Academic journal article Afro-Americans in New York Life and History

Gender Politics of Hip-Hop and Hip-Life Music in New York and Ghana

Academic journal article Afro-Americans in New York Life and History

Gender Politics of Hip-Hop and Hip-Life Music in New York and Ghana

Article excerpt

Introduction

Over the last thirty years, hip-hop has become a national phenomenon that was cultivated out of the youth resistance movement that emerged in the South Bronx of New York during the 1970s. It ultimately transformed its segment of popular culture into a worldwide entity. Known as the headquarters of hip-hop, the South Bronx continues to serve as its birthplace. It is a community where Black and Latino Youth used their creative voices of expression to speak out against poverty and inequity in American society through emceeing, djing, breakdancing and graffiti. Several factors set the stage for hip-hop's emergence in the seventies, including, but not limited to: job loss, cutting of music programs, migration of Black middle class from the Bronx, white flight, the building of the Cross Bronx Bridge Expressway, increased drug trafficking, and the rapid building of housing projects that did not provide families with a good quality of life. Although hip-hop started as an underground movement that spread from the South Bronx community to other areas of New York, one song on the radio spurred its international growth.

In 1979 the Sugar Hill gang's song "Rappers Delight" put hip-hop on the map as a new innovation of popular culture. While there were other hip-hop artists who were notable contributors to its success--the God Fathers of hip-hop: Gil Scot Heron, DJ Kool Here, Afrika Bambaata and Grandmaster Flash--their music was not selected to be played on the radio. The late Gil Scot Heron was famous for his song "The Revolution Will Not Be Televised" which critiqued the mass media for its representation of the Black community. DJ Kool Here was known for his signature song "Apache" and the invention of the breakbeat. Afrika Bambaata formed Zulu Nation, a group named after the fdm Shaka Zulu (1964) to represent the uniting of gangs in the South Bronx community. Grand Master Flash was known for the quick mix theory and the song "The Message." Hip-Hop had a powerful impact on youth across New York, New Jersey, California, and several other states. Each community had their own cause to fight and resist. By the late eighties and early nineties, police brutality became the center of discussion. NWA's "F*** the Police" (1988) addressed excessive force in the Compton community of California with its own unique style. It was not long before hip-hop became a global phenomenon in the 1980s spreading to France, Japan, Ghana, South Africa, and Nigeria.

Although many people are aware of the transformative nature of hip-hop in New York, most are unaware of the transnational influence of the New York-born musical subculture in the continent of Africa. One such genre emerged in the early 1990s in Ghana--hip-life. It is the combination of African American style hip-hop (e.g., rapping) and highlife music created by Ghanaian youth. It is not just a blend of other forms of music, but it is a combination of local rhythms like the Adowa, (1) instruments such as Kpanlogo drums (2), xylophones, flutes, thumb pianos, and samples of old highlife favorites like Alhaji Frimpong, Abrechieba Kofi Sammy, CK Mann, Gyedu Blay Ambolley, Amakye Dede, Nana Tufour, and A.B. Crenstil. Reggie Ossei Rockstone, (3) a famous Ghanaian musician, introduced hip-life music to Ghanaian youth by infusing styles and lyrics with traditional African music when he returned from London in 1994. Rockstone not only transferred hip-hop's style to Ghana, but he integrated it into Ghanaian cultural music for the youth. In hip-life, hip-hop's cultural values remained intact, such as the social consciousness to engage in political struggle, the wearing of various fashion trends, and the style of rapping. Hip-life music gained its popularity through television, radio, nightclubs, music videos, local drinking spots in Ghana, and through the circulation of newspapers, CDs, and cassettes.

JJC, a Nigerian hip-hop artist created a four-part documentary entitled Afropop: The Rise of African Hip-Hop, focusing on how hip-life has given youth a new type of African identity. …

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