About a years ago I began work on a presentation to highlight the basic differences between Hip Hop & Rap. Somewhere in the mist of my project, I turned on the TV to find out, Hip Hop had been murdered and Rap declared legally insane. And while George Bush was held responsible for the war in Iraq and a weak economy, everything else wrong with America was being linked to Hip Hop. Drugs, teen pregnancy, violence, the high school drop out rate, the victimization of women (including rape and abuse), the reason racism existed in American, cop killings, pornography, did I leave out global warming. Okay maybe not global warming, but there was a serious witch hunt taking place. Later I saw David Banner and Masta P in front of a committee in Washington, DC defending their music.

It's was all surreal and as I watched America's corporate media do what they do best, sensationalize a story for ratings (prime example, after the Virginia Tech University shooting, one media outlet went so far as to place a picture of 50 Cent next to the shooter's picture, claiming that his music was responsible for influencing the killer to commit the violence).

Oprah's "Town Meeting On Hip Hop", BET's "Hip Hop vs. America", Paula Zahn's "Hip Hop: Art or Poison" allowed out of touch black leaders, right-winged whites, and angry women groups to all scream "Hip Hop"... "Hip Hop negatively influences youth to do this...", "Hip Hop promotes that....", "Hip Hop is the source of all societies ills". To make matters worse the people on these panels who were invited to speak for hip hop were mostly rappers and members of the rap industry out to preserve their moneymaker. The legitimate members of the hip hop community on these 3 panels could be counted on one hand, Common (Oprah's Town Meeting on Hip Hop), Chuck D & Nelson George (Hip Hop vs. America), and a couple of others. Hip Hop wasn't giving a fair opportunity to articulate to America, that what was actually being pumped out on major radio waves and on the Viacom machine (MTV, BET, and VH1) was not Hip Hop but a commercialized version of Hip Hop called Rap. And as people continued to confuse rap for hip hop, things got totally out of control with the statement of the year "Hip Hop Is Dead". This declaration was first made by Nas when he released the self titled single, for his 2007 album, "Hip Hop is Dead".

Did he really believed the statement or was he using it as a clever way to create a buzz and draw attention to his album release? His response to the controversy bother me even more, saying he was referring to, not just hip hop, both the whole music scene in general, as far as creativity was concerned. Though I agreed with him 100% about the lack of creativity, I could not believe that he perceived hip hop as a once active member in mainstream music that, after being exposed to a virus called commercialism, fell victim and died.

Luckily, hip hop had major medias to represent and defend it against the assault...it... wait... what am I talking about... once the Source magazine started trixin' with Rap, the love affair was over and hip hop got kicked to the curb. And hip hop lived at Hot 97, in the beginning, but after they attracted enough listeners off that claim, they raised the rent so high it downgraded hip hop from the penthouse apt, to a one room studio in the basement, finally back to the streets.

That's when I decided to expand my presentation to do more then just highlight the differences between the culture of Hip Hop & commercial mainstream Rap, I also had to prove that Hip Hop was still alive. I decided the best way to do this was to present a clearer and more detailed description of what Hip Hop was. I had to go deeper than just identifying the 5 elements, which is what the original idea was, but to explain why people love hip hop, what it means to live hip hop, and what other than the 5 elements separate hip hop from rap. As a result not only did I create a 3 part presentation, I developed what I feel is the most important part to this presentation, what I call the "Essence of the Culture".

Hip Hop has a soul, an essence that is made up of 3 main factors: Creativity, Originality, and Skill Development. These are the main factors that fuel hip hop culture. It is the force that governs it and the foundation for which it's built. It dictates the art, fashion, and media of hip hop. When the music industry attempted to bring the music element of hip hop culture to the mainstream, it failed to include (or purposely excluded) the essence, leaving them with nothing more than a product called Rap music. Once an element (or person) of hip hop culture is separated from its essence, it becomes disconnected and no longer part of the culture.

My full presentation on Hip Hop culture can be viewed at:


Author's Bio: 

Ray Nelson is publisher of www.nuflav.com a hip hop & urban online magazine / directory. He is also the producer of an urban video program called "Nu Flav Presents". Not only has he been involved in hip hop since 1980, but he's also a long time activist in the urban community. He's received an Elm / Ivy Award from Yale University for his community service. His writing career began in the early 90's contributing article to the Inner City News, an African American newspaper distributed in the Greater New Haven area. He went on to start his on publication "CT Flava Magazine". He ended circulation of the magazine in 1998 to begin his present venture, Nu Flav Media.