I’ve been asked on a number of occasions: how does a Pakistani girl growing up in Kuwait manage to fall in love with hip hop? How do you even relate?
My answer: how do you not relate to truth?
Most people make the mistake of equating rap to hip-hop music. It’s an easy mistake to make. To quote a film that celebrates hip hop as much as I do, Brown Sugar: “So what’s the difference between rap and hip hop? It’s simple. It’s like sayin’ you love somebody and bein’ in love with somebody. Rap is only a word.”
Hip hop, in its entirety, is a movement of expression. The culture of it transcends the confines of a nice little neat musical definition. Hip hop is embodied in the lyrical stylings of an MC, the scratch on a DJ’s turntable, a graffiti artist’s latest mural, and a b-boy’s headstand. If you learn about the history of hip hop, you will learn the movement originated from the block parties of the 70s, a community coming together to celebrate through music and dance. Soon, MCs were talking over the beats DJs were supplying to these parties – an artform that finds its roots in the Jamaican tradition of toasting. DJs started putting beats on loops, allowing those with a more physical nature to start to express themselves in the form of dance. Visual representations erupted with graffiti artists coming out of the hip hop movement.
At the time, hip hop was credited for giving a new opportunity to African-American communities embroiled in gang violence. It provided teens a creative, and safer, outlet to release their feelings through MC and dance battles. It took the negative energy that was in the streets and provided the world with a new artistic community. It allowed an entire generation to finally communicate to the world who they were and what they were going through. The earliest hip hop groups focused on social issues in their songs, bringing light to their daily struggles. More often than not, hip hop acts have come out of impoverished or struggling communities, because if there’s one thing hip hop celebrates it’s the struggle.
So, it’s no surprise that I’m not the only “atypical fan” that considers themselves as a part of the hip hop community. Hip hop has transcended borders, cultures, and generations. Notable MCs have come out of France, Indonesia, and Palestine, to name a few. Breakdance competitions and battles have been held in Japan, Australia, and Brazil. Hip hop is, and always will be, a global culture.
So when you listen to a true hip hop artist or watch a b-boy break, really take in what they’re sharing with you. This is a part of their soul, their struggle, their way of communicating and expressing themselves. For them, this is their truth.
How do you not relate to truth?