The definition of evolution is the gradual development of something, especially from a simple to a more complex form. In our society we are able to look around and see various examples of evolution, starting with our very own complexions. Some of our physical traits have evolved from being an infant, toddler, and teenager into who we are now as young adults. Other examples within our society can be found in fashion, vehicles, medicine, and much more; but are we able to hear evolution? As well as see evolution? To those who shook their heads, music is a very strong example of being able to ‘hear’ evolution.
The roots of hip-hop began with Jazz; from the instrumental rhythm, to the vocals that followed, and lastly, to the message inscribed within the content of the lyrics. Every musical genre blossomed following the Jazz platform, mimicking the steps and yet creating its own original rhythm, vocals/lyrics, and message. If we were to look at some of the musical genres that have survived over the centuries of change within our society, which genres do you think would stand out in terms of evolution?
Personally, hip-hop to me is what stands out from the rest of the genres in music. Hip-hop flourished from low income communities among blacks and Latino’s, although, you will find many would argue that its true origins began within reggae off of the islands in the Caribbean. Reggae as oppose to dance hall, highlighted social and political oppression and colonization during the rise of Britan’s rule, much like hip-hop which highlighted the same concerns when it first began in the 1980’s. The beginning of hip-hop on the streets of New York was a creative forum which picked up its popularity within society closer to the 90’s.
In the 80’s and early 90’s the content of hip-hop, was the focus of emcee’s rapping about the oppression, colonization, and injustice within our system, it was a bit more afro centric (regarding African or black culture as preeminent). We had names such as: Public enemy, Kr-s One, N.W.A, and De La Soul just to name a few. These emcee’s would highlight social and political content in their raps, from police brutality among the African- American community, to the theft of indigenous lands, and the unity among citizens to the demands of equality from the people (society).
(For example: N.W.A released a song titled, ‘F*** the police’ which highlighted the brutality inflicted on African- American males by Police officials. One part of the song delivered by emcee and now actor, Ice Cube was: ‘F*** the police comin’ straight from the underground, a young ***** got it bad cause I’m brown and not the other color, so police think they have the authority to kill a minority’.)
Emcee KR-S One highlighted police brutality as well; however, he also included an interesting line in regards to the theft of Indigenous land in the Americas in his song, ‘Sound of da police’. KR-S One delivered this line, in the song mentioned prior, which goes, ‘I know this for a fact, you don’t like how I act, be an officer, you wicked overseer ya hotshot, wanna’ get props and be a savior, first show a little respect, change your behavior, change your attitude, change your plan, there could never really be justice on stolen land.’
The era of hip-hop from the mid-1980s to the beginning of the 1990s displayed a stronger focus in regards to social and political concerns as well as afrocentrism, among the emcee’s mentioned above and many others. The evolution which followed from this era was the upbringing of lyricism in hip-hop, lyricism is an artist’s expression of emotion in an imaginative and beautiful way; the quality of being lyrical.
Although, hip-hop during these eras focused on lyrical content, the early 90’s blossomed some of the strongest emcees in the industry who were young and hungry to display their talents and story through a musical platform. They were able to create a trend within the music industry of a free style like flow, the lyricism displayed in this era not only included what previous emcees did but they were able to contribute a new trend and style to the genre of hip-hop, breaking and yet still keeping some of the style paved out by others before them. Which emcee gets you reminiscing about the 90’s?
Jency Abarca is a fulltime public relations student at Humber College