Hip Hop’s Background

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Chapter Two: The Current Study/ Statement Of The Problem

The current study examines how Virginia is situated within the landscape of hip hop music. The West Coast and Mid West may also be considered centers for hip hop production, but for this study I will be discussing how Virginia’s situadedness is ideal in relaying some of hip hop’s coastal tensions (Bracey and Sinha, 2005). Geographically, Virginia hip-hop is located between two key regional hip-hop sub genres, that is East Coast and the Southern hip hop. East Coast hip-hop is most specifically centered in the New York City area, radiating outward throughout the North Eastern region of the United States. Southern hip hop is most specifically connected to cities such as Atlanta, New Orleans, and “the deep South” in general (Harrison, 2005). Geographically, historically, and symbolically speaking, Virginia falls below the Mason-Dixon line that was established to separate the Northern states from the Southern states (Bracey and Sinha, 2005). However, within hip hop’s culture, Virginia is imagined as an ally of these two regional forces, where artists from Virginia such as the Neptunes, Timberland, and Missy Elliot’s artistry has been cohesive in East Coast, Southern, and even West Coast hip hop accord.
This study is important in helping us to develop a better understanding of the relationship among (hip hop) music, identity, and place, as well as illuminating on some ways in which music categories (such as East Coast and Southern) have been produced and promoted through cultural industries that come to shape local scenes. More people will continue to make and pursue music that makes Virginia unique (Harrison, 2005).
With all music, people start by imitating until they find something closer to home to model themselves after. Then when people get comfortable with the form of music it becomes a part of the individual or the state (Krims, 2000). Is Virginia at a stage of boasting its own hip hop identity or are residents subscribing to East Coast or Southern hip hop demeanors?
To employ the qualitative component of reflexivity, I should mention that I myself am a native of Virginia who undertook undergraduate and graduate studies in Virginia, Hampton University and Virginia Tech respectively, thus my focus is on Virginia hip hop most specifically. In college I have been exposed to people from all over Virginia, all over the nation, and all over the world. Our interest in hip hop culture and its application to everyday life was something most of us had in common, especially at Hampton, a historically black university, where the development of black identity was foremost. Most people clung to their regional identities anchored in hip hop antics and historically rooted claims of authenticity and these regional hip hop identities were even sometimes a source of tension and rivalry at HU. In this study I will explore Virginia’s situatedeness in hip hop’s topography as it relates to the salience of particular regional identities and what informs those identities. Furthermore, I will examine if Virginia’s hip hop is a unified or diversified front.

Chapter Three: Theory

With the rise of globalization, the wide range of once distinctive cultures have been brought into jeopardy by the homogenizing effects of mass culture, thus the study of the myriad of local cultures has become increasingly warranted (Bennett, 2000). However, the same processes that contribute to one global culture, taken with the practice of active cultural selection, can reinvent the traditional culture’s symbols and artifacts into new localized forms. Through this process an established culture is circulated, imitated, and multiplied (Bennett, 2000). People draw on local forms of knowledge to make sense of media messages and incorporate them into their everyday lives. Though we are exposed to the same global flow of commodities, highly distinctive meanings are ascribed to images and information based on our local sensibilities. The latent effects of mass culture are emancipatory in that the people will become conscious of new ways to navigate through systems that govern their lives (Bennett, 2000).
Music plays an important role in the way in which people define their relationships to their local everyday surroundings. Meanings attached to popular music are adapted to the specifications of a given locality (Toop, 1984). Musicians derive their music sounds from shared awareness in a local setting. The narratives one may present in relation to music spring from common, local, epistemologies. People cling to specific music as “symbolic anchors in regions, as signs of community and belonging, and a shared past” (Whiteley et al, 2003 p.3). The importance of space and place is signified by the breadth of cultural and musical production in local settings, where music can be made to the sound of everyday life and furthermore diffuse different ideas of national identity (Whiteley et al, 2003).
Ideas of community are relative to the collective identity in a shared environment. Music plays a significant role in the way individuals fashion that environment. In other words, authors of collective identity are also the “authors of the spaces and places these identities are lived out” (Bennett, 2000 p.64). Within a musical work, the listener may find a synthesis of sentiment and shrewdness that is a collective representation of a local space. Place and place based identities begin by utilizing the common stock of understandings about a locality. Our local knowledge is further enhanced by our collective values when we are exposed to other introspective narratives like we find in music.
Groups map out cooperative zones to effectively cattier to the collaborative needs of the community. People refer to information constructed from local resources to resolve problems that arise in these zones. As new people inhabit urban and rural zones, they become refined in regard to the social structure of the new habitat, however, they still shape “the day to day life of a particular place with aspects of their cultural reality” (Bennett, 2000 p.66). Music is a local resource that shapes cultural realities. Music influences the construction and ascertation of divergent social boundaries (White, 1996). Audiences may relate to the same music, but use the knowledge they absorb from it in different ways. A series of competing local narratives are created, where different social groups have different definitions of a space. Urban and rural zones become increasingly contested terrains. Those who choose to participate in the culture negotiate the aspects they find least appealing and at the same time fashion new forms of local identity that draw upon both the global and the local (White, 1996).
Whitley, Bennett, and Hawkins argue that “music, it has been illustrated, can bond displaced peoples, effectively bridging the geographic distance between them and providing a shared sense of collective identity articulated by a symbolic sense of community” (Whitely, et al, 2003 p.4). They go on to explain “as a highly visible and audible commodity, music comes to stand for the specificity of social experience in identifiable communities” (Whiteley, et al, 2003 p.4). Music becomes globally acknowledged when it captures the attention and allegiance of people from different locations. Music is effective when it mobilizes people by creating a locality where cultural heritage is shared (White, 1996).

Chapter I Introduction
Chapter II Current Study/Statement of the Problem
Chapter III Theory
Chapter IV Hip Hop’s Background
Chapter V The South
Chapter VI Virginia Hip Hop
Chapter VII Methods
Chapter VIII Taxonomies
Chapter IX Analysis and Findings
Chapter X Conclusion
Virginia Hip Hop and Place

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