« The Gospel according to the Greenham Women? | Main

Hip-Hop as Movement?

I was listening to MPR this morning and heard a discussion with Bakari Kitwana. In the discussion he commented on hip hop as the "new movement" for political action for Black youth. He argues that the Baby Boom Generation grew up in a world in which they witnessed lynchings and violent racism, which led to participation in the Civil Rights Movement. Kitwana argues that the generation that grew-up without viewing the extremely overt racism has had to create their own space for resistance. This space was found in hip-hop. Throughout the semester we have debated the definition of "social movement." What is a a social movement? What characteristics do they possess? Is it important to have a definition?

What does it mean to label something, such as hip-hop, a social movement? This seems to stretch the definition of what a social movement is. If any of you get a chance, you may want to track down the transcript on MPR's website. The discussion was extemely interesting, especially in light of our discussions in this course and Ron's seminar. Any thoughts?


Actually, there is a book that addresses this very thing. Todd Boyd has a book called The NHNIC where he does argue that hip hop and its surrounding culture has replaced the "Civil Rights Movement" for black Americans. He goes further to say that Civil Rights was more along MLK's vision and not radical enough to change conditions as hip hop now seems to allow.

To answer your question more directly, I think if hip hop is a movement, then we have to come to terms with movements being as phenomenon or meaning. At the same time, those who identify with hip hop do change behaviors, dress, etc. accordingly with the space they are creating for themselves. An incomplete answer here, but there is definitely work out there that supports this NPR report.

I haven't had a chance to check out the NPR report, but I have done some work (in a past, undergraduate life) on the rhetoric of hip hop. It seems to me that Jess's question about hip hop as a social movement raises an interesting point that hasn't really come up yet in our dicussions. That is, what is the relationship between social movements and subcultures? To me, hip hop is more easily understood in terms of subcultural studies, but perhaps there's a case to be made about seeing hip hop as a social movement. Very interesting. Another question comes to mind: are subcultures a form of new social movement?

Social movements have objectives, hip-hop has no objective to speak of, so to claasify it as a social movement presents some hugh challenges. Hip-Hop is a form of musical expression. It is no more of a social movement then say R&B, or Jazz. Sakuo Toure states that songs will emerge from the movement, the movement does not emerge from the songs. A song never sparked a social movement. Lastly, for anyone to suggest that hip-hop has replaced or supplanted the Civil Rights agenda has simply lost touch with reality.