Taking a step back, to make a move forward

June 8, 2005, midnight | By Zahra Gordon | 15 years, 5 months ago

Blair's hip-hop club gets back to the true essence of hip-hop

It was not too long ago, the late 70s, when hip-hop was born. Many people fell immediately in love with the culture. Now, almost 30 years later, a few Blazers have started a Hip-Hop Club.

When hip-hop culture came into media spotlight rappers, graffiti artists, break dancers and djs were rising out of the streets of New York telling tales of hard times through rhymes and expression. They developed unique styles and made it a point of being heard. It was more than just music. Hip-hop was life.

Many people, including several in the club, feel hip-hop is becoming more like a business and less like an art. And the graffiti artists, break dancers and djs, though still around, have taken a back seat to rappers. According to club members, there are growing misconceptions that hip-hop means rap and that all rappers are thugs.

And in this time of change Blazers are trying to get back to that time when hip-hop was more than just rap. A group of Blazers have started meeting in hopes of becoming Blair's Hip-Hop Club. Their mission is to get back to the true essence of hip-hop.

Fresh start

The idea for the club came from club president junior Corey Hines' love affair with rap. Hines started out writing poetry at age 11. When he was 13, his uncle showed him that he could put music to his words. Ever since then hip-hop has been Hines' "whole life."
At first, his intentions were to start a rap club, but when he approached NSL teacher, Kenneth Smith to be the sponsor, Smith suggested that the club encompass all facets of hip-hop culture. And Hines agreed.

After securing Smith, who also has a deep appreciation of hip-hop culture, as the sponsor, Hines gathered other hip-hop fans including juniors Benjamin Abdelrahman, Jessie Douglas, David Joseph and Nick Warmington. "We just all connected," says Hines.

"What is hip-hop to you?"

At the first meeting on May 5, the leaders posed this question: "What is hip-hop to you?" To everyone there it meant something different, but it was clear that hip-hop was more than just rap. For Joseph, who is the manager of the club, it is his direction. Joseph had always been a fan of hip-hop but did not get truly involved in it until he left the basketball team last year. "I needed a new love," says Joseph. Soon he began producing songs and becoming the "advice" man for friends who were rappers.

Joseph is now collaborating with Abdelrahman, who is a rapper and in charge of public relations for the club, on Abdelrahman's first solo CD. In 2003, Abdelrahman was on a compilation rap CD called "I'm Hustling and Grinding, Volume to the Streets" which he says was sold in stores such as Sam Goody, FYE and CD Game Exchange. He is also currently working on another CD with other artists that he hopes will be released before the start of this summer.

Abdelrahman believes that hip-hop is simply perfect. "To me hip-hop is raw. It's fresh. It's flawless. It's totally you and natural," says Abdelrahman. He also advocates that it is more than just rap, or even just djs, break-dancers and beat-boxers. "You're not hip-hop because you talk with slang or because you walk with a limp. You're hip-hop because you are just being you," he says.

Smith believes that hip-hop is a movement. "It is a lens through which people who adhere to it see the world," says Smith, who grew up in Harlem with hip-hop all around him. Smith is a member of the Alliance for Media Literate Americans, AMLA, and gives lectures through that organization on the history and true meaning of hip-hop around the country. In his lectures, Smith identifies the original elements of hip-hop: the MC (rapper), the dj (music), break dancing and graffiti. The other elements of hip-hop: knowledge (appreciation of self and others), street languages (codes and slang), beat boxing and entrepreneurship (street fashion), are parts that came after, according to Smith. "[Hip-hop] adapts, expands, adopts other aspects of American culture," says Smith.

Although Smith is able to name these unique aspects of the culture in his lectures he adds that identifying hip-hop culture is much like identifying American culture. "How do you define American culture? You can give examples of it, but what is it?" Smith asks. "You ask 100 people [to define it] they probably won't be able to define it, but they'll give you examples. Many aspects [of hip-hop culture] are American but some are specific to hip-hop," says Smith.

Not only does Smith see hip-hop as a movement, but as a way for teachers to get material across to their students. "When you understand what hip-hop culture is, it cuts across all socioeconomic lines, racial lines, cuts across all boundaries. You see it when you teach, it's everywhere. If teachers were better able to understand the culture it would give them a better understanding of the students that adhere to it," says Smith.

Hines says that hip-hop defines the people. "It changes with time, with every generation. Without hip-hop we'd still be wearing bell bottoms," says Hines. And Douglas shares the same sentiments. "Hip-hop is a culture to me," says Douglas simply.

Vice president Nick Warmington quoted a rapper to describe what he felt hip-hop meant. "I guess hip-hop to me is the same as KRS-One said, 'It's not just music, it's a lifestyle.' You have to live it," says Warmington who has been writing and rapping since he was in third grade. He also collaborated with Douglas on a CD called "First Impressions" in 2004 and on another CD called "Bleed the Block" released in May, both of which were sold at CD Game Exchange.

Beyond Blair

The members of hip-hop club want it to be more than just a group of musicians getting together every week. They plan to have debates on issues affecting the music, analyze lyrics and videos and make the club a center of learning. Since the first meeting, they have had a debate on the skills of Jay-Z and Nas, held a cipher - circle of positive energy - and discussed the use of the word "nigger" in hip-hop music.

They also want to see the club expand beyond the club's doors. Abdelrahaman believes that schools should offer classes teaching hip-hop culture. Warmington is adamant that the club shall have a long standing at Blair. "Just like hip-hop will never die out, hip-hop club will never die out because there will always be people who love hip-hop [at Blair]."

Hip-Hop Club meets on Thursdays in room 234. All are welcome.

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Zahra Gordon. Zahra Gordon is 16-year old JUNIOR at Blair who is overwhelmingly proud of being from the Caribbean twin-island nation of Trinidad & Tobago (and she never fails to mention that). She has been living in Maryland for four years. If you're ever trying to find … More »

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