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Hip-Hop

For more on Hip-Hop and its impact on the arts and culture, connect to ArtsEdgE, the Kennedy Center’s digital learning project:

A KENNEDY CENTER GUIDE

www.artsedge.kennedy-center.org/students/hip-hop

david M. rubenstein Chairman Michael M. Kaiser President darrell M. Ayers Vice President, Education and Jazz Programming garth ross Vice President, Community Engagement

One Mic: Hip-Hop Culture Worldwide, a program of Arts Across America, is made possible through the generosity of the Charles E. smith Family Foundation.

www.kennedy-center.org/artsedge ArtsEdgE is an education program of the Kennedy Center. to learn more about education at the Kennedy Center, visit: www.kennedy-center.org/education

To me, hip-hop says, ‘Come as you are.’ We are family… It’s about you and me, connecting one to one. That’s why it has universal appeal.

—Hip-Hop pioneer DJ Kool Herc

the contents of this guide have been developed under a grant from the U.s. department of Education and do not necessarily represent the policy of the U.s. department of Education. You should not assume endorsement by the Federal government. © 2014 the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts

Whether you trace it to New York’s South Bronx or the villages of West Africa, hip-hop has become the voice of a generation demanding to be heard.

—author James McBride


The Birth of a Movement W

henever a generation starts to find its voice, people listen. And nothing today has gotten people’s attention like Hip-Hop. this cultural and artistic movement has emerged to express the hopes, fears, styles, and dreams of a generation—one making the most of its turn at the mic. Nothing comes from nothing, and Hip-Hop is no exception—except that Hip-Hop is all about making something out of nothing. so, while its young originators were living in urban America, its roots reach back into the storytelling traditions of West Africa, sound systems in 1960s Jamaica, the fearless wordwork of Harlem’s Last Poets in the 70s, and dance parties in the Bronx in the 70s and 80s.

It was at such a party in 1973 where dJ Kool Herc earned his pioneering reputation. He introduced the blueprint for a new style of music by spinning two copies of the same record at the same time, manipulating them to isolate and extend the percussion breaks in songs. Other dJs—notably Afrika Bambaataa and grandmaster Flash—embraced Herc’s techniques to fill the dance floor, raise the roof, and plot a fresh cultural course. soon, others joined the movement— rappers, breakers, and graffiti artists among them—to turn what could have been a craze into a culture. today, 40 years after its start, Hip-Hop has helped generations mature their talents and elevate their voices.

What to Look and Listen For

H

ip-Hop has impacted everything from music and dance, to visual, literary, and theater arts—with an underlying code of agency and empowerment. Here are sights and sounds—known as the “elements” of Hip-Hop—at play today:

MUSIC. the most high-profile of Hip-Hop’s art forms, its music is built on two disciplines: dJing and rapping. dJing is the realm of the turntablist who mixes, matches, juggles, and extends music and beats. rapping, aka MCing, takes improvised and lyricized spokenword poetry and lays it atop a beat.

DANCE. Originally known as “breaking,” Hip-Hop’s dance style is a fluid, sometimes ferocious choreography of steps, spins, acrobatics, and martial arts. Classic moves include popping, locking, freezes, and power moves. the dancers are known as b-boys and b-girls—with the b equaling “break.” THEATER ARTS. Hip-Hop culture sends all its artistic elements onstage in pursuit of cooperation and collaboration. Music, dance, and the visual arts combine to create multimedia reflections on life’s trials, triumphs, and wonders.

LITERARY ARTS. Hip-Hop evolved from street slang into a growing performance poetry scene where wordsmiths create new literary forms that are embraced by educators and schools, the publishing house, and the playhouse. VISUAL ARTS. graffiti, or “writing,” is the most familiar expression of Hip-Hop in the visual arts. Commonly cursed by city officials, graffiti displays urban artists’ fearsome and funny visions on walls, overpasses, water towers, subway trains—whatever and wherever the artist can reach. today, Hip-Hop inspires the working worlds of fashion, video, film, and commercial art.

KNOWLEDGE OF SELF. spreading its message of personal responsibility and identity, Hip-Hop has become a shared culture of knowledge, wisdom, and understanding that transcends barriers of race and religion, gender and generation, class and nationality, and is transforming how people worldwide engage art, society, and life.


The Birth of a Movement W

henever a generation starts to find its voice, people listen. And nothing today has gotten people’s attention like Hip-Hop. this cultural and artistic movement has emerged to express the hopes, fears, styles, and dreams of a generation—one making the most of its turn at the mic. Nothing comes from nothing, and Hip-Hop is no exception—except that Hip-Hop is all about making something out of nothing. so, while its young originators were living in urban America, its roots reach back into the storytelling traditions of West Africa, sound systems in 1960s Jamaica, the fearless wordwork of Harlem’s Last Poets in the 70s, and dance parties in the Bronx in the 70s and 80s.

It was at such a party in 1973 where dJ Kool Herc earned his pioneering reputation. He introduced the blueprint for a new style of music by spinning two copies of the same record at the same time, manipulating them to isolate and extend the percussion breaks in songs. Other dJs—notably Afrika Bambaataa and grandmaster Flash—embraced Herc’s techniques to fill the dance floor, raise the roof, and plot a fresh cultural course. soon, others joined the movement— rappers, breakers, and graffiti artists among them—to turn what could have been a craze into a culture. today, 40 years after its start, Hip-Hop has helped generations mature their talents and elevate their voices.

What to Look and Listen For

H

ip-Hop has impacted everything from music and dance, to visual, literary, and theater arts—with an underlying code of agency and empowerment. Here are sights and sounds—known as the “elements” of Hip-Hop—at play today:

MUSIC. the most high-profile of Hip-Hop’s art forms, its music is built on two disciplines: dJing and rapping. dJing is the realm of the turntablist who mixes, matches, juggles, and extends music and beats. rapping, aka MCing, takes improvised and lyricized spokenword poetry and lays it atop a beat.

DANCE. Originally known as “breaking,” Hip-Hop’s dance style is a fluid, sometimes ferocious choreography of steps, spins, acrobatics, and martial arts. Classic moves include popping, locking, freezes, and power moves. the dancers are known as b-boys and b-girls—with the b equaling “break.” THEATER ARTS. Hip-Hop culture sends all its artistic elements onstage in pursuit of cooperation and collaboration. Music, dance, and the visual arts combine to create multimedia reflections on life’s trials, triumphs, and wonders.

LITERARY ARTS. Hip-Hop evolved from street slang into a growing performance poetry scene where wordsmiths create new literary forms that are embraced by educators and schools, the publishing house, and the playhouse. VISUAL ARTS. graffiti, or “writing,” is the most familiar expression of Hip-Hop in the visual arts. Commonly cursed by city officials, graffiti displays urban artists’ fearsome and funny visions on walls, overpasses, water towers, subway trains—whatever and wherever the artist can reach. today, Hip-Hop inspires the working worlds of fashion, video, film, and commercial art.

KNOWLEDGE OF SELF. spreading its message of personal responsibility and identity, Hip-Hop has become a shared culture of knowledge, wisdom, and understanding that transcends barriers of race and religion, gender and generation, class and nationality, and is transforming how people worldwide engage art, society, and life.


Hip-Hop

For more on Hip-Hop and its impact on the arts and culture, connect to ArtsEdgE, the Kennedy Center’s digital learning project:

A KENNEDY CENTER GUIDE

www.artsedge.kennedy-center.org/students/hip-hop

david M. rubenstein Chairman Michael M. Kaiser President darrell M. Ayers Vice President, Education and Jazz Programming garth ross Vice President, Community Engagement

One Mic: Hip-Hop Culture Worldwide, a program of Arts Across America, is made possible through the generosity of the Charles E. smith Family Foundation.

www.kennedy-center.org/artsedge ArtsEdgE is an education program of the Kennedy Center. to learn more about education at the Kennedy Center, visit: www.kennedy-center.org/education

To me, hip-hop says, ‘Come as you are.’ We are family… It’s about you and me, connecting one to one. That’s why it has universal appeal.

—Hip-Hop pioneer DJ Kool Herc

the contents of this guide have been developed under a grant from the U.s. department of Education and do not necessarily represent the policy of the U.s. department of Education. You should not assume endorsement by the Federal government. © 2014 the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts

Whether you trace it to New York’s South Bronx or the villages of West Africa, hip-hop has become the voice of a generation demanding to be heard.

—author James McBride

Hip-Hop: A Kennedy Center Guide  

Hip-Hop has impacted everything from music and dance, to visual, literary, and theater arts—with an underlying code of agency and empowermen...

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