y A i n ' t no p r e s s u r e , you know I'm f r e s h e r Cause I was born t o never be l e s s e r I t ' s more than a r e c o r d and i t ' s sure t o be Cause I came here t o s e t the w o r l d f r e e From around the way, back i n the days We got beat so you c o u l d get p a i d We made you a j o b , you s t u p i d s l o b 204 "The T r u t h " (cont'd) Now you don't have t o work, l e a r n , s t e a l or rob You got a l i t t l e b i t of fame and w e a l t h Now you t h i n k you d i d i t a l l by y o u r s e l f - huh I am you, but you a i n ' t me Cause you d i d n ' t s t a r t r o c k i n g t i l l '83 M e l l e Mel i s the b e s t t h a t w i l l ever e x i s t And i f I g o t t a be a s u c k e r — suck on t h i s .... We're born t o rock the w o r l d 205 "Beat S t r e e t " Grandmaster Mel l e Mel & the 1984 F u r i o u s F i v e with Mr. Ness and Cowboy Beat S t r e e t , the k i n g of the beat See you r o c k i n g t h a t beat from a c r o s s the s t r e e t Beat S t r e e t i s a l e s s o n , t o o cause you can't l e t the s t r e e t s beat you W e l l , a p r e a c h e r can e x p r e s s a thousand words t o d e s c r i b e a l l the beauty of l i f e you g i v e and i f the w o r l d was your t o do over I know you'd p a i n t a b e t t e r p l a c e t o l i v e where the c o l o r s would s w i r l and the boys and g i r l s would grow i n peace and harmony where murals s t a n d on w a l l s so grand as f a r as the eyes are a b l e t o see I never knew a r t t i l l I saw your f a c e and t h e r e ' l l never be one t o take your p l a c e cause each and e v e r y time you touch a spray p a i n t can M i c h a e l a n g e l o ' s s o u l c o n t r o l s your hands Then serenades of b l u e and red and the beauty of the rainbow f i l l s your head Crescendo c o l o r s hanging tune Man, why oh why'd you have t o d i e so soon Ashes t o ashes, dust t o dust When the good d i e young as a l l they must L i f e must l i v e and death must d i e and t e a r s w i l l f a l l from the l i v i n g eye The t e a r s w i l l f a l l f o r the s t a t e of mind of the b e a u t i f u l l a d y you l e f t behind In l o v e and a l o n e but now you're gone and she s t i l l c an't get you out of her head More t e a r s f a l l f o r a l l you've done T r i e d t o be a good f a t h e r t o your o n l y son But now whose gonna make sure he's f e d put a s h i r t on h i s back and a r o o f overhead T e l l me whose g o i n g t o dream the i m p o s s i b l e dream of the b e a u t i f u l c i t i e s and t h a t your works of a r t brought i n t o b e i n g and a l l t h a t the g h e t t o stopped you from s e e i n g Bums on the s i d e w a l k , garbage i n the s t r e e t Abandoned b u i l d i n g s , b r i c k s and c o n c r e t e The l a d i e s on the c o r n e r are s e l l i n g t h e i r b o d i e s and everyone wants a p a r t i n t h a t p a r t y I'm hanging out tough, r o c k i n g l a t e at n i g h t Running w i l d i n the town of the neon l i g h t s You e i t h e r p l a y some b a l l or s t a n d i n the h a l l You g o t t a make somethin' out of n u t h i n ' a t a l l I'm s i t t i n g i n the c l a s s room l e a r n i n g the r u l e s and i t says you can't do g r a f f i t i i n s c h o o l 206 "Beat S t r e e t " (cont'd) They can't be wrong i n the h a l l o w h a l l s so my notebook t u r n e d i n t o a b r i c k w a l l The h e a r t of a l i o n and the courage of t h r e e i n the mind of a man t h a t ' s w i s e r than me You're the s o u l of the b r o t h e r who won't come back who d i e d i n my arms at the r a i l r o a d t r a c k Cause I'm caught i n the r a t race l o o k i n g f o r my own space There's g o t t a be a b e t t e r p l a c e f o r you and me There's p i e i n the sky and an eye f o r an eye Some people got t o d i e j u s t t o be f r e e Searched f o r j u s t i c e and what d i d you f i n d ? You found j u s t us on the unemployment l i n e You found j u s t us s w e a t i n ' from dawn to dusk There's no j u s t i c e , t h e r e ' s (huh) j u s t us S t i l l - l i f e urban m a s t e r p i e c e , your trademark w i l l be w r i t t e n on t r a i n s and w a l l s A m i l l i o n d o l l a r g i f t o n l y God r e l e a s e and y e t you got k i l l e d f o r n u t h i n * a t a l l So a f t e r t h i s t h e r e ' l l be no more hard t i m e s , no more bad t i m e s no more p a i n , no more chump change, nonna t h a t b u l l J u s t movies, museums and the h a l l of fame So a l l you h i p hoppers get on up and l e t ' s t a k e i t t o the top where we b e l o n g The age of the Beat S t r e e t wave i s here Everyone s i n g a l o n g , come on, say "ho" (ho) say "ho" (ho) and t o l e t me know I'm r o c k i n g the microphone, everybody say "Raymond" (Raymond) Say "Raymond" (Raymond) Rah A newspaper burns i n the sand and the h e a d l i n e s say man d e s t r o y s man E x t r a , e x t r a , read a l l the bad news on the war or peace t h a t everybody would l o s e The r i s e and f a l l of the l a s t g r e a t empire The sound of the whole w o r l d caught on f i r e The r u t h l e s s s t r u g g l e , the d e s p e r a t e gamble The game t h a t l e f t the whole w o r l d a shamble The c h e a t s , the l i e s , the a l i b i s and the f o o l i s h attempt t o conquer the s k i e s - l o s t i n space And what i s i t worth? The p r e s i d e n t j u s t f o r g o t about e a r t h Spending a l l time b a i t i n g [?] and maybe even t r a d i n g The c o s t of weapons ran i n t o z i l l i o n s There's g o l d i n the s t r e e t and t h e r e ' s diamonds under f e e t And the c h i l d r e n i n A f r i c a don't even eat F l i e s on t h e i r f a c e s , t h e y ' r e l i v i n g l i k e mice and the houses even make the g h e t t o look n i c e The water t a s t e s funny and i t ' s f o r e v e r too sunny and they work a l l month and don't get no money 207 "Beat S t r e e t " (cont'd) A f i g h t f o r power, a n u c l e a r shower A p e o p l e shout out i n the d a r k e s t hour The s i g h t s unseen and v o i c e unheard And f i n a l l y the bomb get the l a s t word k i l l , Germans k i l l Jews And everybody's body i s used and abused Minds are p o i s o n e d and s o u l s are p o l l u t e d S u p e r i o r i t y complex i s deep r o o t e d I l l e g a l [?] are l i c e n c e d and people got p r i c e s Egomaniacs c o n t r o l the s e l f - r i g h t e o u s N o t h i n g i s s a c r e d and n o t h i n g i s pure so the r e v o l a t i o n of death i s our cure H i t l e r , Caeser, C u s t e r and Reagan Napoleon, C a s t r o , M u s s o l i n i and B e gin Genghis Khan and the Shah of I r a n met through the b l o o d of the weaker man The p e o p l e ' s i n t e r r o r , the l e a d e r s made an e r r o r and now they can't even look i n the m i r r o r cause we g o t t a s u f f e r as t h i n g s get rougher and t h a t ' s why we've got t o get tougher So l e a r n from the p a s t and work f o r the f u t u r e and don't be a s l a v e t o no computer Cause the c h i l d r e n of man i n h e r i t the l a n d and the f u t u r e of the w o r l d i s i n your hands J u s t throw y o u r s i n the a i r and wave 'em l i k e you j u s t don't c a r e and i f you b e l i e v e t h a t you're the f u t u r e scream i t out and say "oh yeh" (oh yeh) "oh yeh" (oh yeh) Rah Beat S t r e e t - Breakdown - Rah [ i n the B e a t s t r e e t movie v e r s i o n the f o l l o w i n g g o s p e l - l i k e chant has been added] Everybody — do you b e l i e v e , l e t me hear you say "yeh" (yeh) They burned us so we became a f l o w e r ( b e l i e v e i t ) They gave up n o t h i n g so we took power ( b e l i e v e i t ) They t r i e d t o break us and now we're the b reaks ( b e l i e v e i t ) we're the h i p hop, we're g o i n g t o take i t t o the top They c a n ' t s t o p us ( b e l i e v e i t ) We are the f u t u r e and we w i l l succeed ( b e l i e v e i t ) We a r e the m i r a c l e , we are the s t r o n g We are the rap t h a t came from your own We make hope through our song r "Beats and Rhymes 208 OTFO 1984 F l y g i r l s , f e e l the groove Homeboys, bust the moves I ' l l beat some rhythms you can't r e s i s t Bust t h i s : B e a t s and rhymes Beats and rhymes Beats and rhymes Beats and rhymes The f u t u r e rap i s i n e f f e c t , so get up on the l a t e s t We're the b e s t and you can b e t , t h a t we are now the g r e a t e s t P l e a s e remember, don't f o r g e t you l o v e us, you don't hate us Stay on our s i d e , don't you b e t r a y us When you meet us, t r e a t us r i g h t , cause you need us You need us t o n i g h t , and you can't d e f e a t us Music e v o l v e d , the problem was s o l v e d P a r t y people must get i n v o l v e d So a l l the l a d i e s i n the p l a c e t o n i g h t We've got a rap we t h i n k w i l l make you f e e l r i g h t I t a i n ' t no problem, baby as you know The c u r t a i n ' s open, so we're gonna s t a r t the show So g i r s , don't you worry Don't you t h i n k about the t h i n g s you might have l e f t b e h i n d So g i r l s , don't you h u r r y Cause UTFO's MCs are f u l l of b e a t s and rhymes The beat has g o t t a be, g o t t a be f r e s h G o t t a be f r e s h t o impress the r e s t I t ' s g o t t a be b o l d , so you can a l l c o n t r o l Your emotions and f e e l i n g s so you won't grow o l d B e f o r e your t i m e , your t i m e , b e f o r e you reach your prime You're begging i n the s t r e e t , i n the s t r e e t f o r a n i c k e l and a dime W a i t i n g on the c o r n e r on the w e l f a r e l i n e Got t o be t h e r e at a q u a r t e r t o n i n e We're no f i c t i o n , we're f a c t , w i t h the rhyme s t y l e p a c t We e x p r e s s our f e e l i n g s and we never h o l d back Hey g i r l s , don't deny i t , don't knock i t ' t i l you t r y i t You hear t h i s r e c o r d , I a d v i s e you to buy i t Don't w a i t , don't h e s i t a t e Cause i f you do, you might be too l a t e Keep i t i n mind, don't waste no time UTFO i s f u l l of Beats and Rhymes The jam i s w o r k i n ' 209 "Beats and Rhymes" (cont'd) We got the Beats and Rhymes F u l l f o r c e ! Get F r e s h ! Don't s t o p the beat Don't s t o p the rhymes Don't s t o p the rhymes Mu s i c ' s one of a k i n d We got f r e s h Beats and Rhymes Gi v e us a chance t o blow your mind 210 " F i v e Minutes of Funk" Whodini 1984 [ e l e c t r o n i c r o b o t - l i k e v o i c e announces t h a t t h i s w i l l be " f i v e minutes of funk"] Now the p a r t y d i d n ' t s t a r t t i l I walked i n And I p r o b a b l y won't l e a v e u n t i l the t h i n g ends But i n the meantime and i n bewteen time I f you work your t h i n g and I work mine We came here t o g e t h e r so we c o u l d have f u n Me and you, baby, g o i n ' one on one Now t h i s i s the l a s t chance f o r us t o get o f f So e i t h e r get l o o s e or you oughta get l o s t Cause I'm j u s t about ready t o do my t h i n g Cause I'm a s t o n e - c o l d New York rap machine I'm gonna g i v e you what I got and, baby, t h a t p l e n t y And never has one man rocked so many I'm gonna make you wet and make you sweat J u s t t o see how funky you can get Now w i t h the motor mike I do s e r v e w e l l And I go by the name of the rapper J a l i l ( f o u r minutes of funk) Now s i t back, r e l a x , put on your head gear Get ready f o r a t r i p t hrough the atmosphere I'm gonna t a k e you f o r a r i d e through the t w i l i g h t zone I don't need a s p a c e s h i p , I use my microphone So h o l d on t i g h t , w i t h a l l your might Cause I ' l l be r o c k i n g l i k e t h i s f o r the r e s t of the n i g h t J a l i l , yo, your master rapper And when I'm on the motor mike, i t ' s a sheer d i s a s t e r Cause MCs crumble when we rumble Some t h i n k I'm s o f t j u s t cause I'm humble So a l l you MCs I hope you're r e a l good l i s t e n e r s Cause i n t h i s b a t t l e I'm t a k i n g no p r i s o n e r s I'm s l a y i n g MCs r i g h t on the spot Cause I'm the master of the r a p , the d o c t o r of the rock The j a c k of a l l t r a d e s , the master of one And the t h i n g I master i s c a l l e d h a v i n g f u n We got t h r e e minutes l e f t t o rock t h i s funk To s e p a r a t e the good s t u f f from the junk So, get i n the groove and f e e l the sound And once you're i n s i d e s pread y o u r s e l f around From the bottom t o the t o p , the top to the bottom Come on Master D and get funky w h i l e we got 'em ( t h r e e minutes l e f t ) 211 " F i v e Minutes of Funk" (cont'd) Me and my p a r t n e r from the s t a r t We used t o get t o g e t h e r a f t e r dark Sometimes we r a p , sometimes we s i n g In the summer or w i n t e r cause i t a i n ' t no t h i n g And ever s i n c e I f i r s t came round S i d e by s i d e we throwdown We came here t o t h i s here p l a c e To s e r v e you a l l r i g h t t o your f a c e Cause t h i s jam here i s our show s t o p p e r We d i d n ' t wanta use i t , but I guess we g o t t a We're the men of the hour, make the l a d i e s scream and h o l l e r Too hot t o t r o u t , too sweet t o be sour I'm gonna s e t the r e c o r d s t r a i g h t And I hope t h a t i t i s not too l a t e I f you want the be s t and won't s e t t l e f o r l e s s Put your money on me, I'm your best bet Come on, one f o r the t r o u b l e , two f o r the bass Three f o r the l a d i e s , f o u r f o r the pay F i v e minutes of funk, t h i s a i n ' t no junk So p u l l your bottom of the t r e e stump L a d i e s r e a l p r e t t y , from c i t y t o c i t y But now we're g e t t i n g down t o the n i t t y - g r i t t y From the bottom t o the t o p , the top t o the bottom I'm gonna rock 'em w h i l e I s t i l l get 'em Our r a p p i n ' shower has s t y l e and power And t h i s i s our d i s c o hour I don't know i f a l l of you. have heard So i t ' s up t o me t o spread the word About the man t h a t we f e e l has got t o be r e a l Our crowned p r i n c e of the wheels of s t e e l He goes by the name of Grandmaster D So i f i t ' s a l l r i g h t w i t h you, i t ' s a l l r i g h t w i t h me We're gonna rock you p e o p l e ' s minds w i t h ease We need some h e l p from the maestro, i f you p l e a s e (one minute l e f t ) 212 "The O l d S c h o o l " Kool K y l e & B i l l y B i l l 1985 [ K y l e ] W e ' l l do i t to you -- g e t f u n k y , get l o o s e , get down For the next two minutes your body i s mine I ' l l c o n t r o l your s o u l , dominate your mind The power of my v o i c e ' l i m i n a t e s a l l c h o i c e So r e l a x baby d o l l , get f r e s h to s t a y moist Now who do I t h i n k I am? The c h i l d s t a r K o o l K y l e I'm t a k i n g command of s t i m u l a t i o n — t h a t ' s what i t ' s a l l about I l i k e t o cause a scene, watch 'em scream and shout Rock 'em t o a f r e n z y , b r i n g them t o t h e i r knees Make 'em c l o s e t h e i r e y e s , say "Do i t , K y l e , p l e a s e " Not a f a n t a s y , pure r e a l i t y I'm the r e a l c h i l d s t a r , not a photocopy I put the "K" i n c o o l , rocked the o l d s c h o o l Broke a l l the r u l e s as I c o n t i n u e d t o groove Learned how t o rap Ever s i n c e t h a t day o t h e r MCs I began t o s l a y Show no mercy Wherever I went o t h e r MCs' egos I began to bend Had t o s t a k e my c l a i m i n the h a l l of fame Put a spark t o the f i r e , r e i g n i t e the flame D e d i c a t e my name and l e t everybody know K o o l K y l e i s back and I'm s t i l l the show I t ' s a f a c t , y ' a l l [ B i l l y B i l l ] I t ' s K o o l K y l e and B i l l y B i l l I'm the man w i t h the c o o l , the man w i t h the c h i l l I l i k e making l o v e , I don't l i k e f i g h t i n g I'm the man w i t h the words, I do the song w r i t i n g L i k e r o c k i n ' the house and moving a l o n g W h i l e the box's i n my hand, t h e y ' r e p l a y i n g my song See, we are the guys of a thousand t h r i l l s They c a l l him K o o l K y l e and I'm B i l l y B i l l L i k e the f i s h must swim and the b i r d must f l y We're b r i n g i n g MCs down -- I ' l l t e l l you why We're from the o l d s c h o o l and go way back G i v i n g o t h e r MCs a p a r t y a t t a c k We t a k e a funky rap and then we say i t We put i t on the waves and l e t the DJ p l a y i t [ K y l e ] W e l l , I took a l i t t l e t r i p , c o l d c h i l l i n ' f o r a w h i l e Everybody wanted t o know what happened to K y l e K o o l K y l e i s back, y e s , t h a t ' s a f a c t A i n ' t n o t h i n g you can do — so get used t o t h a t I'm a g r e a t beat b u s t e r w i t h a n i t r o sound I ' l l g i v e you a t a s t e t h a t might knock you down 213 "The O l d S c h o o l " (cont'd) I ' l l g i v e you f a i r w a r n i n g b e f o r e I s t a r t On my bedroom w a l l hangs a thousand h e a r t s Cause I'm t h e K double 0 R a i s e a l o t of h e l l and t a k i n g vows Put you i n a s p e l l K p l u s a Y and a L and the E From the boogie town r o c k , you know t h a t ' s me Now I l i k e the w i l d t h i n g every once and a w h i l e I need t o body r o c k , g i r l , y e s , t h a t ' s my s t y l e G r e a t , v e r s a t i l e , unique p r o f i l e K o o l K y l e s t a n d s a l o n e on top of the p i l e Never b i t e a rhyme t o save my l i f e Cause I'm always f r e s h - ev e r y day and n i g h t So a l l you new f e l l o w s b e t t e r beware P o l i s h up your rhymes and t r y t o p r e p a r e Because K o o l K y l e ' s coming — I'm here t o s t a y So pack o f f p e r p e t r a t o r s , get out of my way ( B i l l y B i l l i t ' s up t o you, now get on the mike and do the do) [ B i l l y B i l l ] L e t ' s t a k e a t r i p , l e t ' s go way back To the o l d s c h o o l when we l e a r n e d t o rap D i d n ' t need no b o o t h , when I l e f t home J u s t two t u r n t a b l e s and a microphone With a DJ beh i n d us t o s t a y on top Wh i l e me and K o o l K y l e bust funky rhymes So keep on, keep on T e l l a l l the o t h e r r a p p e r s t o go mow the lawn We've got a funky r a p , j u s t f o r you I t ' s K o o l K y l e , i t ' s B i l l y , too We do i t i n the E a s t , we do i t i n the West In the N o r t h , i n the South -- we're now the best We are the guys w i t h the f r e s h , f r e s h b e a t s Got people d a n c i n g a l l i n the s t r e e t s so i f you're from the o l d s c h o o l s t o p messin' around Don't l e t me down I'm from the o l d s c h o o l , my name's B i l l y B i l l And I'm r o c k i n ' from the v a l l e y t o the top of the h i l l I'm r e a l l y bad, l i k e a hook and a j a b I ' l l knock you out and t r y to k i c k your ass So come on down t o the p l a c e t o be And r o c k , rock t o the rhythm of l i t t l e o l d me Move your body t o the funky sound, g i r l Get on down and do i t , do i t , do i t Koo l c a n ' t r e s i s t , gonna rock t o the break of dawn 214 "La-Di-Da-Di n Doug E. Fresh & MC Ricky D 1985 OK p a r t y p e o p l e i n the house You're about t o w i t n e s s something you've never w i t n e s s e d b e f o r e Yes, i t ' s the o r i g i n a l human beat-box Doug E. F r e s h And h i s p a r t n e r , the grand w i z a r d , MC R i c k y D D-and t h a t ' s me and the p l a c e t o be We're g o i n g t o show you how we do i t f o r '85 K i c k i t l i v e , a l l r i g h t ? Because I have a funny f e e l i n g you're a l l s i c k of t h e s e c r a p r a p p e r s b i t i n g t h e i r rhymes because t h e y ' r e back s t a b b e r s But when i t comes t o me and my f r i e n d Doug F r e s h , here There i s no c o m p e t i t i o n cause we are the b e s t , yeh F i n e s s e , impress which we prove And y o u ' l l r e a l i z e we are the move So l i s t e n c l o s e so y ' a l l don't miss As we go a l i t t l e somethin' l i k e t h i s -- H i t i t [Doug E. Fresh s t a r t s to beat box] You know what? L a - D i , L a - D i , Da-Di, Da-Di, La-Di-Da-Di You know what - r e p e a t t h i s - La-Di-Da-Di We l i k e t o p a r t y , we don't cause t r o u b l e , we don't bother nobody We're j u s t some men who are on the mike And when we rock upon the mike we rock the mike - r i g h t For a l l y ' a l l k e e p i n g y ' a l l i n h e l l J u s t t o see you s m i l e and e n j o y y o u r s e l f Cause i t ' s c o o l when you cause a cozy c o n d i t i o n That's what we c r e a t e cause t h a t ' s our m i s s i o n So l i s t e n t o what we say because t h i s type of s h i t i s happens everyday I woke up around t e n o ' c l o c k i n the morning I g i v e myself a s t r e t c h and a mornin' yawnin' Went t o the bathroom t o wash up Had some soap on my f a c e and my hand upon a cup I s a i d , " m i r r o r , m i r r o r on the w a l l who i s the top c h o i c e of them a l l ? There was rumble-duble, f i v e minutes i t l a s t e d The m i r r o r answered, "You a r e , you c o n c e i t e d b a s t a r d " W e l l , t h a t ' s t r u e , t h a t ' s why we never have no beef So then I washed o f f the soap and brushed the g o l d t e e t h Used o i l of o l a y cause my s k i n g e t s p a l e Then I got the f i l e s f o r my f i n g e r n a i l s Chewed through the n i g h t , and on my b e h a l f I put the bubbles i n the tub so I c o u l d have a bubble b a t h C l e a n , d r y , was my body and h a i r I threw on my brand new G u c c i underwear For a l l the g i r l s t h a t I might take home I got t h e Johnson's baby powder and the P o l o c o l o g n e F r e s h , d r e s s e d l i k e a m i l l i o n bucks 215 "La-Di-Da-Di" (cont'd) Threw on the V a l i e shoes and the f l y green s o c k s Stepped out of my house, stopped s h o r t -- "Oh, no" I went back i n , I f o r g o t my kangol Then I d i l l y - d a l l i e d , I ran through an a l l e y I bumped i n t o my o l d g i r l , S a l l y , from the v a l l e y T h i s i s a g i r l p l a y e d hard t o g e t , so I s a i d , "What's wrong?" cause she l o o k e d upset She s a i d , " i t ' s a l l because of you I'm f e e l i n g sad and b l u e You went away and now my l i f e i s f i l l e d w i t h r a i n y days And I l o v e d you so, how much y o u ' l l never know Cause you took your l o v e away from me [ c r y i n g ] Now what was I t o do? She was c r y i n g over me, she was f e e l i n g b l u e I s a i d "don't c r y , dry your eye, here comes your mother w i t h those two l i t t l e guys" Her mean mother stepped up, s a i d t o me, " h i " Looked S a l l y i n the f a c e and decked her i n the eye Punched her i n the b e l l y and stepped on her f e e t Slammed the c h i l d on the hard c o n c r e t e The b i t c h was s t r o n g , the k i d s was gone Something was wrong, I s a i d , "what i s g o i n g on?" I t r i e d t o break i t up, I s a i d , " s t o p i t , l e a v e her" She s a i d , " i f I c a n ' t have you she can't e i t h e r " She grabbed me c l o s e l y by my socks So I broke the h e l l o u t , l i k e I had the c h i c k e n pox But she gave chase, she caught up q u i c k She put a f i n g e r i n the f a c e of MC R i c k She s a i d , "why don't you g i v e me a p l a n So we can go c r u i s i n g i n my OJ And i f you g i v e me t h a t OK, I ' l l g i v e you a l l my l o v e today R i c k y , R i c k y , R i c k y c a n ' t you see Some how your words j u s t h y p n o t i z e me And I j u s t l o v e your j a z z y ways, oh, MC R i c k My l o v e i s here t o s t a y " And on and on and on and on, she kept on The b i t c h been around b e f o r e my mother's born I s a i d , "Cheer up" and gave her a k i s s I s a i d , "You can't have me, I'm too young f o r you, m i s s " She s a y s , "no, you're n o t " then she s t a r t s c r y i n g I s a y s , "I'm n i n e t e e n " she s a y s , " s t o p l y i n g " I s a y s , " I am, go ask my mother, and w i t h your w r i n k l e d pussy I c a n ' t be your l o v e r " (he, he, he) t i c y t i c t i c you don't s t o p t o the t i c toe you don't q u i t H i t i t [ b e a t b o x i n g ] "Is I t L i v e ? " 216 Run-D.M .C. 1986 The microphone master D.M.C. causes 1-2-3-4 c a s u a l t i e s Y o u ' l l be p r a i s i n g D down on your knees cause I'm popping and jump-stomping a l l MCs Connect, d e j e c t and c o l l e c t r e s p e c t Get down t o the sound cause I come d i r e c t So when I w r i t e , don't b i t e and I might check And i f I f i n d your b e h i n d I ' l l break your neck I t ' s world-renowned rapper ready t o have fun You reason w i t h the r e c o r d cause i t ' s made by Run I t ' s def -- you were l e f t i n a t o t a l s t u n So bust the moves w h i l e I prove whose number one Got q u a l i t y and s k i l l both beyond b e l i e f Do I s t e a l ? Be f o r r e a l , I'm not a t h i e f D i c t a t o r and h a t e r — I b u i l t t h a t beat That's r i g h t , I can f i g h t and I'm the c h i e f P e o p l e i n the p l a c e don't put D down I'm the microphone master, the b e s t around There's not too many of my type and a l l rap t i t l e s I w i l l swipe You see me t a l k i n g t o a g i r l A sweet young t h i n g w i t h j e r r i - c u r l s I n e v e r , ever wore a b r a i d Got the p e e z i e s t [?] h a i r and s t i l l get p a i d W e l l I'm d r o p p i n g MCs w i t h j u s t one punch Cause I'm the baddest on the boat They c a l l me C a p t a i n Crunch S l a y i n g MCs, making them walk the plank and w a t c h i n g them w h i l e they swab the deck w h i l e I count my bank I'm the w i z a r d of words, the r u l e r of rap Not s o f t , not a s u c k e r , c o u l d never be a sap You might get j a c k e d cause you t a l k c r a p When I b u s t my rap they a l l s t e p back I'm p l a y i n g on s t a g e , Run's on my l e f t On h i s r i g h t , on the mike, I r e c i t e "I'm def" because e v e r y p e r f o r m e r i s o n l y a l l gonner Keep a l l s i s s y s o f t s u c k e r s o f f my c o r n e r . [ I s i t l i v e ? — r e p e a t e d s e v e r a l times t o the tune of the Memorex commercial] Cause D a r y l Mack would do t h i n g s l i k e t h a t Cause I'm a s o p h i s t i c a t e d sound, not s o f t or sour I t ' s s e r v i n g you s u c k e r s , s e l l i n g dreams i n the shower I t ' s r o c k i n g t h i s p a r t y - hour, hour, a f t e r hour I f a g i r l i e t r y t o p i n me? (What's up w i t h t h a t ? ) I won't a l l o w her 217 "Is I t L i v e ? " (cont'd) C o o l c h i e f r a p p e r , I see a g i r l and tap her Then I take her on the dance f l o o r I f she don't dance I s l a p her The g i r l s t a r t t o c r y and the crowd ask me why I f Run says "Dance", you do or d i e 218 "My Rhyme A i n ' t Done" LL Cool J 1987 The P r e s i d e n t wake and he c a l l e d the Pope He asked the, L o r d t o r a i s e M i c h a e l a n g e l o from the dead so he c o u l d make a f r e s h p a i n t i n g of my head Then I hung out w i t h the K i n g and the Queen and the Queen put me down w i t h a p o l o team The way I s c o r e d p o i n t s a l l around the c l o c k I had t h e i r d a u g h t e r , the P r i n c e s s , r i d i n g my jock I knocked the f r e a k o f f l i k e a c r a z y r e t a r d Then I took a l i t t l e t r i p i n t o a deck of c a r d s The diamond j a c k , j o k e r and the ace of spades was amazed at Cut C r e a t o r on the fade Then I p l a y e d c a r d s w i t h the queen of c l u b s The queen of h e a r t s and me f e l l c o l d i n l o v e As f o r the queen of diamonds -- she don't l i k e men cause you know t h a t a diamond i s a g i r l ' s b e s t f r i e n d The double t r o u b l e spade, was named a duce and the j o k e r a c t e d s t u p i d so we gave him the news There were 52 c a r d s and I met everyone That s t o r y i s o v e r , but my rhyme a i n ' t done. Then I took a t r i p t o the c e n t r e of the e a r t h I was k i n d a s c a r e d so E Love went f i r s t I met these funny l o o k i n g p e o p l e , they c a l l them s k e e z e r s so h e l d onto my w a l l e t l i k e Ebenezer T i g h t l e a t h e r pants t h a t w i l l make you g r u n t Two n i c e s o f t t h i n g s r i g h t up f r o n t The c e n t r e of the e a r t h a i n ' t got no crime j u s t people body r o c k i n g t o the LL rhyme I f you're k i n d a c o n f u s e d about what a s k e e z e r i s I t ' s j u s t a g i r l whose on my jock cause I'm i n Show B i z There were a whole l o t of s k e e z e r s — I dogged everyone That s t o r y i s o v e r , but my rhyme a i n ' t done Woke up l a t e i n the a f t e r n o o n r e a l i z e d I was i n the w o r l d of c a r t o o n s He-Man t o l d me he'd beat me up because he thought I l o o k e d l i k e Donald Duck Then I hung out w i t h Spiderman He t o l d me he was g o i n g t o s t a r t a comic s t r i p band The i n c r e d i b l e Hulk was g o i n g t o p l a y the drums C h a r l e s Brown grabbed a g u i t a r and s t a r t e d to strum Snoopy t r i e d t o rock on the microphone but Tom and J e r r y both s a i d he s h o u l d l e a v e i t a l o n e Then I hung out w i t h Mickey Mouse He had two f r e a k s , so we went t o h i s house Mickey's f r e a k was u g l y , but mine was def so I knocked i t o f f t i l l t h e r e wasn't none l e f t There were c a r t o o n c h a r a c t e r s and I met everyone That s t o r y i s o v e r , but my rhyme a i n ' t done 219 "My Rhyme A i n ' t Done" (cont'd) S i n c e I'm a good f r i e n d of F a t h e r Time I'm not g e t t i n g o l d e r as I say t h i s rhyme I was warm i n the snow a t the Alamo B e f o r e • — I s t o l e the show I was down w i t h George at the Delaware but I wore a K a n g o l , not the fa k e w h i t e h a i r Me and E Love met S i t t i n g B u l l We made a peace p i p e , then we took a p u l l Then he brought more l e a v e s from a g o l d e n c h e s t He thought i t was t o b a c c o , the s h i t was c e s t There was a l o t of g r e a t men and I met everyone That s t o r y i s o v e r , but my rhyme a i n ' t done E l e v e n t h i r t y - t h r e e , I swear i t ' s no sooner I went i n s i d e my T.V., met the Honeymooners Ralph wanted me t o bust a c o u p l e of rhymes but I had my eyes on A l i c e ' s b e h i n d N o r t o n came down r i g h t about t h a t time l o o k i n g i n the f r i d g e so we c o u l d swine and d i n e Then I s a i d t o mysel f I s h o u l d g i v e them a t a s t e so I p u l l the microphone out of my b l a c k b r i e f c a s e S a i d i t a i n ' t Bob Hope or B a r r y Manilow Then I borrowed Norton's hat cause I f o r g o t my Kangol R a l p h s a i d , " I got a scheme, l e t me get t o i t — N o r t o n , my p a l " I s a i d , "Yo, don't even do i t " They were a l l Honeymooners and I met everyone T h i s s t o r y i s o v e r , but my rhyme a i n ' t done Cause my tongue i s s h a r p , I h i t a note l i k e a harp L i k e a harmonica v e r o n i c a [?] I do my p a r t In a bedroom w i t h l e g room, I'm s h o r t l i k e a monsoon C h i l l e d , mauwi-wauwi, I c a r r y a harpoon — s t y l e A l i c e ' s s m i l i n g cause we got i l l Wrote my name on a rock at the top of the h i l l I s e r v e d a l l the ways, made l o v e i n caves I k i c k e d the L b e a s t [?] and made the n a t i v e s rage Now I'm g o i n g t o t e l l you what a l l t h i s means From Thomas B o u l e v a r d , S t . A l b i n s , Queens There's a l y r i c a l t e c h n i c i a n who came t o p l a y Number one B-Boy — LL Cool J A l l of t h i s i s j u s t a s t o r y t h a t I made up Def l i n e s I say on time as Cut C r e a t o r c u t s Some of i t ' s f i c t i o n , some of i t ' s f a c t Not another comic rap w i t h a heavy drum t r a c k A whole l o t of rhymes and I wrote e v e r y one That s t o r y i s over and my rhyme i s done 220 "Go See the Doctor" Kook Moe Dee 1987 I was w a l k i n g down the s t r e e t , r o c k i n g my beat C l a p p i n g my hands and stomping my f e e t I saw a l i t t l e l a d y so neat and p e t i t e She was so sweet -- Ya, I wanted t o meet her So I asked t h i s l a d y i f I c o u l d t a k e her out We c o u l d wine and d i n e and t a l k about the b i r d s and the bees and my waterbed And you can t r e a t me l i k e a Buddha and bow your head We c o n t i n u e d t o t a l k and b e f o r e you knew i t we were at my house and i t was time t o do i t As soon as I'd f i n i s h e d I l o s t my p o i s e Ran o u t s i d e and t o l d a l l my boys I s a i d , " L i s t e n up f e l l o w s , come over here - bust i t " They s a i d , "Did you get i t ? " I s a i d , "Ya", they s a i d , "How was i t ? " The poontang was dope and you know t h a t I rocked her But t h r e e days l a t e r — go see the d o c t o r I r o c k e d her t o the l e f t , I rocked her to the r i g h t She f e l t so good, hugged me so t i g h t I s a i d , "Good n i g h t " Three days l a t e r , woke up f u s s i n g , y e l l i n g and c u s s i n g D r i p , d r i p , d r i p p i n g and p u s s , p u s s , p u s s i n g Went i n t o the bathroom and s a i d , "Mummamia" I'm g o i n g t o k i l l t h a t g i r l next time I see her The madder I got the more I r e m i n i s c e d Why was my t h i c k t h i n g b u r n i n g l i k e t h i s ? W e l l I remember the f i r s t day I saw t h a t g i r l I j u s t c o u l d n ' t w a i t t o rock her w o r l d I s a i d , "Hey, good l o o k i n g , what'd you got c o o k i n g ? " What have I done s t u c k my d i c k i n And now I know why her e x - b o y f r i e n d Dave c a l l s her Mrs. Microwave Cause she was h o t t e r than an oven and I had to l e a r n the hard way Sta y i n a microwave too l o n g , you get burned But the poontang i s dope and you know t h a t I rocked her But t h r e e days l a t e r — go see the d o c t o r I went t o the d o c t o r ' s o f f i c e , I s a i d , "What do I g o t ? " He s a i d , "Turn around, boy, and tak e t h i s s h o t " I l o o k e d a t him l i k e he was c r a z y and I s a i d , "What — a i n ' t nobody s t i c k i n n o t h i n ' i n my b u t t " He t u r n e d and s a i d , i n a r e a l deep v o i c e "Have i t your way i f t h a t ' s your c h o i c e I ' l l put i t down i f you want me t o put i t But don't blame me i f i t t u r n s i n t o a f e e t Extended from the mi d d l e of your body And next time you see a c u t e h o t t y [?] You won't be a b l e t o screw, the o n l y t h i n g you can do i s k i c k her So go take k a r a t e 221 "Go See the Doctor" ( c o n t ' d ) As I t u r n e d around t o r e c e i v e my i n j e c t i o n I s a i d next time I ' l l use some p r o t e c t i o n I f I see another g i r l and I g e t an e r e c t i o n I'm w a l k i n ' i n the o t h e r d i r e c t i o n Cause I don't want t o do the s i c k , s i c k dance So I'm k e e p i n g my p r i c k i n s i d e my pants And i f I see another g i r l and I know I can rock her B e f o r e I push-up I ' l l make her go see the d o c t o r 222 " P r o t e c t Y o u r s e l f " The Fat Boys 1987 Yo, K o o l , I'm t e l l i n ' y o u , t h e r e ' s a l o t of d i s e a s e out t h e r e Word! AIDS and e v e r y t h i n g , man, yo, you g o t t a be c a r e f u l man Word up! Yo, so we want t o t e l l a l l the homeboys out t h e r e T h i s i s a message comin' from the Fat Boys Fat Boys! Fat Boys! You know what I'm s a y i n ' ? I t goes l i k e t h i s Now, t h e r e ' s something r e a l o l d , but s t i l l hot news I t ' s been around s i n c e L i n c o l n , but out of view You'd s t u f f i t i n your w a l l e t so your mom can't see I t ' s c a l l e d a condom, baby, and you b e t t e r b e l i e v e I t a i n ' t under the s h e l f , now, i t ' s on d i s p l a y With a l l t h i s d i s e a s e g o i n g around today You need peace of mind when you do the w i l d t h i n g So, a condom, b r o t h e r , don't f o r g e t t o b r i n g P r o t e c t y o u r s e l f ! Word! p r o t e c t y o u r s e l f ! Get busy! P r o t e c t y o u r s e l f ! M a r k i e Dee can you get f u n k y , now? Now check t h i s o u t , l i s t e n t o me r e a l c l e a r Now, i f what I say sounds a l i t t l e b i t s l e a z y I f u s i n g a condom makes you f e e l k i n d of queasy Don't take i t too hard 'cause t h e r e ' s no doubt That modern d i s e a s e s can ta k e you out So, don't be ashamed, ta k e one when you go d a n c i n ' And use the condom f o r a l i t t l e romancin' Cause b e i n g s a f e don't mean you're weak And you won't f i n d y o u r s e l f up the creek P r o t e c t y o u r s e l f ! Word! P r o t e c t y o u r s e l f ! Homeboy! P r o t e c t y o u r s e l f ! My man, i f I was you, I' d . . . P r o t e c t y o u r s e l f ! APPENDIX II 223 G L O S S A R Y bad b a t t l e b-boy, b - g i r l beat box b i t e blow someone away blow someone's mind bomb boogie box, boom box break something down breakdown b u f f bug out bu s t bust l o o s e burn burner c e s t - good - a h i p hop c o m p e t i t i o n - o r i g i n a l l y a b r e a k d a n c e r , now any h i p hopper or someone "down" w i t h h i p hop; someone w i t h the s t y l e of a h i p hopper - an e l e c t r o n i c drum machine - t o s t e a l someone's m a t e r i a l - t o k i l l someone; t o impress someone; to beat someone i n a c o m p e t i t o n - t o m a n i p u l a t e a n o t h e r ; t o i m p r e s s ; t o overwhelm - p r o l i f i c g r a f f i t i w r i t i n g - t o move e n e r g e t i c a l l y ( e s p e c i a l l y t o danc e ) ; i n t e n s e energy - l a r g e p o r t a b l e r a d i o and tape deck - t o make sense of something - go w i l d i n a p o s i t i v e sense of d i s p l a y i n g i n t e n s e energy and enthusiasm - t o e r a s e or c l e a n o f f g r a f f i t i ( e s p e c i a l l y from subway t r a i n s ) - g o i n g w i l d and c r a z y i n a p o s i t i v e sense; g o i n g f u l l o u t , f a s t and f u r i o u s ; t o m y s t i f y , t o impress w i t h a d i s p l a y of o r i g i n a l i t y ; a c t i n g n o n - s e n s i c a l or s t r a n g e i n a n e g a t i v e way - t o do something w i t h e n t h u s i a s m ; t o outdo an opponent - an e x p l o s i o n of uncensored emotion - t o shoot someone dead; t o beat or show up an opponent i n a " b a t t l e " - a g r a f f i t i p i e c e which shows up an opponent; a e s t h e t i c a l l y s u p e r i o r g r a f f i t i - h i g h q u a l i t y m a r i j u a n a c h i l l c h i l l out c o l d b e t t y c o l d c r u s h i n g c o l o r s c o o l c r u s h g r o o v i n ' crew cu t def d i s DJ (do) you know what time i t i s (?) dog down down by law f l y f l y guy, f l y g i r l f i e r c e f r e a k 224 - c o o l , "bad" - t o r e l a x ; t o remain calm or a l o o f - sweat - p o w e r f u l , d e v a s t a t i n g - s p e c i f i c a l l y c o l o r e d c l o t h e s use t o i d e n t i f y gang member - e m o t i o n a l l y s t e a d y ; i n c o n t r o l ; s t y l i s h ; p o s e s s i n g the c o r r e c t a t t i t u d e or c h a r a c t e r i s t i c s - s e r i o u s p a r t y i n g - a h i p hop group - t o s t a b ; t o beat someone i n c o m p e t i t i o n ; to d i s p a r a g e or har a s s - a t t r a c t i v e ; r e a l l y good ( d e r i v e d from • d e a t h 1 ) - t o show d i s r e s p e c t - d i s c j o c k e y - b e i n g aware, knowledgeable about a s i t u a t i o n - t o m e t a p h o r i c a l l y d e s t r o y ; t o embarass, put down, mess w i t h ; t o take f o r g r a n t e d ; to d i s r e p e c t - t o be p a r t o f , i n w i t h , a group, a c t i o n or i d e o l o g y - p o s s e s s i n g c l a i m t o a u t h o r i t y , s a n c t i o n e d , l e g i t i m a t e ; s i g n i f i e s a v e t e r a n or e x p e r t - h a v i n g o r i g i n a l or c o o l s t y l e ; a t t r a c t i v e , w e l l - d r e s s e d ; b e i n g w i l d - a t t r a c t i v e , s t y l i s h , c o o l person of the o p p o s i t e sex - o u t s t a n d i n g - name of a p o p u l a r dance i n the l a t e 70's; an e n t h u s i a s t , someone who shows o f f whatever they have or do, outdoes o t h e r s ; an a t t r a c t i v e but s t r a n g e g i r l 225 f r e a k (out) f r e s h f r o n t funk funky f r e s h get down get over g e t up go ( r o c k ) a l l c i t y h a n g i n g out h i t me, h i t i t h i t on homeboy, h o m e g i r l human beat b o x i n g i l l i l l i n ' i n the house jam - t o have a r e a l l y g r e a t t i m e ; t o l o s e c o n t r o l , engage i n w i l d or b i z a r r e b e h a v i o u r - f a n t a s t i c , b e a u t i f u l , g r e a t ; new and d i f f e r e n t - t o p r o j e c t a f a l s e image, show o f f , f a k e i t ; t o be i r r e s p o n s i b l e - e a r t h y , s e x u a l , n a t u r a l ; i l l - k e p t , s m e l l y i n d i s r e p a i r - s u p e r l a t i v e l y good - t o be s e r i o u s , i n t e n t l y i n v o l v e d , aware; do something e x c e p t i o n a l l y w e l l ; to dance - t o overcome a s i t u a t i o n , d i f f i c u l t y ; t o s u r v i v e ; t o a c h i e v e or a c c o m p l i s h - t o w r i t e one's g r a f f i t i name, e s p e c i a l l y i n l a r g e amount and o f t e n - t o have one's g r a f f i t i name on a l l major subway l i n e s or throughout the c i t y - a p r i n c i p l e a c t i v i t y i n the g h e t t o r e f e r r i n g to b e i n g i n the s t r e e t s , i n v o l v e d i n i n f o r m a l s o c i a l a c t i v i t i e s , c a s u a l c o n v e r s a t i o n or l o o k i n g f o r something to do - t o impress w i t h your s k i l l ; to encourage " b r e a k i n g l o o s e " - t o make s e x u a l advances, o f t e n i n v o l v i n g a d i s p l a y of v e r b a l p e r s u a s i o n - someone from you n e igbourhood; someone who s h a r e s your s t y l e or i d e o l o g y ; comrade, companion - v o i c e i m i t a t i o n of a drum machine - l o o k s bad or i s p o o r l y done - a c t i n g u n p r e d i c t a b l y , s i l l y , i n t e n s e - at a p a r t y - a r e c o r d , a song, a p i e c e of music or a dance j e t s e t jo c k j u i c e k i n g lame MC on one's jock p a r t y people p i e c e poontang posse put some weight on i t rack raw r o c k i n g s c r a t c h i n g s e r v e s k e e z e r s o f t s o u l 226 f a s t , used i n r e f e r e n c e t o s e x u a l l y a c t i v e females o e n i s i n f l u e n c e , power, fame, money, the a b i l i t y t o a c c o m p l i s h and succeed a g r a f f i t i master w r i t e r , acknowledged as be s t i n h i s area or subway l i n e i n e f f e c t i v e , weak r a d i o or d i s c o t h e q u e master of cer e m o n i e s ; h i p hop rapper r e f e r e n c e t o a p o s s e s s i v e , demanding or s e x u a l l y a g g r e s s i v e female t h o s e who share the h i p hop s t y l e and i d e o l o g y ; a t t e n d e e s of a dance e l a b o r a t e or s u p e r i o r g r a f f i t i mural v a g i n a ; ' l o v e j u i c e s ' same as crew; group of c l o s e f r i e n d s to a p p l y y o u r s e l f ; a t t a c k the s i t u a t i o n w i t h v i g o u r to s t e a l p a i n t s f o r g r a f f i t i w r i t i n g g r e a t ; new to do something w i t h h i g h energy ( e s p e c i a l l y any rhy t h m i c movement l i k e d a n c i n g ) ; t o do something ( e s p e c i a l l y p erform) very w e l l ; t o e x c e l ; t o compete w i t h s t y l e ; t o s t i m u l a t e t o an e m o t i o n a l h i g h ; t o engage i n s e x u a l i n t e r c o u r s e b a c k c u i n g a r e c o r d t o c r e a t e a d e s i r e d sound e f f e c t t o outdo or beat someone i n " b a t t l e " h i p hop e q u i v a l e n t t o a g r o u p i e ; s e x u a l l y a c t i v e and a v a i l a b l e female l a c k i n g p otency; t o be e a s i l y t aken advantage of the e x p r e s s i v e n a t u r e which has come to c h a r a c t e r i z e b l a c k c u l t u r e 227 s p o r t s t a l e s t u p i d s u c k e r t a g t a g g i n g t a k e out throwdown t o the b r i d g e t o y t r a n s f o r m t u r n i t (you) out wack(whack) wheels of s t e e l whiz o f f w i l d s t y l e word! t o have, buy or wear s t y l i s h m a t e r i a l goods; t o l e n d such goods u n o r i g i n a l , o l d b i z a r r e b e h a v i o u r , c r a z y , " goofy"; s u p e r l a t i v e l y or e x t r a o r d i n a r i l y g r e a t i n c ompetent; w i t h o u t i n t e g r i t y one's g r a f f i t i or s t r e e t name w r i t i n g one's name i n p u b l i c s p a c e s , e s p e c i a l l y subway t r a i n s t o beat an opponent i n a c o m p e t i t i o n t o f i g h t ; t o compete; a c o n t e s t , e s p e c i a l l y of dance; t o dance e n e r g e t i c a l l y and i m p r e s s i v e l y ; t o do something e x c e p t i o n a l l y w e l l and w i t h r e a l z e a l t o p e r f o r m your b e s t ; a q u i c k a g g r e s s i v e move used t o 's c o r e ' (both an a l l u s i o n t o the b r i d g e i n music and the b r i d g e on a b a s k e t b a l l hoop) i n e x p e r i e n c e d ; amateur or b e g i n n e r ; l a c k i n g commitment v o i c e i m i t a t i o n of the TV c a r t o o n c h a r a c t e r s the T r a n s f o r m e r s to ' d e s t r o y ' w i t h a show of f o r c e or s k i l l s u b s t a n d a r d ; i n c o r r e c t ; p o o r l y performed; u n o r i g i n a l t u r n t a b l e s p i s s o f f to be the best at whatever you do w i t h your l i f e ; h i p hop s t y l e which i s p a r t i c u l a r l y w i l d and e l a b o r a t e ; a c o n t o r t e d g r a f f i t i s t y l e which i s p a r t i c u l a r l y d i f f i c u l t t o read a f f i r m a t i o n t o acknowledge or support a s t a t e m e n t ; t h a t ' s r i g h t I , how t r u e I 

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