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Posted on April 19th, 2012, by

The development of African American art remained unnoticed by the public for a considerable period of time because many African American artists did not have an opportunity to show their works to the mass audience. At the same time, African American culture, being isolated for a considerable period of time from the dominant American culture, developed in a different way than the mainstream American culture. In this respect, the development of art was affected dramatically by the development of African American culture. In this respect, it is important to lay emphasis on the fact that the development of African American art and culture was considerably influenced by racial issues, especially in regard to the spread of African American culture and art beyond the limits of African American community. In such a situation, it is obvious that African American art and culture could not produce a significant impact on the mainstream American culture and pop art as long as African American artists remained in isolation and were discriminated. In such a context, the Civil Rights movement opened larger opportunities for African American artists to interact with the mainstream American culture and influence pop culture. However, the influence of African American art and artists on pop culture was a two-sided process since, on the one hand, African American artists promoted the original and unique African American culture and affected the development of pop culture, while on the other hand, being integrated in the pop culture, they borrowed some elements of pop culture and integrated them into the traditional African American culture. In this respect, the emergence of the hip hop culture in the late 20th century marked the apogee of the impact of African American art and culture on pop culture, but, at the same time, African American art and culture was also influenced by pop culture, in response.

On analyzing the development of African American art, it should be said that African American artist were traditionally oppressed and had little opportunities to show or print their works to make them available to the mass audience. At the same time, the development of African American art was accompanied by limited opportunities for African American artists to develop their professional skills and abilities. What is mean here is the fact that in the 19th and the first half of the 20th century the high education was practically unavailable for African Americans.

Naturally, African American artists could not progress consistently if they failed to receive a higher education, which enlarged consistently their professional scope and facilitated their professional growth. In such a situation, the development of African American art could be viewed as the development of people’s art, i.e. the art that was developed by amateurs who attempted to experiment in different fields of art, such as music, painting, literature and others. At this point, it is worth mentioning the fact music was particularly popular in the African American community because it was the most available art, which developed en mass in the African American community. In fact, music proved the most democratic art which did not need special education or training in the African American community and it developed splendidly, though it was consistently different from the traditional music of white America.

In this respect, it is possible to speak about the development of music in the early 1900s and the first half of the 20th century, which was marked the growing popularity of African American music and musicians, especially in the 1920s ”“ 1930s. in fact, one of the most significant styles which was very popular at the epoch was jazz and one of the most renowned musicians working in this style was Louis Armstrong, who became one of the first African American artists who gained the national acclaim and was renowned as a talented musician not only by the audience but also by many critics (Rubin, 193).

Nevertheless, the African American artists still suffered from discrimination and they were underrepresented in the American cultural life. Historically, the representation of African descended artists was often insignificant and obviously such a situation did not meet the actual potential of these artists who created really talented and interesting work. Nevertheless, in the previous epochs they had really a few chances to gain a public acclaim and become very popular. In stark contrast, they were traditionally oppressed and did not have a lot of chances to show their works to the mass audience. Moreover, it is even possible to say that people of African origin had little chances to get a good education and become artists. In fact, the vast majority of these people was deprived of such a chance and could not fully realize their potential. Naturally, such a situation is totally unjust and needs to be changed for better. In this respect, Bell Hooks states that postmodernism may be a possible way out that will provide artists of African origin with larger opportunities to develop their skills, abilities, and talents.

It is only in the muid-20th century the African American art and culture got an opportunity to overcome the racial barriers. Due to the emergence of the Civil Rights movement, African American art and culture became available to white Americans, who proved to be interested in the unusual and very different art of African Americans. The popularity of African American art and culture was also determined by ongoing experiments in the American art at large.Ā  Nevertheless, in spite of the growing interest of white Americans to African American culture, it is necessary to point out the fact that the past and even the current attitudes to non-white artists mainly of African origin are absolutely unjust and, what is more, it is extremely biased. In actuality, it is hardly possible to estimate that non-white artists are treated really equally to their white colleagues. However, in spite of the biased attitude of white Americans to African American culture, the pop art and pop culture which became dominant in the mid-20th century were consistently influenced by African American culture. In this respect, it should be said that the hip hop art and culture, which became mainstream in African American art and culture of the second half of the 20th century, played a particularly significant role as mediators between African American art and culture, on the one hand, and the Pop Art and culture, on the other.

The hip hop culture produces a significant impact on the development of the modern culture. In spite of the fact, that the hip hop culture emerged in the 1970s and was originally closely interrelated with a specific African American culture, today, the hip hop culture is one of the mainstream cultures which is equally popular among different racial groups including both African-Americans and white Americans. Moreover, the hip hop culture has already overcome national borders of the US and, nowadays, it is possible to speak about the hip hop culture as an international cultural phenomenon which has outgrown boundaries of African-American community in the Bronx and Harlem. In this respect, it is important to underline that hip hop dance historically constituted an essential part of the hip hop culture. Moreover, it is due to hip hop music and dance the hip hop culture has gained such a huge popularity in the US and worldwide. In such a situation, it is very important to research in details the development of the hip hop culture and hip hop dance, as an essential element of this culture, and the internationalization of this culture, i.e. the process of the spreading the hip hop culture nationwide and lately worldwide. At any rate, it proves beyond a doubt that the hip hop culture has outgrown from an African-American subculture into a powerful mainstream culture which is popular worldwide.

On analyzing the development of the hip hop culture and hip hop dance, it is important to underline that the development of this culture was, to a significant extent, determined by considerable socioeconomic changes that took place in the American society. The emergence of the civil rights movement in the 1950s ”“ 1960s contributed to the liberation of African-American population not only in regard to legal norms and social standards but also in regard to the culture. To put it more precisely, the civil rights movement allowed African-American community making considerable advancement into its struggle for equal rights and opportunities. In this respect, the African-American culture was traditionally viewed as inferior compared to the mainstream white culture dominated in the life of the American society in the mid-20th century. As a result, the cultural situation in the 1970s was more favorable for the development of the African-American culture.

In actuality, the 1970s became the period when the hip hop culture has emerged and the development of this culture was basically the cultural response of African-Americans on the change in their social position and the change of their consciousness. What is meant here is the fact that African-Americans ceased feeling their inferiority due to the growth of their civil consciousness resulting from the successes of the civil rights movement. As a result, the African-American culture was not perceived as inferior anymore. Instead, African-Americans started to develop their culture which was viewed as an alternative to the mainstream white culture.

Under the impact of the cultural liberation of African-Americans and public perception of the African-American culture, the hip hop culture emerged. Its origin is traditionally associated with DJ Clive “Kool Herk”¯ Campbell, who was a developer of break-beat deejaying, where the breaks of funk songs were isolated and repeated for the purpose of all-night dancing parties (Chang, 59). In this respect, it is worth mentioning the fact that the breaks of funk songs are considered to be the parts the most suited to dance. During the 1980s the hip hop culture grew more and more diverse new movements and styles appeared.

Jazz Rap is a relatively new style which dates back to the 1980s. In spite of the fact that Jazz Rap is a relatively new movement in the development of modern music and culture it still plays a significant role since this movement may be viewed as an alternative to the mainstream hip hop culture and hip hop music. At the same time, Jazz Rap incorporates features which were typical for the African-American music and culture of the early 20th century, when Jazz was one of the major movements in the development of music in that epoch. This is why, today, Jazz Rap represent a fusion of the traditional music and culture with the hip hop music, which contribute to the progress of music, dance and culture at large.

The development of Jazz Rap was the result of the emergence of the hip hop music and culture. To put it more precisely, the 1980s were characterized by the growing diversity of the hip hop music and the appearance of new styles and movements within hip hop music contributed to the experimentation and searching for new forms of the representation of artistic ideas in audio form. At the same time, the development of the hip hop music was accompanied by numerous experiments in the field of dancing which also progressed respectively to the progress of the hip hop music. However, by the late of the 1980s the diversity of styles and movements in the hip hop music was so significant that some specialists working in this field attempted to return to the roots of the traditional African-American music and culture. This trend became particularly strong in the context of the growing popularity of the hip hop music among non-African-American population of the US. In such a way, the strife for the creation of original and unique African-American music and culture stimulated numerous experiments which resulted in the formation of the new, unique style, known as Jazz Rap.

In actuality, Jazz Rap was not totally new since it was not an absolutely new style in music. In stark contrast, it incorporated elements of probably the most traditional African-American music, jazz and the advanced form of the new music, the hip hop music. In such a way, Jazz Rap was a fusion of jazz and hip hop music. In this respect, it is important to underline that Jazz Rap is not only music proper but it is also a huge field for experiments in the hip hop dance which acquired new forms, different from the hip hop proper since jazz’s elements, being incorporated into Jazz Rap music, stimulated the creation of a different and original dance form. The development of Jazz Rap was one of the branches in the development of the hip hop culture, dance and music, but its major characteristic was the return to jazz, which was practically totally ignored by other hip hop movements since it was considered to be out of date.

At the same time, the popularity of the hip hop culture and hip hop dance grew stronger and it is important to underline that the hip hop culture was based on the development of hip hop music and dance. The popularity of the hip hop culture at large and hip hop dance in particular became so significant that they drew the attention of mass media and films dedicated to the hip hop culture and hip hop dancing were shot. For instance, it is possible to name “Wild Style”¯, “Beat Street”¯, “Krush Groove”¯ and others which were focused on the depiction of the hip hop culture, its origin and development. In such a way, the hip hop culture was promoted through media and became extremely popular not only within the African-American community, where it was the mainstream culture, but it also became very popular nationwide in the US. Moreover, in the 1990s and till the present moment, the hip hop culture overcame national borders and started to spread worldwide. As a result, today, the hip hop culture and hip hop music and dance, which are the backbone of the hip hop culture, are spread worldwide and it is possible to estimate that the hip hop culture may be defined as a mainstream culture of the contemporary world (Carrington, 174).

At the same time, it is important to underline that the popularity of the hip hop culture and hip hop dance was determined not only by the promotion it get due to the attention of media and films dedicated to the hip hop culture released, but it is also due to a significant social role of the hip hop culture and hip hop dance. To put it more precisely, originally, the hip hop culture and dance were developed in poverty stricken neighborhoods, where the problem of high crime rates was very significant and threaten to the normal life of people in these areas. In such a context, the hip hop culture was viewed as a tool to reduce the high crime rates in the Bronx and other areas with high crime rates. In fact, hip hop dance and artwork battles replaced the physical violence in the streets. In such a way, the violence and violent crimes could be reduced and the alternative culture and lifestyle, i.e. the hip hop culture, could be developed.

This fact is particularly noteworthy since it perfectly explains the growing popularity of the hip hop culture and hip hop dance worldwide. Obviously, many countries, especially developing countries, suffer from the problem of the growing crime rates and low development of culture. In such a situation, hip hop dance and music become an alternative to the purposeless life of people in poverty stricken neighborhoods where they have practically no entertainments nor opportunities to practice some sport or have a hobby which could distract them from their desperate social position and personal problems. Moreover, the hip hop culture through hip hop dance and music form new habits and new culture since people learn to appreciate dance and music which are probably the most accessible and popular forms of art for all people worldwide. Ā At the same time, hip hop dance and music is close to many cultures since it originates from the African-American community which incorporated elements of diverse African cultures and local, American cultural specificities. In such a way, the hip hop culture and hip hop dance were created in a kind of a melting pot where elements of different cultures were merged and combined.

On the other hand, it is necessary to underline that since its formation, the hip hop culture and hip hop dance have made a considerable progress and reached a very high level of the development. This is actually why the hip hop culture became the mainstream culture in the US and many other countries of the world. The development of hip hop dance and music contributed to the development of new, independent movements in music and dance and, therefore, it was not just dance and music of a specific ethnic group, but it became art which was accessible to large masses of people regardless their race and origin.

At the same time, it is important to lay emphasis on the mutual impact of African American art and culture, including hip hop culture, on the Pop Art and culture. What is meant here is the fact that it was not only African American art that influenced the development of pop art, but the pop art, in its turn, influenced the development of African American art and culture. In fact, today, such a mutual impact is particularly obvious because the African American hip hop culture, even though its preserves its uniqueness, gradually becomes more open for external influences, including the impact of pop culture. For instance, today, African American art becomes more and more commercialized which is a characteristic of the Pop Art, which is traditionally oriented on the mass audience and tended to commercialization of art.

Thus, taking into account all above mentioned, it is possible to conclude that the development of African American art and culture historically confronted a strong opposition from the part of the dominant American culture. In such a situation, African Americans have little access to professional artistic education and they had to develop arts which were the most available to them. In this regard, the development of unique African American music accelerated the penetration of African American art into the Pop Art. At this point, it is worth mentioning the development of Jazz in the first half of the 20th century and further development of African Amerinca music, art and culture, which eventually led to the emergence of the hip hop culture in the second half of the 20th century. The hip hop culture became has managed to become very popular in a relatively short period of time – within thirty years. At the same time, the popularity and international recognition of the hip hop culture could hardly occur without hip hop dance.

In this respect, it is necessary to underline that hip hop dance and music became very popular due to their artistic value and accessibility to large masses of people. Hip hop dance and music became the backbone of hip hop culture and determined its popularity. Moreover, the hip hop culture and art produces a profound impact on the Pop Art. On the other hand, African American art and culture was also influenced by the Pop Art, especially its orientation on the mass audience and commercial benefits.

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