Rhetoric of Hip-Hop Blog 1 January 24

This is the first of a series of blogs that I will write over the semester for my class, Rhetoric of Hip-Hop, at The University of Texas at Austin.

Why is it important to have debates about hip hop? (Why should anyone who is not a hip hop fan care? Why do you care personally?)

Hip-Hop, on a personal level, isn’t something I like; it’s something I live. I’m not even sure how I was first introduced to hiphop. It seems to have always been a part of me, who I am. It’s changed the way I think, I dress, I talk, I write and the way I view the world.

As Slug of Atmosphere put it in “Party for the Fight to Write”:

As a child hip-hop made me read books
And hip-hop made me wanna be a crook
And hip-hop gave me the way and something to say

Having never had an imposing physical frame, one of my earliest realizations that words could be used jabs and uppercuts was through hiphop. I’d spend hours analyzing lyrics on RapGenius or watching rap battles on YouTube. Long before I was competing in formal academic debates, I was battling over beats in the lunchroom.

But even on a more academic and societal level, hip-hop is important in countless ways. Obviously as a multi-billion dollar industry, hip-hop has a significant economic impact. But as some rappers have noted, hip-hop is not only “about dollars” but also “about change.”

Few forms of art provide better insight into culture than hip-hop. Hip-hop, arguably much more so than most other artforms, represents a voice for a community that has historically been voiceless, poor young urban Blacks and Latinos. Hip-hop provides a window into our culture as a whole, especially regarding issues of race, gender, history, politics, religion, and more (although I unfortunately don’t have more room to elaborate here).

Because hip-hop so strongly affects so many aspects of our society – even far beyond hip-hop itself – it’s especially important to be studied and understood, even for those who aren’t necessarily rap fans.

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