Academic journal article The Journal of Hip Hop Studies

Stunning the Nation: Representation of Zimbabwean Urban Youth Identity in Some Songs by Stunner

Academic journal article The Journal of Hip Hop Studies

Stunning the Nation: Representation of Zimbabwean Urban Youth Identity in Some Songs by Stunner

Article excerpt

Hip Hop as a music genre has become one of the hottest sensations among youth, not only in America but the world over. Consequently it is necessary to attempt to define Hip Hop and to understand the historical influences surrounding its emergence. Hip Hop is defined as a culture and form of ground breaking music and self-expression, which consists of four basic elements: deejaying, emceeing, breakdancing and graffiti (Stavrias: 2005, Morgan and Bennett: 2011). Stavrias (2005) goes a little further to elucidate on these four basic elements of hip hop. He posits that deejaying is when the deejay creates hip hop's music by playing the break section of the record, cutting from one break to the next and matching the tempo to make a smooth transition that a crowd can dance to or an emcee can rhyme to. Breakdancing refers to the extremely physical dancing style that is danced to the beats of Hip Hop music. Emceeing is the method of vocal delivery of Hip Hop's music commonly known as rapping. Graffiti is the process of writing one's tag with a marker or spray paint on a wall in a public space and painting murals. Morgan and Bennett (2011) aptly capture these four basic elements of Hip Hop when they assert that Hip Hop,

"...is the distinctive graffiti lettering styles that have materialised on walls worldwide. It is the latest dance moves that young people perform on streets and dirt roads. It is the bass beats and styles of dress at dance clubs. It is local MCs on microphones with hands raised and moving to the beat as they shout out to their crews" (1).

From these insights one gathers that Hip Hop does not simply refer to the music developed by African-American youth, it refers to the music as well as the arts, media and cultural movement and community developed by black American youth. Levy (2001) acknowledges these basic elements of Hip Hop but goes further to assert that Hip Hop is,

"a global subculture that has entered people's lives and [has] become a universal practice among the youth the world over. From a local fad among black youths in the Bronx, it has gone to become a global practice, giving new parameters of meaning to otherwise locally and nationally diverse identities."(134)

Central to Levy's explanation is the contention that it would be simplistic for one to consider Hip Hop merely as a music genre, it is in fact a way of life. It refers to the aesthetic, social, intellectual and political identities, beliefs, behaviours and values produced and embraced by its members (Morgan and Bennett: 2011). Stavrias (2005) concurs with Morgan and Bennett when he maintains that Hip Hop is more than a style of music, it is a youth lifestyle that has evolved from its humble beginnings in the Bronx in the early 70s into a cultural and economic phenomenon of global proportions. Taking Levy, Stavrias and Morgan and Bennett's insights as points of reference, one is led to the understanding that Hip Hop has become a force to be reckoned with, because it has cultural associations that cannot be overlooked.

Another important dimension to Hip Hop is the fact that it is predominantly immersed in youth activity and is emblematic of the black populace. This is an important dimension because "youth" and "black race" are illustrative of subalternity. Being a youth is associated with immaturity, deficiency, vulnerability, neglect and deprivation (Munchie: 2004), while being a black person reflects a painful history of oppression and dehumanisation by imperialist forces. This means that through Hip Hop the subaltern has found another artistic way of expressing themselves, and Hip Hop has become another mode through which the subaltern can be understood.

Taking the debate from the argument that Hip Hop is a genre of the subaltern it becomes necessary to gain some insight into the socio-political milieu surrounding the development of Hip Hop. There are debates surrounding the origins of Hip Hop with some scholars arguing that Hip Hop has its roots in the West African diasporic art form of the griot (Keys: 2002). …

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