Holy Culture

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A week ago I was in a hiphop dance workshop, and the weekend submersion in hiphop culture reminded me of this OSR post on the globalization of hiphop. Today this seems pretty relelvent, witness this lgf posting.
But the global appeal of hiphop is not exclusive to Palestinian youth–hiphop culture appeals to marginalized youth everywhere.
Where hiphop culture enters a society, it tends to become the youth culture of the society. I’m a J-horror otaku– in the opening frames of Ju-Rei (the uncanny!) we see a quadrette of japanese schoolgirls street dancing in front of a darkened Tokyo storefront window (right before the Dark-Shadowed-Girl eats them up). In chapter nine of Global Noise, Ian Condry surveys the japanese hip-hop scene. In Japan, street dance first introduced hiphop culture to japanese youth. There is not a single mention of crack in any japanese lyric– instead J-hiphop focuses on the commerciality of japanese society and the tension between club scene hiphop culture (heaven) and school/work culture (hell). Dance introduced hiphop culture to Korea as well. In Korea, becoming a “dancing hero” is a dream of escape from poverty for young Korean men.

What I find most exciting about the globalization of hiphop, is the idea of an emerging popular global culture, cross-fertilization and the idea of “flow”, that the boundaries of nation, culture, race, and language are becoming permeable. A medium of expression for youth culture that doesn’t feature broken shop windows and burning cars. I’d rather have disaffected arab youth become rappers than suicide bombers anyday.

And the idea that any marginalized youth culture group can express themselves through hiphop is wonderfully hopeful to me. For example, fundamentalist christian youth in America could be considered a marginalized group among their peers. They advocate abstenance and modest dress and virginity. Yet even the fundies can exploit this medium. The title of this post comes from one of my favorite hiphop albums– Holy Culture by the Cross Movement. I’ve made two dances on the songs so far–their flavor is hot!! This is from Rise Up. And yes, emminently danceable.

We’re goin’ live this life
We’re goin’ live it right
Not just talk it but walk it cause we’re goin’ live for Christ
We’re goin’ hold it down, stone cold, hold our ground
All my soldiers

Stay tuned for the next installment– Islamic Hiphop versus Islamophobia: Hiphop Culture in MENA


  1. you should put a video up of your moves on youtube :)

  2. hmmm…not just me–but maybe a recital piece or a club face-off with a crewe of dancers.  
    You would have to guess which one was me. ;) 
    I LOVE Youtube, tho.

  3. oops, forgot to change my nic!

  4. Rap sucks. It needs instruments. And then it would still be music with awful rapping on top. If only the hip music with those stupid kids today was nerdy prog rock. They’d still likely make awful music, but it would at least be a failed attempt at something good.

  5. TGGP, you’re really wrong! 
    In hiphop, the most important part is the bassline, the dance part. Like hiphop dance is a fusion of all dance plus capoeria (brazilian fighting style), hiphop music is a fusion of all kinds of music! 
    Haven’t you ever heard of crate diving? 
    And hiphop mixes artists too. 
    One of my favs right now is Tim Mcgraw and Nelly doing a duet.

  6. It would be instructive to find two geographical communities that are similar in many respects (average age, income, ethnicity, etc.) but differ in the extent of hip-hop culture. Compare results.

  7. I wan’t to say some more about the lgf link.  
    Charles obviously thinks “Arab Hate Hiphop” is a bad thing–but what i want to point out that is that each culture takes the form of the medium and infils its own relevent meme complex and, this important– language! 
    gansta culture doesn’t spread from the US to Japan for example. 
    Arabic hiphop anthems aren’t going to spread a cult of suicide bombing to other cultures–instead they are a means of expressing dissent, and releasing a pressure valve.

  8. Here’s a youtube with a good example of street dance. 
    Formal hiphop moves: 6-step, coffee-grinder, k-kick, shoulder roll, worm, snake, scorpion, head-spin. 
    the two “shakers” in camos at the end are “crumping”, a sort of berserker freestyle. ;)

  9. Matoko, 
    But don’t you think in an authoritarian country, that young Saudis or Chinese, rapping about lack of political freedom, would just be rounded up and interrogated or worse?

  10. I could see it as potentially being a safety valve for second generation disaffected Arab youth in France or elsewhere though…

  11. pconroy, korean hiphop is very popular in china and hong kong. there is also a state sanctioned mainland chinese program to “develop hiphop and R&B with chinese characterisitics”. Their songs feature rap versions of chinese folksongs and “an expression of support for Beijing’s bid for the 2008 olympic games.” The PRC also promoted the Backstreet Boyz in the late ’90s, innocuous velveeta cheesepop. 
    And then there is Cui Jian. 
    hmmm…Cui Jian or the Backstreet Boyz? 
    You know who I’d pick.

  12. you’ll have to wait for the saudi part until my hiphop in MENA post. ;) 
    Speaking of teases, do we know where the neandertals are yet?

  13. Not familiar with Asian rappers, however my favorite Asian-American rapper is Jin Au-Yeung – particular his single “Learn Chinese”…

  14. Can’t find the lyrics online to “learn Chinese”, but trust me they are good… 
    Of course I should also have mentioned the oldie, but goodie, Got Rice?

  15. good link, pconroy. 
    i love the Wu-Tang Clan too. ;)

  16. Are we listening to the same hip hop here?  
    Have you heard of Dj Doc of G-Masta from SOuth Korea? They are violently anti-Japanese and hugely popular throughout Asia.  
    Check this out (in English): http://www.mutantfrog.com/2005/01/31/fuck-zapan-korean-anti-japanese-rap-song 
    I’m not sure I’m as hopeful as you are about global hip hop – they aren’t always rapping about happiness and flowers!

  17. Ali, it is still an oulet other than self explosion and car burning. 
    Look at american hiphop–in the 80′s Public Enemy and the Boo-Yah Tribe were very nasty. 
    Gangsta rap was extremely denegrative to women…less so today I would say. 
    Everything evolves. 
    The increasing presence of R&B divas and duets like Fitty & Olivia are influencing what was an exclusively male-dominated medium to have more representation of women….and more songs now tend to be about sex and pleasure fthan ighting the power.

  18. ,,,than fighting the power, sorry.

  19. I still don’t agree that rap music is an “oulet other than self explosion and car burning.” The two are mutually exclusive. There is loads of violence in the hip hop world – i.e. that D12 guy who just got shot, or the politicised rappers of France who were blamed for provoking the riots last year and even compelled politicians to draft a bill to bring legal action against the groups for their aggressive lyrics. 
    Yes, lots of songs today are about “sex and pleasure” but there are just as many about thug life and getting bling. I don’t think it’s changed really. In fact, look at the earliest rap groups like Sugarhill Gang and Grandmaster Flash – they rapped about block parties and breakdancing. However, if the top 40 hip hop of today seems les violent than say the Biggie / Tupac gangsta years, it’s more because MTV prefers to play party anthems as they are biggers sellers in the mass market. It doesn’t mean the inner city youth of today have resolved their problems and are party-loving peaceniks. 
    There’s top selling commericalized hip hop all over the world that is smiley and cheerful and sells Pepsi and attracts nice middle class boys and girls who wear their baseball caps to the side and think it’s terribly rebellious. This is also known as pop music.  
    And then there is the other world of hip hop – including the groups mentioned above, Korea’s DJ Doc and G Masta, and all the French rappers who sing about anti-semitism and blowing up cars, and the increasingly popular Arab rap groups who don’t sing about booze and sex but talk fondly of martrydom and killing jews – that appeals to another audience altogether, particularly disaffected youth, and glorify violence, bling, fighting the system (or in their case, all things Japanese / Jewish) and other socially unacceptable behaviors. And this genre is blowing up!!! literally ; )  
    I think you see that hip hop is hugely popular around the world and attracts a mainstream audience of nice kids. But the bad kids like it too, and it’s not going to stop them from doing bad things. At worst, it spreads negativity because it’s a more convenient musical medium to make violence and hatred sound fun than, say, fusion jazz. 
    Again, your theory is lovely, but is much too Sound of Music for reality.

  20. oooooo! Sound of Music! you rankin’ me? 
    My point is youth culture parasitizes the venue for their own greivances. 
    I haven’t done my survey of arab hiphop yet, and perhaps you are right about the hatehop exanding. 
    But i still support a protest media in totalitarian societies. 
    And my experience of american hiphop is that it is evolving to way less “fight the power” and more about clublife than thuglife.

  21. Fair enough – I’m all for protest media as well! I play enough of it…. 
    And I like your new genre “hatehop.” ; )