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role of hiphop dance on american youth culture

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Early hip-hop was not all about music. It was composed of non-musical elements such as graffiti and B-Boying that used different approaches to address the central issues of agency and resistance against a culture they perceived belligerent. Also, this non-violent approach contrasted heavily with the White Americans perception of African-Americans movements as violent. Conversely, early Hip-Hop movements relied on the underground to thrive and increase their fan base, as well as showing the message of the struggles of the Black community. Hence, to understand the reach of Hip-Hop as a catalyst of the American urban youth’s wishes and desires, it is important to analyze it not only as a music genre, but as a cultural manifestation that managed to appeal the marginalized areas of the country as well as the wealthy suburban environments, creating a culture that has grown exponentially in the past thirty years.
However, in its beginning and as a result of this underground antics, the culture adopted a series of stylistic devices meant to separate them from the mainstream African-American musical manifestations of the time such as the Funk music. Instead of focusing on the individual, early Hip-Hop movement emphasized the collective nature of living. Afrika Bambaataa, one of the precursors of the Hip-Hop movement in the 70s said, referring to his nascent movement that it was about “knowledge, wisdom, and understanding as well as peace, unity, and having fun” However, with the violence most of its adherents experienced throughout their day, it is not a surprise that the movement was considerably violent in their rhetoric.

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Still, this violence was more lyrical, verbal and figurative than real. Hence, Hip-Hop was born charged with a myriad of symbols and language that stemmed from the language and behaviors of the young, urban African-Americans who mostly came from violence-filled neighborhoods or projects. Nevertheless, a counter-cultural phenomenon such as Hip-hop would not develop isolated from the reality. On the contrary, it is a manifestation of a series of social conditions and human agency. Consequently, it is possible to say that without the 1980s New York environment, Hip-Hop would not have existed as it does today. Hence, these transformations that intended to give freedom of choice and thought to the oppressed black ghettoes of the South Bronx are a modern echo of the African-American tradition of resilience and struggle that has characterized Black Civil Rights movements since the abolition of slavery in 1865.
That way, although the Bronx served as the flashpoint from which a new cultural paradigm would emerge and a standard that would encompass a plethora of marginalized youth searching for their identity, Hip-Hop served as the catalyst of the creative energies of countless individuals in America, regardless of their culture and their socioeconomic level. Consequently, it is interesting how Hip-Hop appeals to youth that have no association with the original intentions of the culture. Hence, it seems that these forbidden cultures have a strong hold in other cultural contexts where they are not accepted and regarded as something different, bringing together the youth that felt out of place in their suburban environments. These individuals who like their urban counterparts, felt marginalized, were brought together by the Hip-Hop, a culture that that focused on often forgotten issues and aimed to find if not a solution, at least an explanation. Therefore, instead of resorting to actual violence, these early manifestations of the subculture sought to offer a more in-your-face attitude that showed the problems African-Americans faced instead of hiding them.
Thus, the Hip-Hop culture developed a series of distinctive symbols or elements that encompassed its cultural identity. For instance, B-boying became one of the most important parts of the Hip-Hop culture, serving as a different method of expression for those who had different abilities that were not related to rapping or drawing. Moreover, dancing is one of the first manifestations of the human cultures and allows them to communicate in ways that are often more powerful and emotional than words. Likewise, the movement is an in an inherent part of any culture. Dance reflects the inner working of an individual in a way world could never do. It might be conceptual in its nature and have a series of steps and rules, but it is emotional in its execution. For this reason, B-boying can be considered as one of the most authentic elements of the Hip-Hop culture, as, through its movements, it aims to convey the nature of the performers’ lives and experiences, along with their experiences. Seen in that optic, the soul of the Hip-Hop culture is within those who use it to express themselves in ways that although might reflect violence, use that violence to achieve something, not to showcase their “uniqueness” and “thugness.” Ultimately, youth culture pertains to a myriad of youth interests and behaviors, and Hip-Hop is not alien to such conception. Hip-Hip as a culture has managed to appeal youth outside of its main area of influence, impacting the African-Americans along with the rest of the world population. While the appeal of the culture can be difficult to explain, its unique combination of self-expression and emotional content has managed to seize the world and carve a place in the lives of millions of people in the world.
Johnson, I.K. “B-boying and Battling in a Global Context: The Discursive Life of Difference in Hip Hop Dance.” Alif: Journal of Comparative Poetics 31 (2011).
Jonas, Gerald. Dancing: The Pleasure, Power, and Art of Movement. New York: Harry N. Abrams, 1992.
Sklar, D. “4.” In Remembering Kinesthesia: An Inquiry into Embodied Cultural Knowledge. University of Minnesota Press, 2008.
Taylor, C.S,, and V. Taylor. “Hip-Hop and Youth Culture Contemplations of an Emerging Cultural Phenomenon.” Reclaiming Children and Youth 12, no. 4 (2004).

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