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Nyssa Shawstad's Take on Hip-Hop

Hip-hop is a culture that includes graffiti, break dancing, dj-ing and lyricism. It is a label that also encompasses the myriad aspects of the culture ranging from fashion and social to history and politics. Overall it is meant to be a form of oppositional expression questioning the mainstream. As Melisa said it is an attempt to “reunite marginalized community in a positive way against oppression�. Often attributed to a cluster of artists in the Bronx in the early 70s, hip-hop has expanded to become a mainstream culture itself.
As hip-hop has moved past a localized manifestation confined to a select group it has lost some of its unifying characteristic. Particular regions have their own styles and language that are directed at a specific audience. Furthermore there is an increasing categorization of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ hip-hop that escapes consensus. While most agree that commercial hip-hop and rap is more popular for its head bopping beats and big label backing, therefore ‘bad’; there is less agreement on what qualifies as ‘good’.
Simply being commercially successful is in a way ‘good’ as the message is sent to so many more receivers. However frequently the lyrics are devoid of any oppositional stance and are simply glamorizing questionable elements of the hip-hop life style. The focus on bling bling and misogyny towards women are two examples of this. It reinforces negative viewpoints instead of unifying and oppressed people. At the same time it reconfirms stereotypical expectations of the mainstream.
The current hip-hop debate is especially pronounced in academia as universities try to include this influential way of life in scholarly pursuits. The ever changing culture and general distrust of establishments can further confuse the situation. To be respected in academic circles one needs background in a variety of fields that can simultaneously remove a certain amount of credibility within the street community. It is important for ‘experts’ to have grounding in both worlds yet maintain their objectivity to effectively contribute to a meaningful discussion of hip-hop.