By Jineea Butler
Hip Hop has celebrated its heritage in recent weeks on many different platforms showcasing its rich love for the art form and its accomplishments. Events such as the Hip Hop Education Think Tank III, the Universal Zulu Nation’s 40th Anniversary, and the 2nd Annual Global Spin Awards are among the examples of the powerful output Hip Hop’s Citizens take pride in producing.
I have had the honor of seeing and exploring the many facets of the body of Hip Hop. It’s more than what’s being reported and leads me to ask myself what truly makes a Hip Hop Citizen. It is not just Black, it is not just Hispanic, or Asian, it is not just reserved for certain White people. You have the flashy, the educated, the hardcore, the feminist etc., but there is something about the Hip Hop Connection you get when you meet someone of any color who has pledged their allegiance to the life of Hip Hop.
I’m sure my peers would agree when I say that Hip Hop Citizens can recognize each other anywhere, but the most amazing testament to Hip Hop Culture is the many sub-cultures within the culture. On any given day you can experience Hip Hop in one form or another, but can the natural eye identify the distinct differences within these sub-cultures? I think not. You will find that the attire Hip Hop Citizens wear directly relates to the generation and element they represent. There are four generations and five elements. The Art of DJing, MCing, Bboying, Grafitti, and Knowledge can also be interpreted as producing, rapping, dancing, visual art and education.
People seem to gravitate to one element and master the art of the element. The elements make up the body of Hip Hop. The dilemma is that the elements make up the body, but the body of Hip Hop groups do not interact with one another. It’s another case of divide and conquer.
For instance, I went to three great, important and relevant events in a span of two weeks that were very much Hip Hop, but each audience was distinctly different and only concerned with advancing the work of the group they represented. At the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, the Hip Hop Education Center presented theHip Hop Think Tank III where Educators from around the world gathered to legacy build and cultivate a global cipher from the streets to the classroom.
Steps away at the National Black Theater in Harlem, the Universal Zulu Nation celebrated the birth of Hip Hop for an entire four days and honored Icons Ernie Paniccoli and had concerts with Ice Cube, Ice T, Chuck D and more. The DJs assembled in first class style at the Times Center in NYC for the 2nd Annual Global Spin Awards; DJ Scratch, DJ Irie, Kid Capri, Kendrick Lamar, Pete Rock, Maino, and DJ Drama were some in attendance who represented Bad Boy President Shawn Prez’s vision for the show. With all Hip Hop has been responsible for building and creating, I think we miss the most intricate piece, that is when we allow our energies to flow together. The elements that make up the body need to connect and know its many different parts.
What the media will have you see is the downside of what it looks like to be a Hip Hop Citizen. They zero in on the raunchiest element and magnify the worse characteristics. At times it makes it almost impossible to stay committed to the life of Hip Hop. But what many of us find is that just as we are Black or White, we are Hip Hop and just as Zebras, we can not change our stripes.
While we watch in agony as members of our Junior Union wear their pants below their butts, we know they are identifying with a sub-group. Hip Hop yields a lot a power but unless we spend time evaluating the intricate details of our already complex picture, we will not be able to reach our fullest potential and communication lines will continue to break down until we will be sustaining ourselves with nothing.
So much is going on around us, sometimes we don’t take the time to see where we have been to mark the map so the future generations will know where we are going. We spend so much time being busy, we forget to look to the left and the right at our fellow Hip Hop Scholars, Activists, Artist, Educators, Producers, DJ’s, Fashion Designers, Executives etc. The day we can finally stop separating ourselves is the day the world will be liberated.
Jineea Butler, founder of the Social Services of Hip Hop and the Hip Hop Union is a Hip Hop Analyst who investigates the trends and behaviors of the community and delivers programming that solves the Hip Hop Dilemma. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or Tweet her at @flygirlladyjay.