This week’s Outside-in cinema will be screening the 2011 documentary Beats, rhymes & life: travels of A Tribe Called Quest, shining a light on one of the most successful and respected hip-hop groups of all time, which gives us as good an excuse as any to point to the wide array of material available on the genre here.
For many people like myself who came of age in the 1980s and 90s, hip-hop was the style of music more synonymous with the “parental advisory” sticker than any other, so it is unsurprising that the oldest item in the collection here with the genre listed as a subject category is a 1994 investigation by Congress in the US on sexually explicit lyrics in music (which can also be read in full on-line here). Though even a cursory glance at the genre will see this as being a shallow examination of the music, which, although defined largely by its lyrical delivery, can now boast tendrils stretching to an enormous array of genres, many without clear direct connections to hip-hop at their origins. Looking at its own origins and influences are often enough: the catchy bass hooks and grooves of funk, the samples and drum loops of electro and industrial music, and the refined energy and political immediacy of hardcore punk.
And like any successfully transgressive art form, its ripples can be seen globally (case in point: 80 Australian hip-hop sound recordings exist in our collection alone). The wide stretching world of academia has certainly latched on to the area, all too happy to decipher and deconstruct the music and culture and everything in between. Its influence on fashion is also highly noted in design literature.
Given all this, I imagine that the one-sided view of the genre that I had two decades ago is less and less a common misconception, especially given the independent popularity of its many off-shoots and sub-genres. Though if you’re scratching your head a bit still about it all, come on down to the screening – where a wide selection of related books from the collection will be on display.