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Bebop & Hip-hop
Posted on March 1st, 2010 at 9:27 pm by silvercc and

This week, the Millard readings focused on the transitions of the recording industry towards a more efficient and affordable type of production. The focus was primarily on the improvements of the quality, fidelity, and portability of the new recording technology being introduced from the 1930s up until the 1960s. The later pages that were assigned dealt with the techniques used to perfect the sounds being recorded within studios from the mid 1920s up until the 1960s.

However, I want to expand on the “‘Dizzy Atmosphere’: The Challenge of Bebop” reading by Eric Porter. The article focuses on bepop, which Porter described as a “musical language [that] included rapid tempos, dissonant chords and melodic lines, tritone and other chordal substitutions, extensive chromaticism, off-beat piano accompaniment (“comping”), walking bass lines, polyrhythmic drumming, and perhaps most important, a focus on extended, improvised soloing on the front-line instruments.” The emergence of bebop is directly associated with the jazz genre and was important because it came within a time of rising black consciousness and dissatisfaction of racial inequalities.

My focus will be on the late 1940s and after, where bebop was associated with the music industry’s decline and the image of a “bebopper” was connected with that of a juvenile delinquent. One quote that stood out to me was from Ralph Gleason, a columnist for Down Beat, stating, “Perhaps it’s all for the best. When people all begin thinking that be-bop is a swear word, or a noun to be connected only with shoplifters, drunks, or users of narcotics, then they’ll forget its origin.” He was referring to the preservation of its origin, the jazz genre, and how it’s a good thing that the negative connotation won’t have an effect on jazz. When I read the quote, I immediately thought of hip-hop.

In order to further demonstrate the connection I’ve made here, I needed to find a similar quote describing the hip-hop genre in a negative light. The Hip Hop Wars by Tricia Rose held the perfect example in its pages. Rose states, “Hip-hop has been roundly criticized for representing and celebrating what many critics, scholars, and media talking heads consider black underclass urban ‘culture of dysfunction’… [revolving] around the notion that poor urban black people have themselves created a ‘culture’ of violence (which includes crime and prison culture), sexual deviance/excess, and illiteracy.” Her entire book is dedicated to the controversy of hip hop being associated with “caricatures of black gangstas, thugs, pimps, and ‘hos.” With chapters entitled, “Hip Hop Causes Violence, Hip Hop Reflects Black Dysfunction, Hip Hop Hurts Black People, Hip Hop Demeans Women, etc” she dissects the stereotypes from both positions and explores these crucial issues.

From my personal observations of the hip-hop genre, I can agree that it is represented in a negative light. Yes, I’ll admit that some of these connections are justified. Some lyrics are raunchy and disrespectful. Some videos are risqué. Some of the subjects of the songs are violent. However, there are hip-hop artists that don’t engage in this type of song making, that shouldn’t be looked at negatively or generalized because of the genre that they are associated with.

Back to bebop… I’ve made this connection to hip-hop to show how history repeats itself. For me, it’s basically the same type of situation where the African American community took an already existing type of music, added their own culture, experiences, and intellectual love of music to it, to create their own form or genre, which some people understand, and some just don’t. Consequently, stereotypes and negative opinions are formed, discouraging the music from being produced. As you can see, however, the discouragements can only go so far, given the popularity of hip-hop today.

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Comments so far:

Link Here | March 2, 2010,

Hey Silver, great to see we were thinking along the same line. You took it a step further, pointing out the continued negativity associated with both Bebop and Hip Hop. I certainly agree with this. It’s interesting that people point out that Hip Hop is violent and agressive, considering African American history within America is pretty violent and agressive as well. In most cases, Hip Hop seems to be expressing the history of the black man in America. Yet the music seems to float more into the mainstream these days probably because white music label executives found a way to make money with “urbanized music” like Hip Hop.
Oh this industry really depresses me! Great post!

  jasonwaters |

Link Here | March 8, 2010,

I really liked the way you were able to connect and compare African American bebop of the past with the the newer hip hop genre of today’s era. I absolutely agree with both your post as well as Jason’s comment above in regards to the aggressive nature that is associated with the hip hop culture which does prove that history is able to repeat itself. I do feel that because there is a certain ‘high risk’ feeling within the hip hop industry, more and more people are drawn to it which makes it extremely popular within today’s culture.


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