Book: Provincial Headz
Chapter: The Location of Hip Hop: The Provincial, Spatial, Sonic, Material and Non-material
Chapter 1 offers a historic contextualization of hip hop’s New York origins, located through its spatial, sonic, material and nonmaterial phenomena. Here, I pose the position that the origins of hip hop are rooted in provincialism where even the South Bronx may be considered a provincial site, after which I frame the provincial in terms of Britishness and regionalism. When one first considers hip hop, it is usual to conjure up images, sounds and tropes that represent certain moments in the evolution of hip hop culture. From its inception on August 11th, 1973 at Kool DJ Herc’s party at 1520 Sedgwick Avenue, The Bronx, New York City, through to the golden era revivalist sounds of Action Bronson in 2017, hip hop is laden with symbols and signs that have become normalized and accepted representations of the culture. Hip hop is the master culture of appropriation, re-framing and re-imagining; a result of lateral thinking and cultural history. Hip hop praxis “develop a negative into a positive picture”, (Lauryn Hill 1998), telling the stories which may otherwise be lost- about ourselves, others, and hip hop itself. It is essential at this point to support Rose’s position that “hip hop is propelled by Afrodiasporic traditions” (Rose 1994: 25), and “hip hop culture emerged as a source for youth of alternative identity formation and social status in a community whose older local support institutions had been all but demolished…” (Rose 1994: 34). A truism is that the culture bore something out of nothing, as if that were possible (see Berman 2007; Evans 2014), and what that actually transcribes is that hip hop borrowed the most relevant and apposite parts of its pre-hip hop history, other cultures, subcultures and counterparts. Through organic, often subconscious appropriation and reimagining these parts mutated into the multi-tangential culture of hip hop. It is important also to state that although the birth of hip hop is widely attributed to Kool Herc’s party on 11th August 1973, the origins of the culture are not so simple to pinpoint. At its birth, the four main elements had paradoxical relationships and were evolving at dissimilar rates. The first graffiti writers were practicing rigorously several years before Kool Herc’s party, the most famous historical evidence of this can be seen in The New York Times on 21st July 1971 when Taki 183’s all-city bombing became front page news. The next physical elements to arrive were DJing and Bboying with rap being the last, and in the three subsections that follow I discuss the origins of these four elements- not independently from each other- but thematically by locating them through space, sound, material and the nonmaterial.