Hip Hop History

This essay has a total of 1443 words and 9 pages.


Hip Hop History





Music is the most powerful vehicle of human
expression. As the embodiment of love, disapproval,
happiness, experience – life, music speaks to us, because it
comes from us. Each people, in each paradine of the human
experience instinctively and systematically change the music
of the past to represent the realities of the present. In
this century, black music, more specifically Hip Hop/Soul
music, has been that music that has brought to plain view
that which evidences our humanity – hope, hurt, joy and
passion – in such a way that the world has no other choice
than to feel its power and marvel in its brilliance. When
one discusses the relationship between Soul music and the
civil rights movement, it becomes a dialogue very akin to
that of the chicken and the egg. The period of “Classic
Soul” is that period primarily, but not exclusively
referenced as the 1950’s, 60’s and 70’s (Stephenson 186).
This is the time frame of the American Civil Rights
Movement, and the impact of the massive changes going on,
are reflected in the music and the culture. So one would be
correct in both assuming that the Civil Rights Movement gave
rise to Soul music, as



much Soul music contributed to the success of the campaign
for civil rights. Soul music during its heyday, did more
than simply entertain. For a race of people it served as a
source of motivation, strength and education, for a people
immersed in turmoil and tragedy. The institution of
segregation had effectively inhibited the general populace’s
awareness of the great achievements and contributions made
by African-Americans throughout the history of the United
States (Franklin 429). Inasmuch, Soul music sought to bring
that undersight to light. Soul songs like Donny Hathaway’s
“To Be Young, Gifted and Black,” was revolutionary, in that
they sought to instill pride of one’s history, but at the
same time motivate a new generation to reach new heights. As
Hathaway says, “We must begin to tell our young, ‘Don’t you
know that there is a whole world waiting for you?’”, he is
calling for the teaching of black pride to the youth, which
was a wide spread trend in black communities of the ‘60s and
‘70s (Hathaway). James Brown’s “Say It Loud, I’m Black and
I’m Proud,” became an anthem for the movement (Brown). The
song’s lyrics like, “….Don’t quit moving, until we get what
we deserve…we’d rather die on our feet, than keep living on
our knees,” were words of inspiration for those involved in



the struggle for equality. “Whereas the predominant theme of
rhythm and blues was love and other kind of human
relationships, soul singers voiced concern about the social
injustice, racial pride, black militancy, and forms of
protest (Southern 517).” Eileen Southern’s statement on Soul
music greatly describes the type of works produced by
Hathaway and Brown at the time, yet was definitely not
exclusive to these two artists. The period wherein Soul
intertwined with the Civil Rights Movement, produced music
greatly influenced by the environment in which its creators
lived. Donny Hathaway’s, “Ghetto,” and Marvin Gaye’s “Inner
City Blues (Makes Me Wanna Holler),” speak of the harshness
of life in the Inner City (Hathaway/Gaye). Societal ills and
political unrest were a major theme of Soul music, and
Marvin Gaye’s work, almost more than any other artist, was
demonstrative of this fact. Gaye’s album What’s Goin On, was
his commentary on the social problems of the period, and
through its success tremendously impacted the increasing
social awareness. Despair within the black community was
given voice in Gaye’s “Inner City Blues”. Inflation, taxes,
unemployment and police brutality were numbered among the
themes addressed in the song. The sense of hopelessness of



the piece can best be conveyed in the line saying, “this
life ain’t worth the living….makes me wanna holler, throw up
both my hands!”(Gaye). “Save the Children” goes on to ask:
“Who is willing to try and save a world that is destined to
die?”, yet goes on to say “live life for the children…let’s
save the children (Gaye). So, even in the midst of great
despair, Gaye, and other artist of his genre, did believe in
the possibility of change. "Ball of Confusion," debuting in
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