the art of miscegenation

it’s hard to comprehend this now, but before hiphop there was no such thing as a racially integrated culture. when hiphop came down from the bronx and created the roxy in downtown NYC it brought with it not just a fad, but a complete cultural shift that was ushering with it a racially integrated lifestyle. and the first culture that brought white kids and black kids hanging out together started less than thirty years ago!

if you can fucking believe THAT!

from Can’t Stop Won’t Stop: A History of the Hip Hop Generation:

FAB 5 FREDDY recalls the turning point as a July night…. “And everybody kinda bugged out looking at each other. You had these ill b-boys with the poses and shit, checking out these [punk & new wave] kids with the crazy haircuts and that whole vibe. And everybody kinda got into each other, so to speak. That’s when it really kinda took off as the first really major downtown club that had like a legitimately mixed scene.”

David Hershkovits, a music journalist who would go on to publish PAPER magazine: “The crowds were very diverse. That was why I was so excited to be there. Suddenly this racially mixed group was having a good time partying in a room together, which was a very rare thing. On the level of music and art, people were able to bridge all these boundaries.”

Dante Ross, who would become a key hip-hop A&R exec during the late ’80s, remembers: “The word ‘alternative’ didn’t exist. It was this great moment man, the ‘Grafffiti Rock’ moment. Everything was all mixed up, it was cool to be eclectic.”

this was not just some studio-54 remix, however. in 1982 afrika bambaataa had released “planet rock.” arguably just as influential as “rapper’s delight“–whose lasting testimony is as the first hip-hop shout that was hear round the world–planet rock defined a “grand statement” for what afrika was calling the hip-hop movement.

Planet Rock was hip hop’s universal invitation, a hypnotic vision of one world under a groove, beyond race, poverty, sociology and geography. [The lyrics] shouted, “No work or play, our world is free. Be what you be, just be!”

Bambaataa says, “I really made it for the Blacks, Latinos, and the punk rockers, but I didn’t know the next day that everybody was all into it and dancing. I said, ‘Whoa! This is interesting.'”

That was the move that proclaimed that this wasn’t just an “urban” thing, it made it inclusive, it took hiphop global.

which is making me wonder: what’s next?

all throughout history the art of miscegenation has been the art of creating cultural change itself. it seems like it’s an essential component for the achievement of a significant cultural shift that it empower inclusivity and integration. on a much smaller scale, i’ve already touched upon the ways in which i see the inclusivity trend playing out in the world of social network app sites, but really, in the grand scheme of large-scale global culture shifts… what’s next?

what sort of social divisions still apply so universally that the act of demolishing them becomes universal?

culture is like the water temperature of a pool: you don’t even notice it once you’re really acclimated. bursting a ubiquitous cultural taboo is like saying, ‘hey, i want a pool with a totally different temperature,’ climbing out, going to get a hose, and pumping new water in. so who’s going to climb out of the pool and usher in the next great cultural revolution?

and what’s the water going to be like once they do?

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more reaction to can’t stop won’t stop: a history of the hip hop generation:
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2 thoughts on “the art of miscegenation

  1. “in my previous post i wrote about how hip hop culture offered the first really racially desegregated lifestyle choice”

    This is the crazy talk! Its musically and historically inaccurate. Unless you mean that somehow the “cool”/experimental white kids brave enough to go on cultural safari and piss of their parents rocking run DMC or Whoodini is desegregation. Not to beat up on you (loved your post on DBoyds site which is how I ended up here) But HipHop has not until very recently (call it the mid-late 90s paralelling the rise of “urban” moniker) become the plurality it is seen as now.
    Swing, Jazz, Disco, early R&B, all attracted a devoted avantgarde euro-american following but it didnt make the art forms any less racially imbalanced (well maybe except for jazz).

    Now that I’m one of your 3 readers do I get a price?

  2. hey smellow,

    a price, or a prize? while all three of my readers are priceless, you should definitely get a priZe! i’ll have to think about what this prize could be.

    …well the great thing about a major cultural movement is that lots of people get to have their own experience with it.

    when the first hiphop night in downtown was being thrown at the roxy i was about 1 years old. so, even for nyc’s lax age restrictions, that would still kinda have been pushing it. needless to say, i was not there personally to witness how rainbowed the very early days of the downtown hiphop culture actually were or not.

    however, you’re right, hiphop was not the first to draw a mixed crowd. yet from the accounts in can’t stop won’t stop, from those who were there at the time, and did experience the backintheday days of this movement, it’s unmistakable that the fact that all sorts of different folks were hanging out together in the same place, and having a good time was STILL striking, regardless of what had come before.

    swing and jazz and even disco may have all come earlier, but it’s clear that they did not leave enough of a sustainable legacy for the new generation of dance culture to feel like they weren’t inventing the wheel all over again when they did it. no one saw it as “disco’s evolution” (let alone swing’s). so i’m still sticking to my view that the racial integration (which is not the same thing, of course, as racial balance) of hiphop had something to it that was fundamentally different from the earlier goes at it.

    perhaps it wasn’t the FIRST, but the first *sustainably* integrated culture.

    also, it might help to narrow down an appropriate prize if i know what city (or at least CLOSE to what city) you live in…

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