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How Hip Hop Culture Saved New York City

Updated: Feb 24, 2022

Hip Hop started out in the parties between the 5 Boroughs of New York. It sprang up from this destitute environment that was depleted of its resources. I urge you to look up any video of New York in the 70s. Movies like Scorcese's Taxi Driver were accurate reflections of the state of New York at the time, with crime, poverty, & various other problems. It was one of the most dangerous places in the world, but amidst that concrete jungle of ugliness and danger, a bunch of kids got together and beautified their environment beyond measure & grew a Rose bouquet that has become a multibillion dollar global culture.

How do you get kids off the streets and at peace? Art has always been the answer. DJ's would take drum breaks, loop them & get everyone to start dancing with each other, and the rest was history.

Hip Hop cultivated these kids into masters of bending sound, they became wordsmiths like Nas, philosophers capable of cogency & savant style storytelling, they were masterful artists that beautified their environments, the rundown trains and coal smeared tunnels became world wonders with kaleidescopic colours to marvel at, the broken homes and shattered glass were turned into the finest art with Basquiat famously using broken doors he found on the floor and various garbage to paint on, & ultimately becoming the highest selling artist in human history. The kids would train their bodies through acrobatics, and martial art maneuvers they incorporated into their dances, they created their own fashion and aesthetic movements, they were taught to beautify their world, question their society, and make money while doing it.

The kids looked for solace in the arts in every way they could and it created the booming New York art market with the infamous East Village art movement with Jean-Michel Basquiat, Fab Five Freddie & more, it all stems back to the rise of Hip Hop & the youths need to beautify their environment. It was built out of necessity. The kids started digging into their parents record crates, picking out music they grew up on & then sharing it with their friends. All of that started out of a broken environment and a few really bright kids that realized the only way to maintain a livable level of decency was to create beauty, and add value & positivity, because nobody else was going to come clean that place up.

The Mayor of New York recently started villifying & waging a war on New York drill. This is something the establishment has always done with Hip Hop. Its happened in Toronto, the U.K., L.A., Chicago, Florida & more.

Firstly, drill is a younger subgenre, but it's still not just the content of certain songs, drill is an entire genre with its own sonics, rythms, fashion, lyrical approaches, energy, a global culture & lineage, and for the Mayor to distill it down to a couple of videos his son showed him of guns is very ignorant, reductive and irresponsible.

Secondly, New York drill is rejuvenating all of contemporary art. The New York drill producers are taking the hits we all grew up on and creating something fresh, exciting & innovative with them. Instead of dusty crates these producers go through YouTube playlists to find songs we all grew up on to create something new, innovative, beautiful and productive.

ChrisSaves the producer for Blove’s Neaky took Gyptians Hold You to create something completely new while evoking nostalgia, the same way as DJ Kool Herc looping a drum break from James Browns Funky Drummer. Everyone in the world is Shmoney dancing, Milly Rocking, kids in Africa are Woo walking, the whole world is dancing to this music because it's authentic. Artists like 22Gz Perform at Pyer Moss Fashion Shows because there is a global interest in this exciting sound and genre.

The videos are homemade DIY with unique editing aesthetics, the drum patterns, 808s and basslines are unique to any other genre, it borrows a lot from dubstep and punk rock, the kids get together, show off their dance moves, show off their fashion & aesthetics and let out their rage through grunge style sounds and dance moves.

Pop Smoke was a kid that was an undeniable hitmaker with pop star energy, a keen eye for fashion & aesthetics, a unique sound, and a high ceiling, people all over the world are buying dior and appreciating fashion differently because of Pop Smoke, his sound was generational. His collaborations with Virgil Abloh on the Shake The room video is one of the greatest Hip Hop music videos of all time. Pop Smoke was gunned down in Los Angeles, not because of drill music, but because people were trying to rob him, and why were they trying to rob him? Because of socioeconomic inequality, not Welcome To The Party.

Instead of addressing the poverty & gang wars that happen in the streets as the socioeconomic issue it is, the powers that be will always discuss censorship, as though the music was the problem. If the rappers didn't talk about it, everyone would act like it just didn't exist, nobody would care. Pop Smoke is just one famous story, there are thousands of stories like Pop Smokes that nobody heard about because they never got famous.

As a music producer that has created drill beats I'm personally offended because I feel like I'm being villified for participating in a genre. The villlification of Drill as a genre & Hip Hop is eerily similar to Degenerate art, which was a term adopted in the 1920s by the Nazi Party in Germany to describe modern art that was removed from state-owned museums and banned in Nazi Germany on the grounds that such art was an "insult to German feeling", un-German, Jewish, Black or Communist in nature. Those identified as degenerate artists were subjected to sanctions that included being dismissed from teaching positions, being forbidden to exhibit or to sell their art, and in some cases being forbidden to produce art. I want nothing but to create beauty for my community and I feel that the Mayor's use of language was irresponsible.

Drill is energetic, new and fun. It’s given Kanye West a rejuvenated interest in BARS as seen with Off The Grid and City of Gods. Both those songs are energetic, fun and motivational with great messages, but the Mayor will attack the entire genre because its a scapegoat for the establishment, it's a way to solve a problem by quieting it down. If someone is making music, they are using their time productively and not harming anyone, and hopefully finding a way to feed themselves and their families. This is a way for these kids to air out their grievances while living in abhorrent circumstances & building a better life to hopefully achieve the American dream. The crime & violence in the music is happening in real life, the rappers are just talking about it and its not going away with parental advisory stickers or bleeps.

What the Mayor is talking about is not Drill music, it's crime in New York, and to understand crime in New York, or any crime anywhere, you don't need to listen to a single rap song, you need to look at the state of the infrastructure, look at the rate of homelessness, look at the rate of poverty, look at the general inequality and then tell me if Fivio Foreign and Pop Smoke are the biggest threat to New York. Saying drill is the reason for violence in New York is like saying Pulp Fiction is the reason for homelessness in Los Angeles, it's ridiculous.

There are people getting millions of dollars for ugly monkey jpegs while simultanesouly people are living on public transit & showering at the park, there's clearly money in this society, just a misprioritization of values & moral posturing by those in power. Instead of censoring these kids and limiting their opportunity, what if society actually adressed the core of the issue and solved it, instead of waiting for all of us to die out.

You need to speak with the policy makers and the business owners and get to the bottom of why people feel the need to commit crime. Crime exists due to socioeconomic inequality, not a rap song, and I don't care how many times the government tries to convince me otherwise. Don't stomp on the rose that grew from the concrete, admire how miraculous it is that a rose could even grow from concrete.

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