“Hey, have you heard that new (insert artist’s name) cut?” “No.” “What?! How’s that possible?! Have you been living under a rock?!” You might have had a similar exchange with a friend, family member or lover recently. You know how it goes. It’s basically a conversation that results in you feeling slightly stupid for not…
Ness White is a 26-year-young Black, lesbian, journalist, writer, poet, musician living in Philadelphia, PA. Born and partially-raised in Southern California before living in Washington State and Upstate New York, she has been something of a traveler her entire life, readily observing and striving to connect with anything and everything on her journey's path. So far, no connection has been as intense, as indelible as hip hop. For Ness, hip hop is more than a genre. It is a way of living with the body, emotions, mind, spirit all experiencing its core. In essence, it is a way of being in the world. Through her writing—using the page as a stage—she performs like an MC, capturing your attention with style, swag before touching your soul with the heart of her words. Read them and go where she has been, then take her with you on your own journey.
Dutch photographer Desire Van Den Berg was surprised when she stumbled upon a trendy boutique in Tokyo called Baby Shoop. The shop adorned a tagline, “Black for Life” and featured styles that were reminiscent of hip-hop culture in America. Young adults who remain loyal to a movement called “B-style” often frequent the shop to find products that represent Black culture.
It’s no secret. Native Americans are rarely—if ever, really—represented in mainstream U.S. media. If they are represented, they are mostly shown as headdress wearing; chanting, dancing, and whooping; pipe smoking and horseback riding “Injuns” keeping cowboys and white settlers from the latter’s “rightful” land.
Although mainstream hip hop artists do not usually overtly diss their fellow rappers, the same competitive edge found in underground battle rap is present in the mainstream. In fact, for me the only difference is the way the attacks are packaged. While underground artists are down for jabs, hooks, and uppercuts, mainstream artists prefer slaps, shoves at most.
Off the coast of Senegal, there is a group of tiny islands known as Cape Verde. My mother’s side comes from this country, though I have never been to these islands nor have I been immersed in Cape Verdean culture. I maybe know two or three words in the native Kriolu language.
(No) Thanks to the portrayals within mainstream U.S. media, people from the Middle East tend to be viewed negatively as “terrorists” in the larger society. However, Arab hip hop artists are using their music to thwart that image and share their stories of activism against their own or native governments and all oppressive systems worldwide.
While listening to Australian—or Aussie—rapper Reflekt’s song, “Bullshit Poetry,” on YouTube, I scrolled down the comment section and come across a hater saying that Aussie hip hop is “too emotional” and not nearly raw enough. Of course, like any YouTube comment debate, there were counter comments from listeners who advised the hater to check out some other artists who were indeed rawer than the American artists the hater was likely accustomed to.
With its heavy, dark basslines and futuristic-style elements, grime music is an art form that speaks to the shadow aspect of our souls. It resembles a fierceness that is tired of hiding, or even a power previously untapped. I don’t know how else to say it: grime is grimy. It is gutter, it is raw, it is hard. Maybe that is why US hip hop artists and fans are starting to notice and embrace it.
Just because hip hop has traveled outside of the United States does not mean that it has escaped U.S. idiosyncrasies. Take hip hop in Vietnam, for example. While before researching the topic, I honestly expected the whole scene to be underground, there is actually a mainstream hip hop presence in the Southeast Asian country as well as a disgust for that presence in Vietnam’s underground hip hop arena. Sound similar to the tension between “street”—or underground—and mainstream hip hop in the United States?