The Geography of Hip-Hop

The Geography of Hip-Hop

A Presentation by Omar Akbar Young
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The Murray Speakers Series at Towson University in the Department of Geography and Environmental Planning welcomed a guest speaker from Howard University to give a detailed but brief presentation on the history and expansion of hip-hop culture.

Hip-hop is America's largest cultural export. At just 42 years old, the art form has spread to every corner of the world, making it a global movement. There has been no decline in its consumption. Instead, hip-hop has reached a global audience through new ideas, sounds, speech, and fashion. We have greater cultural diversity because of hip-hop.

The irony in the greatness of this culture is that its origins are from the impoverished and disenfranchised. People with minimal resources lacked the agency to produce what most people would expect from art. But sometimes not having much of anything gives us the grit to transcend limitations and create something great.

There are many complex art forms that grew from small, unassuming aspects of our history. The term "jazz" came from brothels when customers were being urged to move along quickly. The phrase was "jazz it up." Rock and roll originates from a slave call and response communication used on plantations.

Hip-hop has actually received much of its growth stimulus from urbanization and the redefinition of space. Economic shifts like gentrification and displacement have created new spaces for artists to thrive and become part of pop culture.

Contrary to what most believe, the culture is broader than rap music. DJing, B-boying, and Graffiti are three elements that were once, and still to an extent involved in a right of passage in the communities greatly affected by hip-hop. Now there are national and global competitions for DJing and B-boying. "Battle of the Year" is a B-boying competition in Germany held every year for competitors around the world. There is also the "Undisputed World B-boying Series" in the United Kingdom and "R16" in South Korea. B-boying is the most dominate aspect of hip-hop.

But DJing is the cornerstone. In the late 60s, DJs began using an archival style of music to create new records. Over the last 30 years, we've seen DJ competitions in Japan, Canada, and the United Kingdom. Because technology has evolved greatly since the birth of hip-hop, DJing has become an art form within itself.

Grafitti is the only aspect of the culture that is illegal without permission. Now cities have beautification projects that fund city murals. With that, artists have expanded the size and scope of graffiti. It used to be mainly teen delinquents with spray cans drawing their work on subways, train cars, and bridges in cities. Now artists create more rhetorical and honorary work that communities appreciate.

There is a vast collection of information that gives Hip-hop its foundation and character. Ancient rituals for exchanging energy; "the Black experience" through slavery, post-slavery, and the Great Migration; and conscious movements that reject white supremacy are instrumental in creating this culture.


Cover Image Credit: Karin Yearwood

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I Went To "The Bachelor" Auditions

And here's why you won’t be seeing me on TV.
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It’s finally time to admit my guilty pleasure: I have always been a huge fan of The Bachelor.

I can readily admit that I’ve been a part of Bachelor fantasy leagues, watch parties, solo watching — you name it, I’ve gone the whole nine yards. While I will admit that the show can be incredibly trashy at times, something about it makes me want to watch it that much more. So when I found out that The Bachelor was holding auditions in Houston, I had to investigate.

While I never had the intention of actually auditioning, there was no way I would miss an opportunity to spend some time people watching and check out the filming location of one of my favorite TV shows.

The casting location of The Bachelor, The Downtown Aquarium in Houston, was less than two blocks away from my office. I assumed that I would easily be able to spot the audition line, secretly hoping that the endless line of people would beg the question: what fish could draw THAT big of a crowd?

As I trekked around the tanks full of aquatic creatures in my bright pink dress and heels (feeling somewhat silly for being in such nice clothes in an aquarium and being really proud of myself for somewhat looking the part), I realized that these auditions would be a lot harder to find than I thought.

Finally, I followed the scent of hairspray leading me up the elevator to the third floor of the aquarium.

The doors slid open. I found myself at the end of a large line of 20-something-year-old men and women and I could feel all eyes on me, their next competitor. I watched as one woman pulled out her travel sized hair curler, someone practiced answering interview questions with a companion, and a man (who was definitely a little too old to be the next bachelor) trying out his own pick-up lines on some of the women standing next to him.

I walked to the end of the line (trying to maintain my nonchalant attitude — I don’t want to find love on a TV show). As I looked around, I realized that one woman had not taken her eyes off of me. She batted her fake eyelashes and looked at her friend, mumbling something about the *grumble mumble* “girl in the pink dress.”

I felt a wave of insecurity as I looked down at my body, immediately beginning to recognize the minor flaws in my appearance.

The string hanging off my dress, the bruise on my ankle, the smudge of mascara I was sure I had on the left corner of my eye. I could feel myself begin to sweat. These women were all so gorgeous. Everyone’s hair was perfectly in place, their eyeliner was done flawlessly, and most of them looked like they had just walked off the runway. Obviously, I stuck out like a sore thumb.

I walked over to the couches and sat down. For someone who for the most part spent most of the two hours each Monday night mocking the cast, I was shocked by how much pressure and tension I felt in the room.

A cop, stationed outside the audition room, looked over at me. After a brief explanation that I was just there to watch, he smiled and offered me a tour around the audition space. I watched the lines of beautiful people walk in and out of the space, realizing that each and every one of these contestants to-be was fixated on their own flaws rather than actually worrying about “love.”

Being with all these people, I can see why it’s so easy to get sucked into the fantasy. Reality TV sells because it’s different than real life. And really, what girl wouldn’t like a rose?

Why was I so intimidated by these people? Reality TV is actually the biggest oxymoron. In real life, one person doesn’t get to call all the shots. Every night isn’t going to be in a helicopter looking over the south of France. A real relationship depends on more than the first impression.

The best part of being in a relationship is the reality. The best part about yourself isn’t your high heels. It’s not the perfect dress or the great pick-up lines. It’s being with the person that you can be real with. While I will always be a fan of The Bachelor franchise, this was a nice dose of reality. I think I’ll stick to my cheap sushi dates and getting caught in the rain.

But for anyone who wants to be on The Bachelor, let me just tell you: Your mom was right. There really are a lot of fish in the sea. Or at least at the aquarium.

Cover Image Credit: The Cut

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We're All Thinking It, I'm Saying It: Too Many People Are Running For President

I'm all for options, but man, do we really need 24? I mean, I can barely pick a flavor of ice cream at Baskin Robbins let alone a potential President.

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There are, currently, 23 Democrats running for President. On the Republican side, there's, of course, Trump, but only one other candidate, former Massachusetts governor Bill Weld. Democrats have a whole range of people running, from senators to congressmen, a former vice-president, and even a spiritual advisor. We can now say that there are DOZENS of people running for President in 2020.

Joe Biden has been leading the pack for quite some time now. He was even leading polls before he announced his campaign. Although he is the frontrunner, there really is no big favorite to win the nomination. Biden has been hovering around the mid-30s in most polls, with Bernie Sanders coming in second. Other minor candidates in the hunt are Elizabeth Warren, Pete Buttigieg, and Kamala Harris.

After the surprising defeat of Hillary Clinton in 2016, Democrats have become electrified and have a mission to take back the White House after winning back the House of Representatives in 2018. There are so many people running in 2020, it seems that it will be hard to focus on who is saying what and why someone believes in something, but in the end, there can only be one candidate. This is the most diverse group of candidates ever, several women are running, people of color, the first out gay candidate, and several more.

There could be a problem when it comes to debate time. I mean, the first debate is next month. Having around 20-plus people on stage at the same time, debating each other kinda sounds like a nightmare. How can someone get their point across in the right amount of time when someone else is going to cut them off? Debates are usually around an hour and a half. So, if you divide it up, each candidate would get just under five minutes to speak. That would be in a perfect world of course.

Democrats seriously believe that they can beat Trump in 2020. They say they have learned from the mistakes of 2016, and have the guts and the momentum to storm back into the White House. By July of next year, there will be only one candidate left. Will they be able to reconcile the divide during the primaries? We will see. It will surely be a fun election cycle, so make sure to have your popcorn ready and your ballot at hand to pick your favorite candidate, no matter what party you lean towards.

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