Hip Hop as a "Pop Explosion"

Essay by raouldukerUniversity, Bachelor'sA+, April 2004

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The criteria for a "pop explosion" are varied yet specific, remaining consistent throughout generational gaps. The qualities of a true pop explosion are subjective and may very depending on whom one asks. But Griel Marcus of Rolling Stone has cited the enduring qualities that define a pop explosion. Marcus states that a pop explosion creates a: cultural upheaval of class and race; distinguished youth subculture; change in the way people think and act; broad shift in sexual mores, political beliefs and economic aspirations; pervasive sense of chaos. Marcus continues to mention that enormous energy- "frustration, desire, repression, adolescence, sex, ambition" finds an object in a pop explosion. His article designates Beatlemania as the last pop explosion. However, according to Marcus' criteria, a pop music explosion has occurred as recently as 1982 with the emergence of hip-hop, or more specifically and notably in 1992 with the materialization of gangsta rap.

Gangsta rap is a form of raw, urban social commentary written by and intended for poor, minority youths.

However its' appeal has broadened widely. It is an uncensored glimpse of everyday life in the inner cities of America. The negativity of the lyrics was spawned from leftover ashes of the civil rights riots of the 1960s and the black power movement of the 1970s. The music of hip-hop gave the silenced, underprivileged youth a permeating voice and role in politics. Rappers used their albums to educate young listeners about the safe sex, drugs and the street life. Some of the characteristics which define hip-hop as a pop explosion are simple to identify: the birth of a new rebellious youth subculture; the extreme hatred and backlash from governmental, religious and parental groups; the striking magnitude of legislation passed in direct and indirect response to lyrics; the chaos of the LA riots, prophetically...