Shout Out to Hip Hop Nerds

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(originally published Feb 2, 2016)

To be clear, rappers didn’t create Hip Hop. They used to speak for it though.

Deejays didn’t create Hip Hop either; neither did B-Boys/Girls or Graf artists.

Hip Hop was galvanized by all those groups together and also by some groups that have gone unnamed.

To galvanize means,

“to stimulate somebody or something into great activity1 (or) to stimulate the nerves or muscles of someone’s body using an electric current2 (Ecarta Dictionary: English).”

One important group that goes unnamed are those who created the true birthplace of Hip Hop as a culture; the underground.

The underground is where Hip Hop was first talked about beyond just rapping, or just Deejaying or as just one individual element but as all elements together forming something much greater as a whole; a way of life or Hip Hop Kulture. The underground wasn’t made up of just emcees and deejays alone. The people who observed and participated in what was happening were the first generation of Hip Hop nerds who talked about Hip Hop as a thing. Bam, although also an emcee and deejay, was in fact, a Hip Hop nerd; a Hip Hop intellectual who contemplated the existence of Hip Hop in the Infinity Lessons.

The metaphysical impulse of positive community change came as the result of the influence of Black Revolutionaries, Black Hippies and the artistic freedom of the 1970’s. This amalgamation of forces inspired Hip Hop nerds like Bam and Fab 5 Freddy to promote and ponder about the idea of a Hip Hop-based culture.

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And don’t get me wrong. I use the word ‘nerd’ affectionately. Twenty years ago I would have said intellectual. However, nowadays, nerd is looked at in a more positive light than the term intellectual. In fact, trendy hipsters dress like so-called nerds on purpose to look ‘cool’. Nerd versus intellectual implies a person who is into something on a deep level i.e. computer nerd, comic book nerd, or even sports nerd. This just denotes a class of individuals who are obsessed with whatever subject matter their focus becomes.

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Hip Hop had the same thing at one time. I know, because I was one of them. We weren’t always called Hip Hop nerds – though I have heard the term used in proper context before – we were otherwise called backpackers or underground. Originally backpacks were for more nerdy people because they usually had books in them or just other stuff that a ‘cool’ person would leave home when they were out styling.

But in the early 1990’s, in the underground parts of Hip Hop and in some parts of mainstream society, it was ‘cool to be smart’. The conscious movement from the late 1980’s to the early 1990’s coincided with Spike Lee’s movies, School Daze and Do the Right Thing and The Bill Cosby Show and its spin-off A Different World, which was based at a fictional Historically Black College.

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What started out as a show for Lisa Bonet’s character, became a show centered more around Kadeem Hardison’s character Dwayne Wayne, a Hip Hop nerd. His character represented the intellectual, non-thug, hip-hop music lover who usually wore a backpack.

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That character represented people who would be the largest proponents of Hip Hop as a cultural movement; people who understood the importance of classifying things in their proper context or even the socio-psychological impact of Hip Hop. In other words, Hip Hop nerds. So far, the contribution of the Hip Hop nerd has not been explored in depth. However, when one thinks back objectively, they may find a more interesting connection between a move toward conscious hip-hop music and Hip Hop nerds.

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Kurt Nice

Kurt Nice aka Kurtiss Jackson is a behind the scenes pioneer in the Hip Hop Kulture, creating the first nationally distributed video mix tape series, Shades of Hip Hop, in the late 1990s. Since touring the country with the Stop the Violence Movement and the Temple of Hip Hop as KRS-ONE’s National Marketing Director, Kurt Nice has been a constant commentator on conscious Hip Hop and its relevance to the new rap music of today, through radio and cable appearances. contact Kurt at info@hiphoplives.net

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