Introduction: Locating the Culture of Hip Hop
Adam de Paor-Evans [+]
University of Central Lancashire
The introduction critically locates the scope of the work, the line of inquiry and the research methods used within the book. It begins with a brief description of its New York origins, but with a hint towards the theme of the non-urban, before moving into an insightful discussion about the four elements of Hip Hop these being graffiti, rap, turntablism and breakdance, and how their practices interrelate. What are also explained at this point are the nuances within each element (for example the differences between Hip Hop music, rap music and electro), and the dialectics between their representations, which are less documented or explored on an academic stage. When one considers Hip Hop culture, it is forgivable to conjure up images, sounds and tropes that represent certain moments in the evolution of Hip Hop. From its inception on August 11th, 1973 at Kool DJ Herc’s party at 1520 Sedgwick Avenue, The Bronx, New York City, through to the golden era revivalist sounds of Action Bronson in 2016, Hip Hop is laden with representations. Hip Hop is the master culture of appropriation and re-imagining. A truism is that the culture bore something out of nothing, as if that were possible, and what that actually transcribes is that Hip Hop borrowed the most relevant and apposite parts of other cultures, subcultures and counterparts through organic, often subconscious appropriation and reimagining of these other parts mutated into the multi-tangential culture we are now familiar with. The birth of Hip Hop has been documented extensively by others, and whilst furthering this evidence is not the intention here, it is necessary to explore these conditions to some extent in order to frame the purpose of this book. The moment of Hip Hop’s arrival of in Britain has not been polarized in a similar way to the birth of Hip Hop at Kool Herc’s party. Perhaps this is due to the existence of a defined Hip Hop culture elsewhere, so Hip Hop’s British appearance manifested as a form of adoption rather than a gestation period followed by a fixed date of birth, and this is explored further in chapter 1. It is also important here to state that although the birth of Hip Hop is attributed to the party on 11th August 1973, the origins of the culture are not so simple to pinpoint. Hip Hop is a complex culture and its evolution through the decade between 1973 and 1983 was fast, contradictory and incredibly multifarious; continuing to reinvent its parts collaboratively, independently and tangentially, yet with all its material production and practice it remained Hip Hop. Its outputs were variable, yet its quality assessable, its actions spoke louder than words, and concurrently its words spoke stronger than its actions. The culture of Hip Hop is a palimpsest, it is a state of mind, and it is this understanding of Hip Hop that underpins this book. Chapters 2 to 6 critically and thoroughly explore the previously unmapped location and relocation of Hip Hop within a set of non-urban British contexts to address the questions surrounding acquired history, cultural hybridity, and critical regionalism. The book then concludes with the final chapter that astutely positions the development of non-urban British Hip Hop as a hybrid culture that functioned between the regionalist, de-regionalist and the global in order to make sense of the world, and equipped its practitioners with a critical line of inquiry with which to approach everyday life. The research methodology uses mixed methods, and draws extensively upon accounts and semi-structured interviews with the non-urban pioneers of British Hip Hop, artefact and photographic analysis, literature review and autoethnographic and ethnographic study. The period between 1983 and 1993 is explored as this ten year period offers a time that the most transformative practices in British Hip Hop occurred in order to support the premise of the book.