The spirit and philosophy of Hip Hop

Hip Hop has no bible - it is best thought about in the same way as radical western philosophical mov

Definitions of Hip Hop written by academics who are not engaged in cultural and artistic fashions have led to much confusion of what Hip Hop is. Most definitions that exist have attempted to limit definitions of Hip Hop to the artistic movements of street youth in the 1980’s breakdancing, graffiti, turntablism and rap.

However such definitions do not account for the rise of the economic, political and intellectual movements that consider themselves to be Hip Hop, the advancement and expansion of the creative elements of the culture such as film, music production and fashion and the significant group that takes part in none of the artistic elements but still relates to Hip Hop as an identity.

In moving toward a new and improved analysis of Hip Hop it is best defined as

'The cognitive, creative and emotive expression of Western youth of African descent who attempt to find success and meaning within the social realities of their lives that are characterised by poverty, racism and urban decay.'

Hip Hop unlike other ways of life does not have a single text that lays out the tenets of culture it does not have a bible, Koran, Torah or Bhagavad Gita, it is not a religion. Philosophically Hip Hop is best thought about in the same way as radical western philosophical movements like existentialism and libertarianism that promote freedom of thought and expression. It is built upon the notion of the open society, there are no fixed moral or cultural codes. Hip Hop does however have a set of central doctrines.

1) Keep it real

Notions of authenticity are central to the spirit of Hip Hop. A Hip Hop driven life is about striving to be authentic, to find an original voice and express the reality of your situation. Hip Hop wants you to listen to that inner voice, that inner self and be yourself at all costs.

2) Speak truth to power

The need to tell the truth is fundamental to Hip Hop. Telling the truth is the element that gets Hip Hop into the most controversy but it also serves to highlight the nature of life for the streetz and the poor. It tells the stories through rap music that others are afraid to touch. The stories of inner city life, crack addiction, prostitution, cocaine, gangsterism, violence, police brutality and the effects of policy wonks' disconnected policy. Hip Hoppas consider those that want to silence Hip Hop as enemies of the truth.

3) Change the game

Hip Hop is a revolutionary culture that revels in its irreverence. A Hip Hop driven life has no time for tradition, Hip Hop is a culture of permanent rebellion, a constant challenge to the status quo making it a culture of outsiders. Hence Hip Hop is in a constant state of flux and becoming. As soon as Hip Hop appears to be fixed it shifts.

4) Represent your hood

Hip Hop’s notion of family extends beyond your blood relatives and immediate family into your neighbourhood. Rappers who express Hip Hop culture through their music consider themselves to be the voices and spokesmen and women of the ‘hood’ that they have grown up in. Responsibility to your ‘hood’ means that when people become successful they are obligated to bring their family through to share the spoils of their success or face hate, beef or even violence.

5) Express your self

Creative expression is where much of Hip Hop as we know it stems from. It is the creative expression of Hip Hop that has made it the global youth cultural phenomenon that it is today. Although the creative element of Hip Hop had its beginnings in Rap, Breakdancing, Turntablism and Graffitti it is by no means limited to these forms of artistic expression. The Hip Hop community have long since expanded into multiple art forms and forms of expression. Expression in Hip Hop is not, contrary to popular belief limited to art Hip Hop is now expressing itself politically, economically and intellectually.

Anthony Thomas is the founder and CEO of Hip Hop Generation. He is a philosopher,organiser and entrepreneur. He is a director of London Citizens and the Black Londoners Forum.
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A rape-able sex robot makes the world more dangerous for women, not less

Eroticising a lack of consent is no answer to male sexual violence. 

On Wednesday, the Independent reported a new setting had been added to the personality range of a sex robot made by the company True Companion. Called “Frigid Farrah”, the setting allows men who own the robot to simulate rape. If you touch it in a “private area” when it is in this mode, the website explains, it will “not be appreciative of your advance”.

True Companion says the robot is not programmed to participate in a rape scenario, and the idea is “pure conjecture”. Nevertheless, the news has reopened the debate about sex robots and their relationship to consent. What does a rape-able robot say about our attitudes to consent, sex, violence and humanism? Do sex robots like Frigid Farrah eroticise and normalise male sexual aggression? Or does allowing men to “act out” these “most private sexual dreams” on inanimate objects actually make real women safer?

The idea that allowing men to “rape” robots could reduce rates of sexual violence is fundamentally flawed. Sex robot settings that eroticise a woman’s lack of consent, coupled with male aggression, risk normalising rape. It sends a message to the user that it is sexually fulfilling to violate a woman’s “No”.

It’s important to remember that rape is not a product of sexual desire. Rape is about power and domination – about violating a woman’s body and her sense of self. Raping a robot is of course preferable to raping a woman, but the fact is we need to challenge the attitudes and sense of entitlement that cause violent men to rape in the first place.

There is little evidence to back the claim that giving men sexual “outlets” reduces violence. The research that exists is focused on whether a legalised sex industry can reduce sexual assault.

Studies on Dutch “tippelzones” – spaces where soliciting is legal between certain hours – claimed the areas led to a reduction in sexual violence. However, the research lacked precise data on incidents of sexual violence and abuse, and the fact that sex workers themselves can be victims. As a result, it wasn’t possible to determine exactly how the number of rapes and assaults fell in the population at large.

Similar claims made by social scientist Catherine Hakim also failed to prove a causal link between legalised prostitution and reduced levels of sexual violence – again, because low reporting means a lack of accurate data.

Other research claims that access to the sex industry can in fact increase incidents of sexual violence. A 2013 report by Garner and Elvines for Rape Crisis South London argued that an analysis of existing research found “an overall significant positive association between pornography use and attitudes supporting violence against women in non-experimental studies”.

Meanwhile, a 2000 paper by Neil Malamuth, T Addison, and J Koss suggested that, when individuals considered at high risk of acting sexually aggressively are studied, levels of aggression are four times higher among frequent consumers of pornography.

However, just as the research fails to find a causal link between access to the sex industry and reducing violence, there is no research proving a causal link between violent pornography and gender-based violence.

Instead, we have to look at the ethical and moral principles in an industry that creates models of women for men to orgasm into. Sex robots are, at their heart, anti-humanist. They replace women with plastic and holes. They create a world for their owners where women’s voices and demands and desires and pleasures – and right to say no – are absent.

That should trouble us – we are creating products for men which send a message that the best woman is a compliant and silent one. That the best woman is one who lies back and “likes what you like, dislikes what you dislike”, to quote the True Companion website, who is “always ready to talk and play” but whose voice you can turn off whenever you want.

“By transferring one of the great evils of humanity from the real to the artificial, sex robots simply feed the demon of sexism,” says Professor Alan Winfield of the Bristol Robotics Lab. “Some might say, 'What’s the problem – a sex robot is just metal and plastic – where’s the harm?' But a 'fembot' is a sexualised representation of a woman or girl, which not only invites abusive treatment but demands it. A robot cannot give consent – thus only deepening the already chronic and dangerous objectification of real women and girls.”

What research does tell us is that there is a clear link between violence and the perpetrator’s ability to dehumanise their victims. That, and a setting designed to eroticise a woman’s lack of consent, suggest that Frigid Farrah will have no impact on reducing sexual assault. Rather, it creates a space where rape and violence is normalised and accepted.

Instead of shrugging our shoulders at this sexualisation of male violence, we should be taking action to end the belief that men are entitled to women’s bodies. That starts by saying that rape is not an inevitable part of our society, and the danger of rape cannot simply be neutralised by a robot.

Sian Norris is a writer. She blogs at sianandcrookedrib.blogspot.com and is the Founder & Director of the Bristol Women's Literature Festival. She was previously writer-in-residence at Spike Island.