Hip Hop hooray: self-innovation lessons from a culture busting movement

Published: August 11, 2017
Author: Steven Thomas

On this day back in 1973 Hip Hop was born and it has continued to innovate music, fashion and our culture ever since.  It became more than a way for poor black kids in the Bronx to express themselves to each other.  It became a movement, a way of life - a philosophy, if you like, in its truest sense.  At the heart of the movement was a group of self-innovators who took the leap and found new ways to succeed, despite the constraints that surrounded them.

Thinkin' of a master plan - Eric B. and Rakim

People like Kool Herc, Grandmaster Caz and Grandmaster Flash took many of the tunes and beats of the past and innovated using the tech and tools of the day. They didn't wait around for someone to invent Hip Hop, they chose to do it themselves.

I knew there was a way to blend records together, but I didn't know how to. This was haunting me when I was in my teens. In my frustration, I decided to start experimenting with electronics. I tested the torque factor on different turntables. I had to figure needles out. See, there are two kinds, elliptical and conical. - Grandmaster Flash

Their words became stories that people believed in because they lived and breathed them. They set out principles that many have come back to time and time again and their influence stretches far and wide.  Hip Hop has a religious-like following and body of work that has endured the test of time.  And our world is a better place for it.

Conquer your neighbourhood, conquer your city, conquer your country, and then go after the rest of the world. That's my mantra. - Grandmaster Flash

Looking at the lyrics of Paid in Full by Eric B. and Rakim, I can't help but see a story of creativity, persistence and a certain kind of playful street-wisdom.  What do you see?

"Thinkin of a master plan

'cause ain't nuthin but sweat inside my hand

So I dig into my pocket, all my money is spent

So I dig deeper but still comin up with lint

So I start my mission- leave my residence

Thinkin how could I get some dead presidents

I need money, I used to be a stick-up kid

So I think of all the devious things I did

I used to roll up, this is a hold up, ain't nuthin funny

Stop smiling, be still, don't nuthin move but the money

But now I learned to earn 'cause I'm righteous

I feel great! so maybe I might just

Search for a 9 to 5, if I strive

Then maybe I'll stay alive

So I walk up the street whistlin this

Feelin out of place 'cause, man, do I miss

A pen and a paper, a stereo, a tape of

Me and Eric be , and a nice big plate of

Fish, which is my favorite dish

But without no money it's still a wish

'cause I don't like to dream about gettin paid

So I dig into the books of the rhymes that I made

To now test to see if I got pull

Hit the studio, 'cause I'm paid in full"

Main Photo by Khorsie (Kevin Horstmann) on Unsplash