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By Adia “Dr. Dia” Winfrey, Psy.D. | With thanks to NewBlackMan


Friday, June 22, 2012.


Hip Hop’s current fashion trends and “the mainstream” are not killing our culture. Despite popular belief, “the mainstream” is not and has never been the enemy of Hip Hop culture. Unlike our now clichéd recollection of its birth, Hip Hop culture was not made popular because it went against the mainstream. To the contrary, the culture became a movement, because it allowed marginalized groups to claim mainstream spaces. Hip Hop culture was born of Black and Latino youth who did not veer too far from behaviors exhibited by all teens and pre-teens. They embraced music and fashion that highlighted their uniqueness.


The difference between Hip Hop’s architects, and “mainstream” youth was their audacity to demand and claim their space using the limited means at their disposal. In generations past, Hip Hop’s architects would have been teens attending sock hops or juke joint parties, as opposed to park dwellers using street lights to power booming sound systems. But like many double standards still in place today, Black and Brown youth are held to criterion their white counterparts aren’t, and demonized for engaging in similar behavior. We see it in the criticisms of popular or “mainstream” Hip Hop culture, and the Black youth who embrace it.


While it’s been known for decades the primary purchasers of rap music (Hip Hop culture’s most popular element) are white, it is Black youth that are seen as the victims and destroyers of Hip Hop culture from music to fashion. Many adults whom I refer to as “Hip Hop elitists,” persistently criticize Black youth for wearing popular, trending fashion. Whether it was mini-skirts, bell bottoms, or Hammer pants, youth have never sought fashion approval from adults. And like gazelles and polka dots, this too shall pass…and likely return again. But clothing has little to do with our ailing culture and struggling communities. Even if every teenager in America wore tailor-made pants above their wastes, we’d still be in trouble.


The aim of our concern shouldn’t be on fashion, but our youth’s lost voices. The genius of Hip Hop culture lies in the power of those youth who demanded to be seen and heard. Yes, social consciousness in public figures is admirable, but is not more powerful than the voices of our youth. Holding “the mainstream” accountable for the apathy within Hip Hop culture is equally as futile, only creating abstract enemies while relinquishing our power. It’s time to take lessons from the youth who are Hip Hop’s architects and strategize.


Instead of touting Hip Hop culture’s rage against the mainstream, let’s use mainstream resources and old-school tactics to initiate action that will empower our communities. Rather than nostalgic reminiscing sessions about the Golden Era of Hip Hop in comparison to the culture today, let’s use our connection to the culture to connect with our youth. Lest we forget Tupac and NWA, Hip Hop legends today, were initially viewed as liabilities to the culture. We see what is happening to us. Waiting for artists to spark a movement or youth fashion to change only ensures our slow death continues. It is our individual and collective responsibilities to revitalize Hip Hop culture and our communities. Now’s the time…let’s get HYPE!




Adia “Dr. Dia” Winfrey, Psy.D, is the author of H.Y.P.E.: Healing Young People thru Empowerment (African-American Images, 2009) and has been featured on NPR, in JET Magazine, and endorsed by syndicated radio personalities Tom Joyner and Michael Baisden. Learn more at letsgethype.com.

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