Hip hop is not just a combination of words thrown to a matching beat.
On Feb. 13, the Social Sciences and History Department, the sisters of Phi Sigma Sigma and the Black History Month Committee hosted “Hip Hop Around The World” in Twombly Lounge as part of this year’s Black History Month festivities.
After a half-hour delay due to projection issues, the president of Phi Sigma Sigma, Brittany Coleman, introduced the faculty-based panel. Robert Houle, associate professor of history, began the discussion by explaining how hip hop is prevalent in many different countries and numerous languages.
Houle gave a brief history of how the African culture helped develop hip hop.
He said that the genre of music began with a class of individuals, called griots, or a praise singer, of the West African region. They were oral storytellers who historically sang political songs that supported the state as a way to pass on traditions.
During the 1800s, social changes like Colonialism affected the formation of hip hop. The musicians and politicians lost the positive musical connection of the past.
After West Africa declared its independence, hip hop was dedicated more to deeply political issues and critiquing state affairs.
In recent times, a new branch of hip hop has emerged in West Africa called Positive Black Soul. Their most well-known performer is J’accuse.
Following the history of hip hop, Monifa Brinson-Mulraine, senior lecturer of sociology, spoke about the cultural impacts of this genre of music.
Brinson-Mulraine spoke of how her childhood in the Bronx enabled her to hear this emerging genre of music. She explained how the genre gained popularity from airtime on the radio and rap battles.
The emergence of hip hop in the United States was because of the artists’ lyrical connection and personal struggles.
According to Brinson-Mulraine, it was a recreational way to escape from some of the violence and the pain.
“These were densely populated areas but music continued to be an instrumental force in those areas,” she said.
Skipping forward to today, Brinson-Mulraine focused on some of the criticism currently facing hip hop artists. Some people are shocked and offended to hear of the violence, poverty and oppression in these songs.
However, she said it is dangerous to say that all the songs are negative because the genre started as a way for the marginalized and poor to have a voice.
With the impact of hip hop on various aspects of our culture, such as clothing and Broadway productions, one cannot help but wonder how the genre’s lyrical direction has changed over the past 20 years.
Brinson-Mulraine ended her portion of the panel by leaving the open-ended question of whether or not hip hop now focuses on motivating others by using the capitalist system to their benefit.
The event concluded with a live performance by hip hop group Negros Americanos, a duo comprised of stage-named mc enigma and Bishop the Eastside Nappyhead.
The two African-American men performed multiple songs in English and Spanish.
Bishop explained how he learned Spanish when traveling throughout Panama with mc enigma.
The only way for them to communicate with the locals was to learn the language to
address interracial problems in the community.
One of the songs they performed was inspired by Olympic gold medalist Gabrielle Douglas.
After the event, sophomore Patrick Dickerson expressed enthusiasm for the event. “It really showed how diverse yet connected we were around the world,” he said. “It was really fascinating how hip hop moved from West Africa to the Bronx to Panama.”