Which famous rappers are actually criminals?
According to the traditional definition, hip-hop is made up of four elements that are embodied by four roles: the DJ (or turntablist), the rapper (or master of ceremony, hereinafter MC), the B-Boy / B-Girl (or breakdancer) and the graffiti writer. Historically, these four elements go back to the social, economic, and political turmoil of the early 1970s and the South Bronx in New York City. They were officially recorded in November 1973 by the first hip-hop organization, the Universal Zulu Nation. The name of this organization - primarily a kind of young people's cultural association - reflects the fundamental political influence and cultural impact of the black power movement, which reached its peak when hip-hop was still in its infancy.
Jeffrey O.G. Ogbar
is Professor of History with a focus on (Afro) American History at the University of Connecticut in Storrs / USA and heads the Center for the Studies of Popular Music there. [email protected]
Black power and hip hopLike all cultural phenomena, hip-hop stems from a number of complex and multi-layered developments that, beyond music, included the bold, irreverent style, self-confidence and boast that made the world's most famous black man at the time: heavyweight champion Muhammad Ali.
Ali, the most visible member of the largest black nationalist organization in the United States, the Nation of Islam, appeared as a student of its spokesman Malcolm X. Clairvoyant he noted that by becoming a champion, Ali was reducing the widespread depictions of blacks as people without self-confidence, self-confidence and fighting spirit to absurdity. Because the boxer was "the exact opposite of everything that was characteristic of the Negro image. He claimed he was the greatest." Ali caused headaches for the creators of pop-culture caricatures of the submissive black because "there were now black people walking down the street saying 'I'm the greatest'". 
According to hip-hop researcher Imani Perry, Ali embodied "one of the basic requirements for the explosive penetration of hip-hop, an artistic variant of traditional black cultures, into American pop culture".  The zeitgeist that prevailed among young blacks in the United States in the early 1970s was such that they not only explicitly celebrated being black, but also displayed Ali-inspired self-confidence, cocky demeanor, and disrespect for cultural conventions. Combined with the broader aesthetic of the Black Arts, a movement that included various musical genres, Ali was the recipe for success for the cultural foundation of hip-hop, even if the new art form was not explicitly politically committed.
In fact, hip hop has also been influenced by long-standing Afro-American musical genres, from jazz to rock and disco to funk. But what was passed on from one generation to the next was more than just music. As the cultural scientist Reiland Rabaka writes, "hip-hoppers have, albeit unconsciously, inherited both the cultural aesthetics and the conservative, liberal and radical politics of earlier Afro-American cultural aesthetics and other socio-political movements". Indeed, this latest form of black cultural production was about more than song and dance. Alluding to Amiri Baraka's classic study of African American music, "Blues People" from 1963, Rabaka notes that "Black music has always been more than just music. It is the music of the marginalized and outcast, the (...) dark rhythms the emergence from the dark side of and the exile in America. "
This idea that black music appeals to the experiences of black people - to move through inhospitable space, to fight against ignorance and hatred and at the same time to fight for freedom for joy and beauty - makes hip-hop political by nature. Celebrating black joy, creativity, renewal and black humanity in a focused art form is a subversive, counter-hegemonial political act. For this reason, hip-hop has been associated with the black community since its inception.
African Americans, more than any other ethnic group in the United States, share a political background. While whites exhibit political behavior patterns that traditionally differ significantly depending on where they live, educational level, age and gender, the overwhelming majority of African Americans vote left of center.  Political scientists refer to this phenomenon as "linked fate": As a result, for African-Americans, the economic, cultural and social landscape of the nation is so strongly influenced by race that the black community does not break down into class, regional or gender-specific groupings based on different interests.
Black billionaires like TV presenter Oprah Winfrey and entrepreneur Robert Johnson may benefit from tax breaks for the rich, but they are convinced that social benefits for the most vulnerable in society serve the common good, such as better educational opportunities and greater access to health care higher minimum wages and an end to mass incarceration. Other left-of-center political goals like environmental protection, the right to abortion, and same-sex marriage may not be core concerns of the black community. Nor does it reject them to an extent that could jeopardize their support for progressive politics in general. 
Against this background, it is hardly surprising that political statements in a popular black art form are basically aligned with left-of-center politics and sometimes even go beyond the typical liberalism advocated by the majority of the black political class. Nevertheless, rap was initially largely apolitical party music with a boastful style and rather sparsely expressed social criticism, although in commercial areas it was embodied exclusively by black rappers and DJs.
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