By Richard Ray:


The back to school commercials that the big chains like Kmart, Target, Macy’s and such employ which begin to signal the impending end of summer, have come to symbolize something far larger to me. Almost all of the commercials attempt to use some form of Hip Hop music (often with a diverse group of kids rapping) and dance.

Those commercials are a reminder how far the genre has come in shaping and influencing the culture within American society. That fact was further validated when it was recently announced that for the first time in history, according to Nielsen, R&B/Hip Hop music is the most popular music in the United States (surpassing Rock), related to volume which measures album and track sales, and audio and video streams.

I am old enough to remember the literal start of Hip Hop in America. Then it was considered a bastardized form of music, even amongst older Blacks, and most thought (and hoped) that it would not be much more than a temporary fad. Like the chants of Disco sucks across suburbs in the early 80’s, rap music often invoked strong emotional disdain that could track racial and cultural bias.

Hip Hop still has its opponents, but there is no denying how pervasive and influential the music has been in shaping and reshaping culture throughout the United States and much of the world. You go to any summer festival, and whether it is old school rap or current trap music, much of the demographic is White kids, who know every word to every song.

The commonality of the music has not yet lead to peace and racial harmony, but the music and culture has exposed the world to elements of Black and urban culture that they may not have otherwise been exposed to. Music can be a bridge to different cultures . Hip Hop’s diverse audience shows that not only is the music here to stay, its influence is likely only to get bigger. Races and cultures may not seamlessly mix and mingle in every circumstance, but an older generation is left with the reality that most kids are listening to and influenced by the genre, irrespective to their race or socio-economic status.

I love Hip Hop music and culture. I am a big fan of many of the genre’s pioneers and greats; KRS One, Biggie, Rakim, Grandmater Caz, Run-DMC, Jay-Z, Big L, Pun, Tribe, Brand Nubians (the list goes on and on), I am also a fan of many of today’s artists. The music has evolved…There is room to love the new and the old… There is just no denying that the music and the culture emblazoned by Hip Hop continues to grow and influence. Perhaps that influence will one day serve as a true bridge to show that people have more commonality than differences.




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