The Whole World and Hip Hop

I hadn’t realised until this week just how important hip hop is to such a large division of society.

The key is, I believe, how hip hop often provides an outlet for those who don’t feel like they ‘belong’.

Hip hop street dancing, aka break dancing, in ...
Hip hop street dancing, aka break dancing, in San Francisco. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Henderson in “The Vinyl Ain’t Final“, talks about how many Samoan people live in other countries, such as Hawaii, New Zealand and the United States. These dislocated clusters of young Samoans were also some of the first to adopt and spread hip hop. Henderson also notes how a young Samoan girl, at the 2000 Aotearoa Street Dance, combined hip hop with the traditional Samoan dance ‘siva’.

This again raises the question of whether globalisation is eclipsing traditional cultures. In this particular case, the issue resides in whether hip hop is eradicating traditional forms of dance, and further, whether this is a bad thing.

I think a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer is not an appropriate response to either of these questions. Instead, I think we need to think of globalisation as something that forces hybridisation. Hip hop has borrowed from numerous cultures over its evolution, and is popular all over the world.  This would indicate that hip hop, by its very definition, requires the individual to contribute something about themselves.

There are, by general consensus, 4 different elements to hip hop:

  • MCing
  • DJing
  • Graffiti
  • Breaking

This means there are a whole range of options for expressing ‘hip hop’.

As a further example of how hip hop has spread, we can look at how it has impacted upon indigenous Australian youth. According to George Morgan and Andrew Warren, in “Aboriginal youth, hip hop and the politics of identification“, it has been a way for disadvantaged young people to connect with each other and with their mentors. It has provided a constructive avenue for them to express feelings of discontent.

The fact that hip hop has been adopted globally is a perfect example of ‘glocalisation‘, where a global concept is adapted in a local way. Despite hip hop originating in America, it has been appropriated all over the world.

To me, this hybridisation is a positive thing. It produces things like this:


Henderson, A (2006) ‘Dancing Between Islands: Hip Hop and the Samoan Diaspora’ The Vinyl Ain’t Final: Hip Hop and the Globalization of Black Popular Culture Basu, Dipannita and Sidney J. Lemelle, eds. London: Pluto Press, pp. 180 –200

Morgan, G, Warren, A 2011, ‘Aboriginal youth, hip hop and the politics of identification’, Ethnic and Racial Studies, vol. 34, no. 6, pp. 925-947.


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