When people think of the benefits of Hip Hop as a culture, what comes to mind?
Number one for many is economic.
Hip Hop created a lane for many to thrive in that uses their innate creative and entrepreneurial skills for financial gain. Before Hip Hop became popular in the 1980’s and 90’s, there was no lane for mobile deejays to get Worldwide fame and charge 100k per event. There also wasn’t a viable market for vocal artists who didn’t sing in some form or another. Hip Hop created a lane for rappers to exist. From there, on down to videographers, directors, designers and even Love and Hip Hop “stars”, hip-hop as a marketing commodity can be used today to generate income on many levels. Some would call that the most beneficial aspect, but I wouldn’t. Financial prosperity is great but that’s not the most beneficial or, more importantly, the most powerful aspect of Hip Hop Kulture.
Others may cite Hip Hop’s influence on mainstream society.
The existence and eventual acceptance of Hip Hop Kulture, has made the World itself a little more Hip Hop. Simply stated, most people who understand English, whether HipHop or not, know what dissin means or what a “hater” is or even what a “Stan” is (thanks to Eminem). After the 1990’s, the World itself is now more HipHop (conscious) as a whole. BBoying is a Worldwide celebrated artform far outside the streets where it first originated. Graf and deejayin have morphed into multi-million-dollar ventures for artist across the globe too.
Most might say;giving a voice to the voiceless
and a format for uncoached talent to rise from nothing is another important blessing from Hip Hop Kulture, and it is. However, the most important or powerful aspect, to me, is Hip Hop’s ability to edutain. Hip Hop took the concept of edutainment from 1960’s -70’s hippie culture then refined and remixed it on its own terms. Edutainment wasn’t stumbled upon like it was in the 60’s. Edutainment in hip-hop music was a conscious decision. It was spearheaded and led by groups like KRS/BDP, Public Enemy, X-Clan, Brand Nubian, Poor Righteous Teachers and others, who inspired rappers to, if not uplift, at least educate or school people on the realities of the street.
The concept of edutainment at its core is what generated the phrase “keep it real”.
“Keep it real” on one level means; keep it raw/uncut/uncensored. But on a more basic level means; keep it truthful or speak your truth. It means don’t “front (fake)”, be honest, “kick facts”. Edutainment is built on putting someone up on something they didn’t previously realize. It’s about “droppin science”, “droppin jewels”, “spittin gems”, “spittin pearls of wisdom”. At one time, during the height of the conscious era in hip-hop music in the early 1990’s, one emcee stood above the rest. That emcee in general was considered by most other emcees as the top of the craft based on his mastery of numerous styles and his ability to drop jewels. From having personally asked many top emcees myself, I can say with confidence that KRSONE was that emcee from around 1988 – 1998. Above being the lead proponent and one who coined the term “Edutainment”, his name literally stands for Knowledge Reigns Supreme Over Nearly Everyone. He’s almost just as famous for being known as the Teacha.
Subliminally, one reason KRS was considered the top emcee was because he, like others, harnessed the instinctual power of edutainment. Edutainment is what the griots and shaman of early humanity used to educate the tribe on which berries to eat or how to avoid predators. The griot didn’t just say it. He danced and wore tribal colors and got animated and scared little children of the tribe. The shaman inscribed messages on the observers by speaking in their tongue and using tribal cues that had particular significance and weight to them.
Like the griots and shaman of the past, or the preachers of modern day, KRS and others used the power of words to transmit messages beyond just entertainment. KRS wasn’t the first in hip-hop music to do it though. That distinction probably goes to Duke Bootee and Melle Mel on the Message. Still, that true power of edutainment was harnessed by KRS and others to show, to me, the most powerful aspect of Hip Hop Kulture; Edutainment.
Edutainment uplifted a whole culture of people and inspired a generation of World citizens who consider themselves Hiphoppas, first and foremost as their identity. The power of edutainment was used to legitimize Hip Hop in the eyes of the World. That contribution helped solidify Hip Hop’s position in society. Even today, Hip Hop influenced edutainment has broken records in multiple genres outside of just music. In the last four years, Hip Hop Edutainment has broken the box office and was 1 award shy of getting the most Tony awards in one night for the Alexander Hamilton play, a Hip-Hop Musical. NetFlix crashed during the highly binged premier of the Luke Cage TV series written by Hiphoppa Cheo Coker and musically produced by Adrian Younge and Ali Shaheed Mohammed (ATCQ). Most recently the Marvel/Disney movie Black Panther became the highest grossing solo-superhero movie of all time. The amount of gems or science dropping expressed by these projects is a testament to the innate power of Edutainment. Word!
To celebrate Hip Hop Appreciation Week for 2018, think of how the use of Edutainment benefited you in the past. Then think about the impact it could have on society today.
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