“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.
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.
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.
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.