The Relocation of Hip Hop: Planet Rock, Buffalo Gals, and the Trans-Atlantic
Adam de Paor-Evans [+]
University of Central Lancashire
Following the critical locating of Hip Hop culture given in the main introduction, this chapter focuses attention on the catalysts and mechanisms that brought Hip Hop to Britain, how and why the phenomenon exploded as it did. The chapter’s introductory section ‘On Relocation’ discusses firstly the conventional cultural context of certain semi-rural areas including parts of Devon, Wales and Scotland and begins to frame the question of cultural acquisition and appropriation. The next section includes an in-depth analysis of Planet Rock by Afrika Bambaataa and Soul Sonic Force (1982), Style Wars (1983) directed by Tony Silver and Henry Chalfant and Subway Art (Chalfant and Cooper, 1984) alongside other media portrayals of Hip Hop such as Jeffrey Daniel’s famous backslide dance move on Top Of The Pops in 1982 and Breakdance You Can Do It! (Various, 1984), and their importance for the birth of British Hip Hop. Globally renowned graffiti writer, KILO, specifically recalls: We were sat around listening to Crucial Electro 2 and Planet Rock, I’d never heard anything like it, it blew me away, and I had to find out about this electro. I didn’t even really know the kid who had the tape, but I went back to his house the following day to ask him about it, that sound was so exciting. One of the interesting points about Planet Rock is that producer Arthur Baker had recreated via synthesizer Kraftwerk’s Trans Europe Express (1977), but the youth discovering Hip Hop in 1984 (when Crucial Electro 2 was released featuring Planet Rock), were unaware of this previous experimental electronic music. Those that became fully engaged like KILO, traced the history of the appropriated music embedded within Hip Hop records, and commenced a contextual journey of discovery, which whilst is commonplace in Hip Hop, the British context differs greatly, as without the block parties and pirate radio stations of New York, they only had the artefacts themselves as points of departure. Section two, ‘Buffalo Gals’, takes the artefact analysis deeper, and discusses the video for Buffalo Gals by Malcolm McLaren and The World’s Famous Supreme Team (1983) and its subsequent Duck Rock album contextualized through the staged Hip Hop radio show, British life, broader media and other music culture of the time. Throughout these sections, tropes and emblems which act as signifiers and the signified are highlighted and drawn into a theoretical discussion framed by both Gadamer and Ricœur’s approach to signs and hermeneutics. It is at this point the first ideas surrounding a possible critical regionalism found in Hip Hop culture are raised. The final section ‘The Trans-Atlantic’ links the observations and analysis in this chapter with Bhabha’s concept of mimicry and Hebdige’s meanings of style, and triangulated with further key insights from interviews with non-urban British Hip Hop pioneers attests the critical points of arrival of Hip Hop in Britain, and constructs a contextual schism with conventional British life. Emphasis is made in this chapter of the extent and depth of cultural relocation, and photographic evidence further documents Hip Hop’s far reach into the rural corners of Britain, and substantiates that urban centres served as lungs that inhaled and exhales Hip Hop.