Jazz and Hip Hop: The Ghetto and Music as Language
African-American cultural forms and developments are as vast as they are diverse. However, because of white America's consistently racist and oppressive treatment of black peoples in this country there exist certain commonalities between African-American cultures as a result of this continuous subordination. In this paper I will attempt to present some of these existing similarities within hip hop and jazz cultures. Although they are both musically and culturally quite different, each arising out of a particular historical moment with its own distinct musical and cultural practices, there exists enough similarities between that two that it seems a comparison is indeed beneficial in understanding and examining American society in general. The similarities between the two African-American cultures is also quite large. Because of the length of this paper I am limiting my comparison to three very specific points of inquiry: to what effects the urban ghettos from which both of these cultures arose out of had upon their initial development, and the ways in which the music of both of these cultures is a form of alternative and self-empowering language.
I wish to acknowledge three things first. One is that, in regards to this last subject of alternative language and identity formation within hip hop and jazz there exists such a vast amount of practices that arose out of these cultures for which this notion of re-affirming alternative language and identity could be applied, that it 7-8 pages just would not cut it. And two, my aim of investigation within hip hop and jazz was in unpacking the major things that effect human life in general space and language. As a result I have limited my discussion of the ghetto to its most general effects upon these cultures, and significantly narrowed my discussion of language to specifically the ways in which the music of hip hop and jazz are forms of communication, identity reformation and re-appropriation, and have had to necessarily exclude the many other ways in which these collective and self-empowering acts within jazz and hip hop manifest. With that said I will now begin my investigation.
The physical spaces in which we live bear profound impact upon our conceptions of the world and in effect, our selves. However, because the city is thought to reflect the technological and industrialized mastery of our environment at its most extreme, it is within the city that these concepts become intensely magnified. As David Goldberg explains, "The built environment is made in, and reifies, the image and architecture of `pyramidal power'... Citizen and strangers are controlled through the spatial confines of divided place. This urban geometry - the spatial categories through, and in which, the lived world is largely thought, experienced, disciplined - imposes a set of interiorities and exteriorities" (Forman 36). The city reflects to us the goals, beliefs, and...