Hip-Hop Leaps into World Youth Culture Series: Businessman Naoyuki Yoshizumi Joins Other Tokyo Arcade-Goers in the Popular Game 'Dance Dance Revolution,' Where Players Try to Match the Moves of a Computer-Generated Partner - Who Critiques Their Steps. BY SHIZUO KAMBAYASHI/AP 3) CHRIS JENKINS 4) RAP STAR'S LEGACY: Monsieur Adams, Second from Right, Poses with Fellow Members of His Gang, Called 'Makavelli' after an Album by Late US Rapper Tupac Shakur, Whose Image Adorns Parts of Johannesburg. BY CHRIS JENKINS 5) HIP-HOP OFFSHOOT: A Greek Graffiti Artist Worked outside an Athens Train Station during the City's First Graffiti Festival Last Year, Which Also Featured Hip-Hop Concerts and BMX Bicycle Exhibitions. BY YANNIS BEHRAKIS/REUTERS

Article excerpt

It's been called "hip-hop nation." But it might be more accurate to refer to it as "hip-hop world."

In the 20 years since hip-hop first made its mark on the American music scene with the hit "Rapper's Delight," by the Sugar Hill Gang, hip-hop has become a phenomenon that is echoing around the world.

Born in the black subculture of America's inner cities, and closely identified with the spoken rhymes of rap, hip-hop is the umbrella term for a lifestyle that embraces music, language, attitude, and dress. And while black artists like Grammy winner Lauryn Hill dominate record sales - hip-hop became the largest selling music in the US last year, outstripping country and western - its appeal transcends race. A generation of youth is embracing hip-hop's sound and its baggy- pants style - from Los Angeles to Tokyo, Indonesia to Israel, South Africa to South America. "The sound is so radically new," says Kurt Loder of MTV News, describing hip-hop's danceable riffs, which are often built on computer-driven "samples," or snippets of music from popular rock songs, instead of traditional recordings of instruments. "There's a rebellious aspect of it," he says. "For white kids, it's a way to distance themselves from their parents. You can't be a rock fan when your parents are old rockers." In fact, rap music, which is at the core of hip-hop culture, has caused plenty of controversy: Many rappers have been criticized for writing lyrics that glorify violence, drugs, and abusive attitudes toward women. At times, the violence has spilled onto the streets - notably with the 1996 shooting murder of singer Tupac Shakur in what was believed to be part of a rivalry between rappers on the East and West Coasts of the US. But as it has grown in popularity, hip-hop has transcended much of that controversy, with artists working to convey broader messages: Lauryn Hill sings of spiritual salvation; the all-white group Beastie Boys is active in the Free Tibet movement; and bands like Molotov, in Mexico, have used their music to criticize government leaders. "{Hip-hop musicians} see themselves as truthful chroniclers of what's happening, either in their hearts or on the streets," says Sarah Willie, a professor of sociology and head of the Black Studies Program at Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania. "The idea that it would be more and more attractive to teenagers around the world, as the world becomes smaller through technology, makes a lot of sense." The "global village" effect accounts for much of hip-hop's worldwide appeal. MTV reaches millions of homes around the globe, transmitting the latest sounds and styles to even the remotest areas. The Internet has fueled an explosion of information. "I don't see hip-hop dying down anytime soon," says Ms. Willie. "It's probably going to go through different permutations ... in different parts of the world. That's what will be really interesting." JOHANNESBURG On a busy corner in Yeoville, a neighborhood where children shout and wail in Xhosa, Zulu, and Afrikaans, stands a makeshift barbershop of canvas and steel rods where you can get a $2 haircut and a slice of American pop culture. The establishment, slightly larger than a telephone booth, is a shrine to Tupac Shakur. Posters and sketches of the late hip-hop artist, remembered and loved by many for his unsparing portrayals of life in inner-city America, cover the shop's interior. The proprietor, Shaku Biserat, a teen with deep-set eyes, has even asked his family and neighborhood friends to call him "Tupac." "All the things he sings about are the things that happen in real life to me and my friends," says Mr. Biserat. "The way we grew up, the poor life, is the life Tupac lived. And he made it out .... That's what we want, too." The young barber's passion for American hip-hop artists is shared by a growing number of young people in post-apartheid South Africa. Many teens here say the gritty and sometimes controversial lyrics of American rappers, while describing life in inner-city America, often reflect the conditions that South Africans face in townships and squatter camps. …


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