Image of the artwork 'Blockparty' by Dan Lish
Blockparty By Dan Lish

Happy Birthday Hip-Hop – I Owe You!

Peace, Unity, Love & Having Fun.

The date 13 August 1973. The address 1520 Sedgwick Avenue, the Bronx. It was a party organised in the recreation room of an inner city high-rise by brother and sister team Cindy and 16 years old, Clive Campbell. Innocent enough eh?, except this moment is now cast in stone as the time and place when ‘Hip-Hop’ started.

The origins came long before as of course, kids have been tagging their names and slogans on local buildings since Kilroy was a boy in the Caveman era. DJs had been making people dancing since the invention of the Gramophone. Crowds have been dancing since the dawn of time. MC’s have been rapping on Jamaican sound systems for decades.

There is no doubt, that anyone attending that party could have ever imagined what it would turn into 44 years later. It’s a worldwide phenomenon and a multi-billion dollar a year industry. To get a flavour of what it was like in the very early days, you could do a lot worse that pop on to Netflix and check out ‘The Getdown’ or Youtube ‘Wildstyle’ and it will give you a pretty decent view.

I fell in love with Hip-Hop, like many of my generation in 1983’ when it burst out of the TV screens. The Top 40 countdown started to shake when the likes of Grandmaster Melle ‘The Message’ and ‘Hey You The Rocksteady Crew’ played. Then, when ex-Sex Pistols mystro Malcolm Mclaren package it up beautifully in the Buffalo Gals video, we had it there all in one.

‘Rap is something you do, Hip-Hop is something you live’ KRS-ONE

It was like an explosion of colour had hit us firmly between the eyes. Suddenly Dads garages were being hit for spray paint, lino was being pinched out of the kitchen and taken on the precinct so kids could practice spinning on their heads, backs, shins and chins. Parents and older sibling records players were now being used for scratching practice. And kids up and down the country started dressing in tracksuits and talking to each other in secretive slang. They said it was a fad that would be forgotten about, how wrong they were. From there it just grew and grew and grew.

I stopped Breakin’ years ago. My days of tagging public transport are long gone but they memories remain in my heart and I consider myself an Ageing B-Boy for life. Now 34 years later I am still in love with Hip-Hop and it is something I intend to share with my children.

Breakin Convention Young Dancer

Dressed to Impress

You see Hip-Hop helped shape me. It gave me an attitude and a political standpoint of wanting to ‘Fight The Power’. It gave me a style of dress. It gave me a view of world way outside of the one I was living. It gave my lifelong friends. It gave me an amazing record collection and some incredible memories of seeing some amazing artist perform live in some of the heart-stoppingly, best gig of my life. For these moments, I owe Hip-Hop.

Hip Hop in 2017.

So where are we now? The days of the beer guzzling swagger of the Beastie Boys. The conscious, thought-provoking raw power of Public Enemy and the upbeat Queens New York bravado of Run DMC rocking the three stripes may be a hazy memory but rest assured; but Hip-Hop blood runs thick in the veins of the underground and mainstream music scenes.

The major difference between the Hip Hop landscape in 2017 in comparison to the 80’s/90’s is that it is far more accessible than it was back in the day.

Rappers and producers can now reach a global audience with the likes of YouTube, Spotify, Bandcamp and Soundcloud.

The rush of excitement from ripping the cellophane off the latest De La Soul album when you get home from Our Price has been replaced with more of a quick hit, disposal way of consuming Hip Hop via the good old world wide web.

“In a world where followers on Instagram are currency you might be forgiven for presuming that Hip-Hop has lost the punch that it once packed”.

Rest assured, the jaw to the floor reaction that only the razor sharp delivery of an M.C at the top of their game can give is not lost in digital translation; it’s just that in 2017 that M.C makes their delivery to a worldwide audience. The dancers have grown in incredible skill and passion just check out the Breakin’ Convention exhibition if you want to pick your jaw off of the floor again and again.

Graffiti, an art-form born out of the trend of tagging names on walls and subway trains in the early 70’s has evolved to the extent that it now widely influences fashion labels, brands and advertising the world over.

Let’s face it; shops such as J.D Sports would not have much of a business model if it wasn’t for Hip Hop artists making sports apparel the choice garment on the street and in the nightclub as well as on the track and field.

Although Hip-Hop is now a global phenomenon, closer to home the South Coast’s contribution to the scene stands tall and vigilant like the white cliffs that surround us to the East.

There are underground artists such as Worthing’s very own Nelson Navarro who flips from a thoughtful, mellow flow in the studio to an energetic flair when hosting Hip Hop jams on stage.

If you like your Hip Hop with a dose of nostalgia then you can always rely on Sussex based DJ Format and his accomplice Abdominal with their unique blend of matter of fact lyrics laced over breaks and samples funky enough to make any dancefloor shake.

That should put a sock in the mouth of any non-believers out there who presumed that the scale of Hip-Hop as an art form was restricted to the size of MC Hammer’s baggy trousers.

Written by

Editor | Journalist | Part-Time Revolutionary.

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