Local, Global and the Vocal

Established within Bronx communities during the 1970’s in New York City, hip-hop includes a broad range of artistic forms that originated as a specific street subculture. In its most basic form, hip-hop is represented by four main elements. Deejaying, Emceeing, Breaking and Graffiti Art. Despite boasting contrasting methods of execution, they unite in their common association to the societal ills that birthed the culture.

April K. Henderson’s article The Vinyl Ain’t Final: Hip hop and globalisation of black culture explores hip-hop – both as a culture and as a commodity. She provides an insight into the implications of hip-hop globally and locally, with reference to several MC’s from the Pacific, Australia and Canada as case studies, with a focus on one significant diasporic node, Aotearoa New Zealand.

Henderson refers to reductive stereotypes in relation to Samoan physicality and how they continue to effect Samoan communities in the U.S. With their accents marking them as foreign, young Samoans living in multi-ethnic neighbourhoods earn status and respect through dance or sport.

Stereotypes are ever-present in the hip-hop world. As Macklemore discusses in his hit song ‘Otherside’, most artists feel the need to rap about events of their lives that have not in fact occurred in order to gain respect. He states that ‘violence, drugs and sex sells, so we try to sound like someone else’. An example of this is seen in the life of Rick Ross. The ex correctional facility officer, come rapper, puts on the persona of having been a major player his whole life, and promotes the image of drug dealing in each of his songs.

Lecturer, Annalise Friend states that contemporary hip-hop artists outside the U.S. use notions of cultural authenticity, being truly ‘hip-hop’, or representing a particular local community.

This is supported in the further reading by Tony Mitchell, Doin’ damage in my native language: The use of “resistance vernaculars’, where he discusses Maori resistance and sovereignty. Mitchell makes reference to local hip-hop artist Hapeta and his twenty track album that was written entirely in Maori.
With the use of a ‘minor language’, spoken by only 8% of New Zealand’s population, this supports Friend’s argument that artists outside the U.S. are more culturally authentic through representing their local community. In this context, the choice of ‘resistance vernaculars’ is an act of cultural preservation of ethic autonomy, therefore overriding any global or commercial concerns.

Mitchell then provides a stark contrast with reference to Swedish hip-hop crew Loop-Troop who contribute to the continuing dominance of the English language and American culture in the formation of global hip-hop.

There is a lot of contention surrounding ownership and identity in the hip-hop community. In spite of that, there is still a diverse popular culture present on a global scale. It is clear that hip-hop discusses cultural and social issues, whilst incorporating a modern sense of identity and connectedness within the Maori community.


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