5CollDH Undergraduate Fellow and Mount Holyoke College student Eunice Esomonu’s project consists of four public art installations that use elements of hip hop culture to gain perspective on interactive multimedia production. This is her first post of three. You can click through to read the second and third installments, or read an interview with Eunice by Jeffrey Moro.
I’ve always had an interest in hip hop and how it influences people not only in the United States but worldwide. MCing/Rapping, Graffiti Art, Turntablism, and Break dancing has allowed for people to have a visual, oral, aural, and physical connection to the culture. Even while it continues to develop globally into many sub-elements, these four foundational elements provide coherence to hip hop culture.
The origins of hip hop culture stems from block parties in the Bronx in the 1970s where they plugged the amps in their instruments and speakers into the lampposts where hip hop legends like DJ Kool Herc and Afrika Bambaataa used their skills and existing records to create an evolutionary style. Hip hop early evolution occurred as sampling technology and drum-machines became more available and affordable. Hip hop was able to grow due to the affordability and the manipulation of technology and the repurposing of materials to create a positive environment.
Since its evolution throughout the South Bronx, hip hop culture has spread to both urban and suburban communities throughout the world. Through the years, the elements of hip hop experience considerable adaptation and development course of the history of the culture. Hip hop is simultaneously a new and old phenomenon; the importance of the art form means much of the culture revolves around the idea of updating classic records, attitudes, and experiences for modern audiences. Although that has caused a rift in the concept of hip hop, it has caused for certain elements originally presented in the late 70s early 80s to become mute and unnoted. The increase of technology has made hip hop a powerful source of music today but also was the cause of commercialism in the genre today. So, there is a push and pull when it concerns hip hop and the people who made it accessible to the people. The genre was innovative and inventive but is in a constant battle between the mainstream and the underground. From vinyl to streaming music, hip hop has always been the forefront of new innovation and experimentation with sound and visuals but the question we have to ask is that: is the increase of technology and awareness of the genre causing lack of ingenuity within the culture?
This is one of the questions I considered when proposing and introducing my project and on each installation. My goal is to showcase how each element is affected through time and the increase of technology. I have always been inspired by hip hop’s innovation and its history of repurposing elements to create a sound that showcased lives and looked to the future. I had an interest on the technological innovation that hip hop produce such as sampling to wiring traffic lights in order to create amazing experiences from the sound to the visuals to the words. In addition to showing innovation, each installations should showcase the historical aspects of each element of hip hop. My goals are to take the past to create installations that showcase hip hop’s history and its possible future.