A widespread theme throughout most mainstream rap is a desire for wealth; this wish is part of the American dream, and thus reflects the desires of popular American culture (here the reader may find another example of how successful commodities diminish the tension between themselves and everyday life). The constant bombardment of African American youths with stereotypes has likely had a negative effect on them. It is common among black youths to try and replicate the messages seen in rap videos; this is not surprising, being that the representations of blacks in the media is so narrow.

Readers of this essay may be left wondering if hip-hop truly has a place in the arena of political and social activism, or if it is in fact a detriment to society. Evidence in support of either viewpoint can be found if  one looks hard enough. Until the gangsta image loses its marketability, however, it seems unlikely that hip-hop will effect any substantial changes. Mainstream video’s like 50 Cents “Disco Inferno” will continue to portray women as nothing but sex objects, and glorified tales of Scarface-esque drug dealing will probably linger in  the mainstream for as long as racism maintains its subtle grasp on society.

It is also interesting to note that aside from the rapper Eve, there is not a single female voice among the commentators; and indeed,  the world depicted in “Scarface” is a world with little room for females, and the film often basks shamelessly in its misogyny and commodification of women.  Furthermore, some of the hip-hop artists who are featured are  presented in less-than-flattering lights; the most notorious example is the Wu-Tang Clan’s Method Man, who addresses the camera in close-ups for all of his segments, and speaks with a dazed, stoned look amidst a cloud of billowing smoke.  This setup, whether genuine or staged, forces the viewer to call into question the  relevance of what the commentator is saying, or even the lucidity of his mental processes at the given moment.

Henry Obiospo's article is a primer on East Coast Graffiti. To most people, Graffiti is seen as vandalism. In hip-hop, graffiti is a medium for artistic expression. In some regards, graffiti art represents the struggle and challenge to mainstream idealism that Hip-Hop embodies. To understand hip-hop, one also needs to understand the artistic expression of graffiti and the cultural space that has defined it. This article does provide a basis for understanding graffiti in Hip-Hop.

The terms in the vocabulary were defined by Toni Blackman, Terence Nicholson and Henry Obiospo. We are continuously adding vocabulary terms to the glossary. If you would like to add your hip-hop vocabulary to the collection, please go to the Hip-Hop Glossary.

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