The Original Voice of the Ghetto
“Hip-Hop has different elements dealing with music, rap, graffiti art, b-boys (what you call break boys)… and also dealing with culture, and a whole movement dealing with wisdom and understanding, as well as peace unity and fun." - Afrika Bambaataa
"Hip-Hop is more than music. Hip-Hop has crossed cultural boundaries that other music genres never crossed. Hip-Hop is not only the music you listen to, but the way you walk, talk, dress and act. Hip-Hop is a state of mind. An entire generation, thirty years strong. We are the Hip-Hop generation. Rap is what we do. Hip-Hop is how we live!" - KRS One
The Original Voice of the Ghetto
In an era long before, Curtis and Kanye sat atop, what is today referred to 'hip-hop' bickering over record sales, long before Def Jam and Death Row introduced the world, and well before Queens and South Bronx sized each other up for the inter-borough 'Roxanne Wars' there was hip-hop. It stood as a culture, a code of ethics and way of life in the shadows of the mainstream. Even before a Jamaican legend plugged in his Herculoids on Sedgwick and Cedar and warlord Bambaataa turned gangs into entertainers, there was hip-hop, although at least now we're getting warmer. Like an 'Omerta' within a punk and disco scene an almost secret society breathed silently underground throughout the five points of New York. A generation of aerosol artists scrawled their identities and turf in a format recognisable only unto themselves, gangs roamed within and without these limits bound by honour and code. They spoke in their own language, dressed in stylised uniforms and gate-crashed parties to battle crews in careful choreography. This was unknown by most and unappreciated by anyone outside their culture. It would take over the globe, encompassing race, religion and region through four main elements. This was hip-hop, and we live and die for it!
The way you walk, the way you talk and the way you dress, and being real carried hip-hop. This ran through the truest essence of it's culture. Freedom fighters fought for civil rights for their offspring who evolved with their brand of urban civilisation. They in turn inevitably exercised these rights and freedoms to be who the fuck they wanted to be! The power and responsibility commanded by the hip-hop industry today had no place in the four main elements that were bound together to create a way out for a damned generation otherwise trapped in a perpetual cycle of ghetto irrelevance. This was a chance to escape the pressures of economic struggle and authority and stand alongside those of the same concerns and express themselves at any throw-down in the neighbourhood. In New York's Bronx during the early 1970's a rose grew from concrete, the “Boogie-Down” Bronx was ablaze with enthusiasm behind every struggle. This is where we begin our journey to the biggest phenomenon in today's popular culture.
“B-Boying is the bastard child of hip-hop, graffiti is the black sheep, DJing is the obedient child that always does what it's told. And rap is the spoiled brat who is actually the youngest of the four." - Robert 'Crazy Legs' Colon
Early hip-hop was a cultural evolution germinated from four elements which held strong the same beliefs of freedoms and expression. Graffiti, deejays, b-boys and emcees make for the cornerstone of a legacy. Like Crazy Legs quoted, the MC was the brat of the family and not seen till later in the development, although today they are rewarded with all the credit of hip-hop over the other three components. Evolution has it's own way of developing, regardless. The original “Voice of The Ghetto” before the deejay and emcee took the mic and turned up the volume, graffiti started as one of the very first expressive movements of ghetto youths and gave artists the impression of New York boroughs as one big free vacant canvas on which to bring both colour and emotion to. Modern graffiti pre-dates the hip-hop culture by over a decade, but still carries the same purpose and unwritten code. Adolescents confused with a broken compass of direction or identity and armed with an ethos of anti-everything brazenly formed posses, clicks or even street gangs. They started “tagging” on playground walls marking the dawn of an era within the emerging cook pot of the Boogie-Down borough to “bombing” on the New York transit authority rail. The youth trapped in a sub-culture of an anti-establishment punk rock had yet another way to define themselves in a muddled quest for fame and notoriety. Before every teenager was a DJ or MC rockin’ small park jams and house parties, and sporting fresh Adidas kicks and Kangol hats cutting up the floor with raw spasmodic dance routines in the break of a song, punk kids were expressing themselves by way of aerosol art. You were down with the scene, doing it your way. Though many of New York's residents found this offensive and were not appreciative of this expressive art and pigeon-holed this simply as vandalism, this adversary only made it stronger and the birth of graffiti took New York by stranglehold.