Is hip hop a culture?

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What defines a hip hop artist? What are some of the issues that affect the cultural identity of the artist? Should musicians be more political?

In this week’s episode I talk about one of the central ideologies behind a music industry in trouble: capitalism. To me, hip hop represents a struggle between two extremes — the “gilded calf” and a culture of equality. In the “gilded calf” society men are not expected to be the best in the world, and as a result of this the best of culture has largely been handed over to the men who can best pay back their debts by producing the highest quality products. By contrast, the “totality” culture I describe can be divided into two camps: those who believe that men and women are equal to each other in every respect and those who believe in a society where gender is paramount and there is less money being contributed to the industry while others are constantly in debt.

For the most part, this debate does not concern our society to the same degree as issues of racism, sexism, homophobia and so on. For me, the question is more about how to be perceived and what this means about my own identity. And I’m not particularly optimistic.

I grew up in a very upper middle class family, my dad running a bank, my mom as a government secretary, and I had two older brothers and a sister but very little in the way of role models for how to live my ideal life. In school I was seen as more “independent” than even my two brothers by the upper middle class boys who attended the same school. I didn’t have much experience or knowledge of this particular culture of oppression either but I did feel that I “needed something beyond this narrow, white, blue collar life.” And I did know what that something was. My family had just come off a financial collapse in the early 80’s and I was left with nothing but the knowledge of hard work, and then some, which made my dreams of financial independence possible. I was determined to prove to my parents that I had all the qualities and qualities of a successful adult: hard work, intelligence and creativity. I was born into a family who had never made any money, so I had no desire to go on an expensive lifestyle. I went to a public high school and was well prepared, and I made the decision to start a business in 2002. I didn’t have any mentors, other than my mom who was an accountant, so I had to take myself seriously and prove