Hip various different forms by people of

Hop is defined and viewed in various different forms by people of different
backgrounds and cultures. One thing that can be agreed upon by many people
today is that Hip Hop has become a global form of art. Beyond just being global
however, the question up for debate is whether Hip Hop can be considered a
global learning experience. To properly answer such a question, it is necessary
to first define and understand what Hip Hop is and what a global learning experience

defining Hip Hop, it is important to look at what Hip Hop actually is and not
what it may be perceived as to different people. Hip Hop consists of four
elements which include, deejaying also called turntabling, rapping also called
“MCing”, graffiti, and B-boying. It originated in the economically depressed
South Bronx, NYC in the 1970s. It gained global popularity in the 1990s, and
became known in cities like Paris, Tokyo, Sydney, Cape Town, London, and
Bristol, England. Hip Hop started to generate large amounts of sales for
products in industries like fashion, liquor, electronics and automobile as a
result of hip hop artists influence through television and magazines. 1
Hip Hop is more than music, it is a culture. It has influenced and uplifted the
underprivileged by giving them a voice to deliver any message. Moreover, it
provides MCs and rappers with the ability to voice their opinions about
government, society and the treatment and struggles African Americans faced for
years. 2 Hip Hop is an expression of personal feelings and
circumstances that give insight into the life of an artist and their
surrounding culture. It has had a reputation for promoting violence, negative
views on women, and the consumption of drugs and alcohol. While such factors
are evidently true, that is only one side of the coin. The other side is that
Hip Hop can be used to raise awareness of issues facing

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groups who are unrepresented and disadvantaged. 3

            To be able to identify whether
something is a global learning experience, one must first understand what that
entails. A global learning experience is one that gives a person insight on a
different culture and provides them with a perspective into a part of the world
or a concept or an idea that was once foreign to them. It allows for an
understanding on why people are the way they are or why something is done the
way it’s done. It allows people to look to something outside of themselves and
what they already know. Global learning entails exploring places, people or
events and finding the connections and differences between those things and
one’s own life. In doing so a person can not only expand their awareness of
their surrounding world but learn more about themselves through learning about

            Hip Hop has bred a big fan base
worldwide with listeners from all over the globe. The majority of these
listeners are teenagers or young adults. While the media may at times portray
Hip Hop as having a negative impact on listeners and being a catalyst for
social issues like abuse, crime or teen pregnancy the reality is such issues
existed long before Hip Hop became known. 5 There is no denying that
there is content within Hip Hop that speaks of such issues however there is also
music with a positive message that builds on social consciousness to raise
awareness on social issues not promote them. An artist may mention social
issues in their music but the intention is not to cause corruption to youth but
rather to speak on prevalent issues. When understood correctly this in return
can build listeners’ awareness and empathy for people facing such issues not
promotes them to take part in it.

            Through Hip Hop’s long and impactful
history, it is clear to see that it can in fact be


considered a global learning experience. Hip Hop has
managed to grow from its African American origins to bringing diverse
populations together from across the world to share in one art while still
maintaining diversity and uniqueness. In fact, seventy five percent of the
audience is comprised of non-black communities which goes to show just how much
Hip Hop has grown globally. 6 Today, it is used to promote to the
young the importance of being aware of social and political issues. It educates
listeners, who otherwise may never truly understand the effect of an issue a
group or even one person is facing, on real social issues. This is crucial for
people and specifically youth to understand the conditions of the world
surrounding them and how they have a role to play in making a difference.
Moreover, it is beneficial to youth who may be experiencing the difficulties
talked about through the music and who do not know how to move past it. “A few
of the issues that hip hop has created awareness in are racial discrimination, individuality and the importance of education
and believing in your dreams. Hip hop also is a reflection of the soul and
mind, and is a solace for both the artists and listeners who may be struggling
with the same issues.” 7 As a result, hip hop has become a chance
for listeners to learn about global issues. The simplest of examples of such a
learning experience is a privileged Canadian youth who learns about the
difficulties of growing up in poverty from an artist who grew up in an
underprivileged small American city.  Not
only does this bring to a light an issue that could be completely unknown to a
person but it does so in a way that allows them to feel emotions associated
with the circumstance spoken about through the impact of music and lyrics which
can be an extremely powerful thing. Not only does hip hop draw attention to
unfortunate things like violence it also is used to promote anti-violence and a
need for peacefulness.



relating to young listeners about current or common issues it encourages them
to consider making changes that would move them in a better direction. Tupac
Shakur was one of the rappers to be criticized for unfiltered and profane lyrics
that displayed a very real picture of circumstance of urban Americans.8   While people may
listen to such music for the sake of listening to music, the fact that they are
consistently listening to lyrics about the mentioned issues may lead them to
consider their impact. Many of the issues mentioned by artists relate to things
like substance abuse or violence of any sort. An artist’s intention behind that
is not encourage such behaviour but to show people they can learn from their
mistakes and that changing one’s direction of life from those things can be
done. Since hip hop has become so popular, it makes it a perfect tool to be
used to build global knowledge and awareness on issues and possible solutions
since it is likely that as a result of its popularity it will reach many people.
Not only does it reach many people it reaches them quickly and starts to create
conversation between people that get them thinking about the issues and the
people affected. This goes on to draw attention of people across the world and
they begin to come up with possible solutions.

            While hip hop originated in America,
as it expanded globally it started to take different forms as different cultures
applied their own traditions. It didn’t just spread worldwide in its same
American form. Each artist with a different background and culture created
their own take on hip hop. This is what makes it a global learning experience
and Hartwig Vens views hip hop as such. 9 Hip hop has influenced
countries socially and culturally in many ways. It has allowed


leaders to
use it in a way to speak to issues within their communities in a relatable

            Today’s culture of youth, more than
ever, are interested in storytelling, highly value emotions and experiences and
question everything. 10 Hip hop addresses all those factors as it communicates
a story about experiences while being filled with emotions to trigger attention
and response. Artists use it bring up questions about just about anything
within their culture. As a result, the music and art created from around the
world bring to youths’ attention events or changes impacting people within a
cultural group. It challenges listeners to think about what is occurring around
them even if it may have no direct impact on them. It also encourages them to
think about the repercussions of actions taken by others and how that could
impact the listeners themselves. Since hip hop does a really good job at
sparking feelings and emotions through how raw and impactful it is, it is easy
for a person to find themselves influenced by a song they hear.

            Due to how global hip hop has become
it can be used in teaching people as a way of reaching out in a way that would
attract attention. Previously, artists would create music that would speak to
what that are or have experienced as a way of relating to people or showing
people a side they may never have been exposed to. However, now as a result of
its global reach artists should use hip hop to not just address what they have
gone through only but what the issues that they are seeing are becoming
prevalent in society. In such a way, they can go on to address more issues and
attract people’s attention for change in a way they know people will listen to.


            The commercialization of hip hop has
heavily impacted hip hop as an art. Hip hop started off from hopeless American Black
and Latino cultures facing poverty and discrimination. 11 In the 1980’s
it grew to be something much bigger than just that. The success of Hip Hop can
be traced back to Sugarhill Gang who produced the first hit song for hip hop.
Run DMC’s commercial success however, is what really got the success of Hip Hop
going as it became more mainstream. They even managed to be the first hip hop
group to have their album make a number one R&B chart and they were the
first to produce albums there were gold, platinum and multiplatinum. Hip Hop as
a whole, in 1988, made over $100 million in sales. In 1993, its revenues jumped
to an astounding $700 Million. 12

As Hip Hop
started to gain momentum and generate money for artists, it started changing. Alongside
all its success and growth came a pretty bad hit for African American radio stations.
Prior to the commercialization of hip hop, owners of these radio stations, DJs
and the programmers had full control over how they use their station to serve
their listeners, primarily African American African-American listeners. They
had the freedom to speak on local news and social affairs and support new
artists. But, as corporations outside of their community began purchasing local
radio stations, the African American ones were basically driven out of the
market since these corporations owned by white upper class were much more
powerful from an economic view point. Moreover, as corporate record labels started
paying more attention to the hip hop artists, hip hop began to change from what
it was originally. It turned into music being controlled by corporations whose
main interest was the money coming from the industry. 13 Hip hop’s
historical image became distorted and the main motive started to be making top
charts or


videos. It was no longer an expressive and real art it became a commodity
business. While this led to artists getting paid larger amounts and making
records, it has done so at the cost of the economic, social and historical level
hip hop was once on. When people point out hip hop as being offensive, they do
so because of the music’s violence, misogyny and homophobia. There are two
reasons as to why such factors are indeed prevalent. The first being that, hip
hop originates from a culture that has seen much oppression whether it be from
a social, economic or political stance. Thus, it is inevitable that the music
or art would contain things that some people would view as aggressive although
it’s most likely just depicting a reality lived by the artist. On the hand,
there is also the abuse of use of such content for mere entertainment which is
a product of the commodification of hip hop. From its origins, hip hop is all
about its honesty and rawness however as a result of record labels, artists are
sometimes forced to create content that will sell as opposed to content they desire
to create. 14 The commoditization of hip hop has put the authenticity
of the art at stake. Authenticity came easy in the early days of hip hop
however the more mainstream the music became the less authentic the content
became. A large contributor to that is as business became more involved in hip
hop, artists had the pressure of conforming to a specific style or image. This
was heavily influenced by the demand from record labels who wanted to make sure
they remained profitable. Additionally, this was influenced by the artists who
valued attraction of their audience over their authenticity and roots of hip
hop. 15

            The Commercialization of hip hop was
related to all categories. Breakdancing also known as b-boying became well known
following the movie called “Breakin”. Ever since then break dancing has been
widely seen in the media and dance shows like “America’s Best


Dance Crew”
and “So You Think You Can Dance”. When hip hop radio stations and mix tapes
started to gain traction so did DJing. DJs would promote the new releases of
artists, which in return would build up interest from listeners. When rap
became commercialized it had a direct impact on the commercialization of MCing.
The market for hip hop has become extremely over saturated and watered down to
the point that people will memorize the most insignificant lyrics and think
that what they are singing is truly hip hop. Finally, graffiti is the least
famous and commercialized. Graffiti still has its complicated and expressive
style that can be seen on walls or anywhere in cities. 16

While hip
hop started becoming mainstream and used for marketing can be viewed as a
negative thing it nonetheless resulted in hip hop reaching a large number of
people. This on one side has led people around the world to find their voice
through hip hop while adding differentiating features to hip hop as it relates
to their culture. However, it still resulted in people deterring the image of
hip hop which was once mainly used as a way to communicate social issues.
Instead people have now created music for entertainment only to target a large
audience while losing the purpose of meaningful content. It started to become
more about the money and popularity than its meaning and message. Nonetheless,
the commercialization of hip hop can be seen as a positive impact since even
though artists misused it as it started to have global reach it still continued
its main mission which was to give a voice to the voiceless regarding social
issues. For example, in Kenya the two sides of hip hop are evident. One side
focused on the money-making side of hip hop and moved towards capitalism within
the industry. While the other side, gave young rappers the chance to rap about
poverty, joblessness and struggles endured through their generation and the
past. 17

anything with good purpose, there will always be people who misuse it for the
wrong reasons. Some can argue that, the good always outweighs the bad and if
the expansion of hip hop can help more people even while its image gets
deterred, it is still achieving its main goal and that shouldn’t be overlooked.

            In the very beginning for hip hop,
the artists’ talent and lyrics where the main factors heavily valued by
listeners. With the commercialization of hip hop, that changed to monetary
success, appearances of style, insignificant personal stories and lyrics that
are catchy enough to be sung by many people. 18 Artists lost the
right motives behind their music and followed a business approach. The music
became more controversial as the topics of the songs were centered around sensitive
issues. While the original roots of hip hop will always be there for the people
who want to see it, overall the commercialization of hip hop has had more of a
negative impact than a good one.

            Hip hop as an art form is separate from
the hip hop industry. Hip hop as an art now more than ever is extremely
misrepresented and misunderstood. The industry that has grew substantively and commercialized
is to blame. The hip hop industry turned into a money-making business with
corporations and artists looking to create content that would attract people
without thinking how the measures taken deter the image of the art. This
consisted of a lot of pressure created to push out music with no real meaning
and often music with degrading and offensive meaning. However, the art of hip
hop, when hip hop is actually seen as an art is much different that is
displayed in the media nowadays. 19 As an art, its meaningful, it tells
an important story and its authentic. All of which are qualities rarely found
in the industry today.


As a result of the many years of the mainstreaming of hip hop, some people
can’t seem to look past the industry of hip hop and see the art that can actually
be within it. People see the controversial content and quickly jump to the
conclusion that it is offensive without ever taking the chance to see the art
within. The art of hip hop is one of the most imperative elements of music in

            The true art of hip hop is produced
by the artists who want to break free from social issues and express a story of
truth about their encounters, history and feelings. Regardless of the
mainstream impact of hip hop, as an art it will always be the viewed in its simplest
form as the voice for a struggling person. The art of hip hop has the competitive
yet community feel to it that has existed from the very beginning.

            As strange as it may be there are
many differences between the art of hip hop and the industry of hip hop. As the
industry has become structured around business, artists started creating
content about what people want to hear and not about a significant topic they
want to talk about which is what the art of hip hop is all about. 19 Essentially,
artists would rather sacrifice the true art for what would bring them material success.
Secondly, within the industry personality is valued higher than talent and
quality while in the art talent and quality is valued higher. The industry of
hip hop pushes for music regarding inappropriate content about violence, abuse
or mistreating women for the wrong reasons while the art of hip hop speaks on
from the view of personal experiences and oppression. Moreover, the industry of
hip hop highly mistreats women and objectifies them. The art of hip hop will
always be authenticity while the industry



for similar content as a way of giving listeners what they want to hear. The
art of hip hop is mainly reliant on the lyrics and quality however the industry
pushes on the importance of music video and media. In present day, the art of
hip hop is less valued than what the industry of hip hop provides people.
People prefer the experience of media, catchy music, and simplicity of the music
over the stronger lyrics and meanings of hip hop’s art. The quality of popular
artists has declined significantly and that’s as a result of the structure of
the industry. Additionally, the industry is heavily reliant on an online
presence to attract listeners especially teenagers. A large factor taken into
consideration in the industry is whether the content created would be
attractive to teens and more specifically to teens through online sources. The industry
of hip hop makes violence look like something that is cool while a true art
version of hip hop points towards the opposite. The art of hip hop, makes
listeners feels sorry for people experiencing violence while the industry hip
hop somehow incorporates it into the content like it is something good. 20
The art of hip hop is an art taken seriously and the artists who view hip
hop for the art that it is take the time to write their own lyrics and invest
emotions and experiences in it. The industry contains famous artists who don’t even
write their own lyrics. Within the art of hip hop the lyrics are the most
important element and the differentiating feature in terms of the quality of
content. As an art, hip hop can be collaborative however that is much different
from artists getting lyrics written for them.

            Hip hop as a global learning experience
is heavily impacted by the commercialization of hip hop. Additionally, the
learning experience from hip hop as an art is much different than if the

of hip hop was looked at. The negative impact of the commercialization could
have a


20  http://www.complex.com/music/2012/11/25-things-everyone-thinks-about-hip-hop-but-nobody-will-say/ignorant-rap

impact on the kind of experience hip hop gives off globally. The commercialization
of hip hop brings on a lot of music that is very similar as a result of record
labels and artists attempt to consistently give listeners what they want. Unfortunately,
in attempt of so doing content becomes very similar and loses its uniqueness and
authenticity. The learning experience becomes one about a large group of
creators rather than individually learning about the culture of each creator.
However, regardless of similarities between artists of a shared culture, there
will always be differences between cultures of different cultures. For example,
an artist in America or Kenya could create content about very different things
depending on their life experiences. There is also much to be learnt when a listener
can spot similarities between various groups and sees that the world is much
more similar than it could appear. When Hip hop artists focus on making money
as a business and appealing to larger groups through the use of profane
language or disturbing topics, such choices hinder hip hop’s true ability to
teach listeners globally. On the other hand, when artists create content that
is real and a true representation of their story it provides an extremely
genuine and interesting learning experience.

            In conclusion, hip hop when created
like the true art it is meant to be offers a rich global learning experience that
allows people to understand life for the artist or social issues the artist
wants to highlight. Hip hop brings together worldwide cultures to share in one
art while each culture creates a piece of art that is so unique and dynamic. This
is where the learning stems from as the differences of life and take on art can
be examined and learnt from. Moreover, at the very core hip hop and why hip hop
emerged to begin with is that is gave the disadvantaged a voice to express
themselves. When no one hears a person, there will always be music to make them
heard. Hip hop is a way for anyone to poor their soul into something and then
have people get a chance to take a look inside their soul through the art
created whether that be expressed through lyrics, dance moves or drawings. That
is exactly what a global learning experience is.