The Hip-hop Generation Gap: How Black Creations Lose Their Black Face

I think that we, as the African-American men in hip-hop, have a greater responsibility because we have the ears of so many millions of our young people. And they listenin’.”- Steve Harvey

I truly believe that hip-hop dance culture is at a critical juncture in this day in time. As Steve Harvey said, hip-hop has a massive influence on young African-Americans. However, in addition to the ears, we also have the eyes. The dance is arguably an equal contributor to hip-hop’s influence on the younger generation.

The responsibility to make that influence as positive as possible falls upon every individual in the community— it takes a community to raise a child, as they say. Additionally, the responsibility lies upon the pioneers of hip-hop dance culture the most.

Dance Fusion Japan
Dance Fusion 2017 Japan with NYC OG’s

Pioneers are now in there 40’s- 60’s, and have numerous generations of hip-hop practitioners behind them. Thus, they are the elders of our community who have gone through the gamut of experiences from the birth of hip-hop to its existence as a global phenomenon. They understand first-hand the magic of the block parties where all of the elements existed in a blast of black and brown expression. Recognition of their creation from mainstream America through media-hype set them on a high of celebrity lifestyle. They quickly felt the fall of a labeled “irrelevant has-been” as the same industry stripped them from their creation in order to create its own money-making machine. The pioneers have witnessed the birth and evolution of 40-plus years of black and brown movement: b-boying, popping, locking, house, vogue, waacking, hip-hop social dance, lite feet, jitting, jookin, flexin, krump, and more. I can go on for a while, but the point is these pioneers are filled with knowledge and experiences that, if shared, can educate younger generations on how to navigate our world as a hip-hop dance practitioner; ultimately, creating a stronger foundation for hip-hop dance to stand on and grow from.

 

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Dance Class w/NYC OG Tony McGregor in Taiwan

Have the pioneers been living up to their responsibility? Is the wisdom being passed down? It’s hard to say. I’m thinking of a way to measure that. One thing I can say with more certainty is that the knowledge passed down to African-Americans in the states pales in comparison to the knowledge that Asians and Europeans are experiencing. In my own experience, after a year of consistently attending a NYC institutional hip-hop hub in Exile Professional Gym (EXPG), my interaction with NYC pioneers (OG’s as we call them) has been minimal. That is the admission of a 26-year old who is hungry for the knowledge that the OG’s have to offer.

The black and brown adolescents— the heirs to the hip-hop throne—are not. Why would they be hungry for the knowledge of absent elders? Why would a child obey their father when he has been previously obsolete in their lives? I empathize with the young hip-hop generation, and saddened for the culture, when they express complete ignorance about their predecessors. It’s no surprise considering the elders are still busy trailblazing around the world providing their crucial kinesthetic and philosophical knowledge to hip-hop dance practitioners within other countries.

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Dream Works Dance Japan 2017 with NYC OG Cebo Terry Carr 

I am not claiming that there is something wrong with sharing information outside of New York City or the United States. I also understand that the pioneers have to make their own living, which I will leave for another post. My point is that the issue lies in the magnitude of the imbalance. It is strange to me that black and brown hip-hoppers from New York City are sharing knowledge within foreign lands such as Japan and countries in Europe, yet the only hip-hop centric dance studio in all of New York City— the birthplace of hip-hop— is run by a Japanese company.

That is why we are at a critical juncture. I do believe Steve Harvey’s quote still holds true— the young African Americans ARE still listening. There is still hope and time to connect the gap between what was and what is, but that time is shortening. Unless OG’s understand that they must filter their knowledge to their own people as much as they do abroad, hip-hop will be no different than jazz and rock’n’roll—the future will once again have Caucasian-Americans, Europeans, or Asians as the face of a beautiful black creation.

4 thoughts on “The Hip-hop Generation Gap: How Black Creations Lose Their Black Face”

  1. I have read this post and reread this post to make sure I understand the points being made and also to make sure my response is from thought and not just feeling. How Black Creations Lose Their Black Face? Simple we want our creations to be acknowledged by all and we realize in order for that to happen we have to do what is now called “Fusion” Anything we come up with someone from outside of our culture will say,”If you mixed this with(insert any thing) it would be more palatable”. Our mistake in that is, the fusion becomes known as the original and it is not. We (the culture) really don’t mind fusing what we do because we are hoping at some point we will be able to present the raw and uncut. The world first learns of this now palatable culture and when we try to now give the raw and uncut it’s not what the people think it is. So you hear things like, “can you do this a little more like……” and “that doesn’t look like what they are doing on TV” or my personal favorite, “Can you hit it a little harder like, with more edge”. So we lose the face of our creation because we think the people will know and recognize the real and thus request the real but they don’t so Coca Cola and Pepsi get to say what is and is not hot in our culture. Where America has filters abroad does not just look at their newspapers. So when you go abroad they have been studying PBS specials and old reruns of music videos while here in America it becomes known as “played out”. Because to be honest we always know deep down they can take it and run with it but it will never be like how we do it. Then there is the fact that we will always come up with something fresher and hotter ie Lite Feet, Flexing etc.

    When and if the youth want our input they will find us. If we feel like there is something the youth require we have to go to them because as a youth you could not come up to me and try to tell me anything about this boom bap. It is what I was born to do so unless you were getting down with me in the club there was nothing to be said. Show and prove! That still applies. You have something you think they could benefit from then you have to show and prove then a dialogue can be made. Kids in New York don’t need dance lessons they are living the culture day in and out. They just need places to be themselves. Adults getting into dance need instruction because they have lived their lives already and now need to be recalibrated to understand this world(the street culture world).They didn’t go to park jams, and freestyle sessions in the lunchrooms or those lost sessions that happened on snow days when you couldn’t go outside and there were too many kids in the gym so they sent some to the auditorium, and heads where going crazy cause you could go on the stage and it not be for chorus or instrumental music. All of these things shaped the culture. All of those things still exist in the black and brown communities. So they (the youth) are doing what they are suppose to do. What we really need is school that can teach those of us who are not from the culture so they can better understand what this culture is about.

    Last point about traveling and teaching. Every single teacher who travels abroad and teaches this culture I have heard say to their workshop participants in order for these steps that I just showed you to make sense you have to go to New York/LA/Chicago depending on where the teacher is from. In the early days they would come to New York and go to Fazil’s meet the community go the club experience the vibe and thus forming a love for the culture as a whole not just the dance or music but all of it. In recent years there has been no place for them to go Fazil’s closed all the clubs closed. So those same people who came in the earlier times have now invested in their culture understanding where it came from. So is EXPG for NY’ers to learn about their culture. No it is for people from outside of NY to possibly meet some people who can introduce them to the culture. If we want to really perpetuate our culture within our people then we need to to build what we need in order to do so. The responsibility lies in all of our hands not just a chosen few. The goal now is to find people to invest in the values of the raw and uncut to help make the fusions better. Thoughts?

    1. “How Black Creations Lose Their Black Face? Simple we want our creations to be acknowledged…”

      

I totally agree with your response to why black creations lose their black face. I talked to Spexx today and he said something interesting that I believe relates to what you say here, Cebo. Spexx said, “the people with money come into the door and take our creation.” I added on that we let them in, they just don’t barge in uninvited. I think this speaks to your point. We as black and brown people have deeply embedded desires to be accepted by the people with money. The reasons for that are beyond the scope of this response. However, I don’t know of many times our decision to invite and collaborate with the industry ultimately was a positive thing for the culture in the long run, do you? I want to help get us to a place where we can say screw what coca-cola and pepsi say, because we, the community, are sustained (culturally and economically) with or without them.

I also talked to Ki Nen a bit and he said Lite Feet spawned out of the absence of the previous generation. I believe that comment relates to your comment that we will always come up with something fresher. I agree, we’re going to ALWAYS come up with something fresher, especially when our youth feel as though they have to depend on themselves rather than their elders. However, my question is, “what is compromised for that ability to be SO creative?” My first thought would be love. Within your generation there were MANY absences of love, right? I mean kids having to deal with the war on drugs, single parent homes, oppression and marginalization from the government, etc. etc. THOSE things, and the escape from the hardships those things created, is what spawned hip-hop (a culture that initially was labeled around love…and peace, unity, etc.). I’m guessing Lite feet was birthed out of different and similar situations, but i would bet, if studied and researched, it would also root back to a neglect of love, and thus a need to create something that represents the love that is desired.

I hope that our ultimate goal as a people is how to improve the things we can improve in order to show that love to the youth. There will always be things that we need to escape from, considering this world sucks in many ways, so i don’t think the source of our creativity will disappear. And even if the creativity did cease, i don’t know if i would care…we’ve created SO much already. When do we take the next step, and find sustainable lifestyles off of our creations while improving the ways we show our youth that they are loved?

      “When and if the youth want our input they will find us…”

      Thank you for sharing this. I never heard of “boom bap” until now, I was like what in the world is that. Then Latasha (Urban Artistry) also said it and I was like ooo snap this is a thing. Thanks for putting me on lol. 

To your point about the youth doing what they’re supposed to do, and the school for outsiders of the culture, I have some economic thoughts. I feel as though creating spaces for kids to be themselves is right on and needed, but non-profitable. Creating a school to introduce people to the culture is a big part of the money-maker. I’m speculating, but from what i know EXPG NYC isn’t profitable. So i think there may need to be more than having a school for outsiders…? How profitable were/are parties? What else can we do to make money? Anyways, I wonder if there are others you think are interested in attacking the economical challenges in order to create those spaces for the black and brown youth while introducing outsiders to the “raw and uncut.”

      “Last point about traveling and teaching. Every single teacher who travels abroad and teaches this culture…
”

      Again, thank you for sharing your wisdom and experience, it’s an honor to read. My question towards your point about EXPG being a place for outsiders to get introduced to the culture is where does the true culture exist? I mean we can get deep and philosophical about, but if the clubs have closed as you said, where is the manifestation of the dance culture?

  2. Just so I am not traveling all over the world to answer the questions you made after my post. I will post the questions then my answer in order just so we stay on the same page.

    Q1.) Has there ever been a time where collaborating with the industry was positive?

    C1.) It all depends on what you consider positive. If you are saying they perpetuated the culture and help it spread around the world, yes. If you are saying people who would have other wise not have had jobs been able to not just work but travel the globe, yes. If you are saying helped inner city youth realize their worth, no! Helped communities understand their importance some yes and some no. Industry is about products and sales. If black culture is their product then they are going to contribute whatever they can to the reproduction of that product. So if bad neighborhoods and drugs is what is needed then that is what we will give you. I have done many things with the industry that were mutually beneficial. It is all about the individuals involved.

    Q2.) What is compromised for that ability to be SO creative?

    C2.) I think you are asking what was lacking that we were seeking to compensate for? Listen, we were poor but rich in love. You talk to all of our mothers and fathers and they will say the same thing. I was trying to do the best for my kids and keep them from being pregnant, strung out on drugs, or dead. We are the products of our parents hard work. My mother never stifled my creativity. She made sure I had options. So if that meant saying no to dancing with a hip hop artist so I finished school that is what was going to happen. Our struggles are what make us into the individuals we are. Our very existence makes us want to create things we can say belong to us. We are not born with inheritances like other cultures. I had a teacher who was directly related to George Washington Carver. Her grandfather! Yet it was like he was just a regular man. George Washington Carver! Smh I think about that now and all I can say is he was George Washington Carver she wasn’t and if she wanted to be known she would have to work just as hard because black people don’t inherit the same things as other cultures. It is just fact! So our ability to work hard is what makes that creativity.

    Q3.) When do we take the next step and find sustainable lifestyles off our creations while improving the ways we show our youth they are loved?

    C3.) Okay let me put it this way. There is a president of Sony that is revered he brought Sony 10 years in the future. He is the recruited to work for Mitsubishi. They were so excited he was going to move the company to new heights. Some people were nervous his revamp would cost jobs and so on. First month he was there he did his rounds met everyone in the company learned his roles etc. After a month he held a big press conference and announced he was changing the security at the front and everyone would have to check in with the security. Everyone was lost! This is his big change new security guards. Stocks started going down people were worried the company started losing money everyone is in a panic. He was sure everything would be fine. Went on for six months now board is ready to fire him then around the eight month things start picking up and stocks start rising and keep rising. Next thing you know the company is and still is one of top companies in the world. His change in security made sure everyone was on time being on time made them working more hours. Sense of pride in work made the brand stronger because the workers believed in the company. That is exactly what needs to be done. One small change because our principles are sound we have a whole world as proof. We just need to get the workers to have pride in the brand. Right now they workers are operating as board members only seeing the bottom line so they are ready to change ideas and go with whatever is going to make the most money. Everyone has a role to play and if we can get that one leader who is going to step up and lead all the other pieces will fall into place. Teachers will be on time, classes will start on time, lesson plans can be had, questions can be posed and answered pride in self thus pride in culture and so on and so forth. That is just an example. One simple change is what we need. From that everyone not just the youth will see they are loved and further more respected.

    Q4.) Is having a school for outsiders profitable?

    C4.) Yes, absolutely if it is a school not just a studio. People are confusing the two. Studios exists as supplement to school. You go to school all day to learn about all these styles and then go to the studio to get real world application. Studios are about quantity schools are about quality. So when New York has a school for outsiders and natives alike yes it will be profitable and having an adjoining studio only makes sense so now you have two streams of revenue. Absolutely can be done. Who is ready to sit down and do the work involved in opening a school?

    Q5.) How profitable are were parties?

    C5.) Very profitable in the days of partying. Today not so much but there is a lot of money to be made if you can turn your party into a brand. A household name like burning-man or Coachella. Along with that comes the headaches of culture versus commercial.

    Q6.) What else can be done to make money.

    C6.) We have to support ourselves. That means investing in us and the things we make and sell. We have to make our culture on whole a stronger profit margin and then we can all eat. Simple as that.

    Q7.) Where does the true culture exist?

    C7.) When it comes to the street culture. It will and has always rest in the hands of the youth. The issue is the passing of the information the youth need is not happening. So they are coming up with things on their own that are directly linked to something that already existed but because they don’t make the correlation they don’t feel the two are related. Conversations on the street are often offense and defense so when approached there is always this wall of defense that is taken as hostility and stifles the meaning of the conversation which is to share knowledge. So until we as elders can come up with a way of approaching the conversation without being condescending the problem will always exist. The culture lies in the youth!

    Q8.) Where is the manifestation of the dance and the culture associated with it?

    C8.) I think and this is just my opinion as is all the answers I have made before, a matter of opinion. Not law just observations made from factual and actual occurrences. So the manifestation of this culture lies in how and who we teach. We have to embrace change while respecting the foundation overall I really think we need to realize what we did has never been done before and because of that we get to make our own rules and for a lot of people that is just unbelievable that a bunch of kids of the Bronx could bring about a change in the world only comparable to the Big Bang. We have people the world over who have never known each other instantly relating over music and dance. So people want to claim that, link it to something they did so they can lay ownership to it. We teach people Music, Feeling, and Dance. They learn to listen, understand, then react.

    1. Cebo, I just want to say thank you for your time and thought man. Your words are an inspiring read and I would love to have further conversations about doing the work that needs to be done in order to accomplish things you were speaking of: making small habitual changes, establishing leadership, creating a school in conjunction with a studio, etc. I don’t know how much of a difference I can make considering my status in the culture right now, but anything and everything I can do to uplift these points in a positive way I am down for. Thanks again and looking forward to more conversation!

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