“Keeping it Real” (1985): Hip Hop and the Media

“Keeping it Real” (in 1985): Hip Hop and the Media

Why is dance the first element to get commercially exploited in 1984/1985?
What is the relationship between hip-hop and the media?
At what point, and specifically how, did break dance, rap, graffiti art and turntablism become united as a four-element package?

Perhaps the most important overall question: What is the difference between a social movement and a commercial counter culture?

For all the questions below consider the divides between the films Style Wars and Wild Style with later pop culture commercial productions Graffiti Rock and Beat Street, etc.

1. Why does this redesign of hip-hop by popular culture occur in the mid 1980’s? It is important to consider how is hip-hop presented in pop culture images (Graffiti Rock, Beat Street)? Clean, safe, manageable, friendly, happy, “fresh!” Why is this? Why is the harsh ghetto reality of hip-hop removed? Consider the differences between the music videos for “The Message” (Grand Master Flash and the Furious Five) versus “Rapper’s Delight” (Sugar Hill Gang). Is this the first divide we see between what we have termed “real” and “fake” or “underground” versus “commercial” hip–hop? Is the mainstream initiation of hip-hop in the media “fake” from the start or is this just a part of a very real divide that still exists today?

2. When and where does hip-hop get its name? All the reports and articles at this time take an etic perspective (outsider’s view), yet refer to hip-hop getting its name from the Sugar Hill Gang’s “Rapper’s Delight.” Having analyzed the music video and relationship of “Rapper’s Delight” to hip-hop in the South Bronx as a “musical construct,” then what does that say about the genre/culture getting its name from this song? Does the word hip-hop come from within the movement? Or is it imposed? What value does a name or title add (or take) from what hip-hop was to how it is presented by 1985? What is the shift between defining hip-hop as “counter culture” rather than “social movement?”

3. The Graffiti Rock TV series calls hip-hop a “culture” for the first time. We are introduced to Michael Holman, who identifies himself as a hip-hop anthropologist (mind you – in 1983). Do you agree with Holman that hip-hop is a culture? A counter-culture? What is the role Holman plays as a mediator between his viewers and hip-hop culture? Who is he introducing hip-hop to? Why is language and fashion stressed as important aspects to “practicing” or “understanding” hip-hop culture? Is the media using hip-hop, are young soon-to-be entrepreneur hip-hop artists using the media?

4. What and how are the four elements of hip-hop joined together into a neat and clean package for consumption? What is the role this “package” had in diffusing hip-hop outside of New York, to the West Coast, the Midwest and soon after Europe? Can youth learn to produce hip-hop without living its “real” conditions through the emulation of these neat, clean, and “well-packaged” images? Do films like Style Wars, Wild Style and television series like Graffiti Rock and the NY TV Magazine influence this image?


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