Monday, August 15, 2011
Hip Hop as Social Commentary
Hip Hop as Social Commentary: Born in the midst of generational change, the hip-hop subculture can be viewed largely as an artistic response by African Americans to the unfulfilled promises of the Civil Rights Movement. In the 1970s and 1980s, black New Yorkers, especially in the Bronx, Harlem, Queens, and Brooklyn, struggled with various pathologies of the postmodern ghetto. Such pathologies included high teen pregnancy rates, high abortion rates, high suicide rates, high dropout rates, high homeless rates, high crime rates, high unemployment rates, and high disease rates. In particular, the sheer level of rat infestations in Section 8 public housing complexes was deadly at times. But it's important to remember that not all urban blacks considered themselves "victims" in a larger socio-political struggle. Black agency was certainly evident in the hip-hop subculture that grew from what were perceived by outsiders as dire conditions. And often, it's from the most severe oppression that the most unique creativity stems. Take the above video for example, which entails New York City rapper Nasir Jones (Nas) in his early days. Ironically, Jones hails from the largest public housing project in North America (Queensbridge, Queens).