The Soul of Hip-Hop

I’m making my way through Daniel White Hodge’s book, The Soul of Hip Hop: Rims, Timbs and a Cultural Theology.  Hodge declares with Russell Potter that Hip Hop is the voice of post-moderns.  Its definitely the defining sound on the edges of the last twenty five years of my life.  He identifies four key postmodern elements.  The following is directly from the book, pages 67-68.

1.  Restoration.  The goal of Hip Hop culture, especially in many spoken word venues, is that the authentic self be restored and built up from its broken state.

2.  Self-awareness.  For Hip Hoppers, to be self-aware simply means to go deeper into who you are as a person while continually being transparent and open to new ideas.  This is nothing new for Christians either.  Jesus challenges us to probe deeper and ask the hard questions by giving us multifaceted parables and complex statements about his gospel message.

3.  Power, control and institutions.  Most of the people I interviewed who agreed that no matter the type of rap genre, “questioning authority” still remains widespread.  Hip Hop continues to ask the question, “Whose authority/power/institution should we follow?  And what makes them right?

4.  Recovering empty answers.  Hip Hop is about making some “right” in a world that is not “right.”  Rap artists such as Tupac, Ice Cube, Church D. Eminem and David Branner challenge the broken promises given by politicians, church officials and other people in control.  A crucial scene in the film Freedom Writers (2007) takes place when students ask why they should “respect” the teacher.  Was it simply because she was a teacher–in charge, having institutional authority?  The students then proceeded to break down their life and struggles and how so many “adults” had let them down.

Hip Hop culture speaks for those who need a voice in the public sphere.  Many urban youth do not have this “voice.”  Rap music and Hip Hop culture provide that outlet and medium in which to argue, love, hate, yell, whisper, chill, eat, sleep, walk, talk, confide and build community in a postmodern world.  This function of Hip Hop culture is not articulated by many living in the ‘hood; it is more felt than talked about.  But suburban youth are looking for that transcendence too.  The postmodernism of Hip Hop gives meaning, voice and connection to a widespread community–Black, Brown and White, urban and suburban, wealthy and poor alike.



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