The Ghetto Culture, A Worldwide Trend
Hip Hop today is a kind of street-style culture that originated as far back as the early 1970s, predominantly within communities in New York(USA). At that time it was simply more of a society trying to find a sense of identity & belonging in the bad conditions they lived in. Harsh times of poverty & violence, where crime was often the only solution. Not to get rich, but just to live a little more comfortably. But that didn’t mean that the youth never dreamt of riches. In fact, nearly all had the secret wish to break out of the sorry lives they were in and to live a life of luxury.
“I’m a writer, I’m a fighter
Fresh off the sewer
Watch me maneuver”
-50 Cent, My Life(2012)
As NY bloomed a little more into the metropolis that it is today, these urban hardships have become much more relieved. But sometimes history is hard to bury, and relics of the old community still remain. Old graffiti still hang around the walls of abandoned warehouses, which housed secret underground rings where rappers would engage in heavy bouts of verbal sparring, beatboxers would put each other down with their sick beats(because they couldn’t afford instruments) & dancers would try to outdo each other with their slick spins & twirls. As the world discovers them, we begin to see the culture embed itself into society even as far as South East Asia.
And at that point two things happened. Strict societies branded it as nothing more than youth delinquency. Parents did not want their kids to adopt such an unruly, messy lifestyle. It was extremely dangerous to what they envisioned their kids to become when they grew up. In their eyes, this cursed culture had no future and was a path of failure in life. But to artists & musicians who looked a little closer, they saw a whole new world of untapped inspiration & creativity.
Graffiti on a train in Singapore from a famous case of vandalism by a Swiss man back in 2010. While it is something that definitely has to be prevented, the vandal has been hailed as something of an unsung artist by the Hip Hop community.
The trend of saggy pants actually came from prison inmates, who were not allowed belts to go along with their jumpsuits.
Ghosts Of The Past
Looking at Hip Hop today, our image of them has become synonymous with riches. Mostly from the media. Lil Wayne posing with his gold chain(Fireman, Lollipop). 50 Cent riding a Ferrari(Wanksta). Juicy J attracting the hot chics in the club(One Of Those Nights). Wiz Khalifa chain smoking some really expensive goods(Roll Up). But while we’re getting distracted by these flashy shows of luxury, we seem to miss a few things. Eminem spouting his lyrics in a decrepit room(Not Afraid). Akon talking to the prison walls(Still Will). Trick Trick having a brawl in a club(Welcome 2 Detroit). Some of those who belonged to the old community have become far richer than they’ve even dreamed of while they were younger. From dealing marijuana in the back streets to opening a worldwide boutique. But in most of their videos we see shades of their old lives. Ones that we filled with violence & poverty, where home clothes can change to prison jumpsuits in the blink of an eye.
Hip Hop is a culture born out of urban hardship. And the dream of some who wish to escape the vicious cycle of poverty in their lives.
Hip Hop: Global Scene
It is from the positive mindset of artists seeking inspiration back then that Hip Hop was able to enter the global music stage as a whole new genre. It reinvented music in such a revolutionary manner that we now see enthusiasts all over the world sporting Converse, caps & baggy pants. And some gangsta swag. No matter where they came from, people were able to seamlessly integrate Hip Hop into their lives while still retaining elements of their own culture.
K-Pop girl group 2NE1 is famous for promoting the Hip Hop scene in Korea. In their vids, we often see them coming up with slick rap verses in Korean. Swag.
A glimpse of the Hip Hop scene from South East Asia. The guy in the picture is a Malay rapper & a pioneer of introducing the trend in his culture.
It’s not so much the ghetto culture the artists are trying to promote, but a sense of bonding within their community. While this gangsta culture may have had its roots traced to violence & crime, but it is also laden with a strong sense of loyalty and ability to overcome hardship. Together. Life is where one will always make mistakes & face hardships, just like any other, but one will ultimately have to suck it up, get off the ground and face the world.
“You can try and read my lyrics off of this paper before I lay ’em
But you won’t take the sting out these words before I say ’em
‘Cause ain’t no way I’ma let you stop me from causing mayhem
When I say I’ma do something, I do it, I don’t give a damn what you think
I’m doin’ this for me, so fuck the world
Feed it beans, it’s gassed up if it thinks it’s stopping me
I’ma be what I set out to be, without a doubt, undoubtably
And all those who look down on me, I’m tearing down your balcony”
-Eminem, Not Afraid(2010)