Sep 19, 2011

DJing, MCing, Breaking and Graffiti Writing

I've studied American culture (especially pop culture) for many years. Although "studying" sounds something useful, but I don't have any useful purpose of studying American culture but only for pleasure, so it may be just a hobby for me.

There leave two major areas in American pop culture, which I haven't studied yet. They are "Disney" and "hip hop". I'm sure that I'll never be interested in Disney, but I've thought that someday I would get into hip hop.

My wife is addicted to Korean girls pop music. Now her favorite group is f(x) (Don't ask me who they are. I don't almost know f(x) at all.) and one of its members is Korean American, who sings rap and wears hip hop fashion. When my wife had a question about American culture, she would ask me about it. At this time my wife asked about hip hop fashion, but I couldn't answer her question. So I thought that it was good chance to begin to study hip hop culture.

I listened to pop music most in 1980s when I was aged between 13 and 23 years old. 1980s was the earliest days of hip hop music and I've listened to Run-D.M.C's "Walk This Way" and watched Spike Lee's film "Do the Right Thing" and they were quite cool for me, but I didn't follow hip hop after that.

Run-D.M.C. "Walk This Way"

"Do the Right Thing" opening

I thought (and think now) that 1980s' music was so commercialized and disgusting. Of course I checked Billboard's top 100 charts at least but became preoccupied with rock and funk music in late 1960s and 1970s, which I mainly listen to now. Since then I've turned off contemporary pop music including hip hop music.

I began to listen to hip hop music from "old school" such as Afrika Bambaataa and Grandmaster Flash. I feel comfortable with them, because old school hip hop was influenced by funk music in 1970s, which I'm familiar with, such as Afrika Bambaataa duetted with James Brown (no, in hip hop they never use the word "duet") Afrika Bambaataa featured James "godfather of soul" Brown in "Unity". When I listen to Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five's "Freestyle", I find the enchantment of rap.

"Unity" Afrika Bambaataa featuring James Brown

"Unity" live Afrika Bambaataa

"Freestyle" Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five

Afrika Bambaataa defined four elements of hip hop; DJing, MCing (rap), breaking (dance) and graffiti writing. I wondered why he defined these four elements but three elements; music, dance and graffiti. I thought that "music, dance and graffiti" were more natural than "DJing, MCing, breaking and graffiti writing". Why did Afrika Bambaataa divide music into DJing and MCing? I guess that it is the key concept of hip hop music.

In rock music there isn't the concept of DJ in hip hop. Rock musicians basically compose and play their own songs and sometimes cover other musicians' songs. In radio Disk Jockeys select songs playing on their programs, but Disk Jockeys aren't essential for rock music but just contingent on it. We don't think Disk Jockeys create something. I was used to rock music system, so at first I couldn't understand the meaning of DJ in hip hop.

But in hip hop DJ is essential for its music. DJs are selecting, editing, sampling and mixing music that they think to be cool. DJing; selecting, editing, sampling and mixing music, is to create something new. The song "Apahe", which originally was played by the Shadows, was remixed by many DJs.

Apahe medley

I'll listen to hip hop music from old school to contemporary. Afrika Bambaataa and Grandmaster Flash are real street music, but Kanye West and Jay-Z smell commercialized like 1980s' rock music.


  1. Whow! This brings back some memories. I remember that I only noticed that Run DMC existed when I listened to "walk this way", and I have only listened to it because Aerosmith were singing the song with them. I was never too much into hip hip.

    I am just wondering about the name of the Korean girls band "f(x)" their name is "the function of f"? Whow, that is a pretty geeky name for a band. Interesting.

  2. Thank you for your comment.

    Korean pop music is out of my territory, so I'm not sure but "f(x)" might mean "the function"... Is it a pretty and geeky? I'll tell my wife about it.