Hip-Hop Influence on American Popular Culture

The sphere of hip-hop influence on American popular culture is constantly extending, involving new forces and new interpretations. Previously hip hop was considered to be exclusively the culture of the oppressed and marginalized Afro-Americans, but at the present moment the racial and social boundaries are defied and such prominent hip hop representatives as Mountain Brothers, Eminem and Boricaus gained wide audiences.

Speaking about the cultural borders determining hip hop authenticity, it should be admitted that the borders became more flexible. For example, racial prejudices are almost left behind, but the way to this change was not an easy one. Many people took efforts and contributed to change the frames of hip-hop culture. Mountain Brothers were the pioneers, one of the first white hip-hop bands. But they were induced to struggle for the right to refer to the hip hop movement. Speaking about their references to ethnicity, the singers accepted the fact, that they were going to be compared to their black colleagues. Mountain Brothers tried to concentrate their efforts on the art, asked to listen to their music without bias and regard to their race. Notwithstanding the merits of the music, the musicians were to give more and more evidence that they were worthy to be named hip-hoppers and not worse than their Afro-American colleagues. It is a striking fact but perhaps it was the first moment in the history that white people felt oppressed on the ground of racial prejudices. The band tried to pass for black and admitted this compulsory condition for gaining the wider audiences and obtaining recognition. It was only their talents and persistence that made the community accept Mountain Brothers as a hip hop band and appreciate their music, its lyrics and style.

Raising the questions of universal values and being sincere in expressing the emotions and life position in their music, Mountain Brothers managed to make a valuable contribution to the hip-hop culture in general. Beginning with the struggle for the place in hip hop, the band appeared to be so talented and many-sided, that their songs were admired by millions of fans. Though the question of whether they deserve to be in hip hop never left them in their career path, the music was appreciated by the hip hop generation and the unbiased researchers. The band was dedicated to art and added some new themes and materials, which stimulated further development of hip hop in general. Working in the frames of hip hop culture the musicians managed to find the ways for escaping the themes of cruelty and violence in their creative work. The art and the truths were their main purposes and the main principles according to which their heritage can be judged. But appreciating the works of this brand the proof by contradiction method was often used. Critics would start with the saying that the band did not cheapen the hip hop music and take pains giving the evidence for it. Thus, the fact that they were one of the first white hip-hop musicians predetermined their destiny. Critics always reviewed their achievements taking into consideration their racial origin, willing it or not. It is in human nature, that people are reluctant to part with their prejudices. Singing about love, friendship and the truth and other universal values, Mountain Brothers managed to obtain recognition as a hip hop band, but their achievements have always been evaluated from the point of view of their racial origin.

Eminem continued changing the frames concerning the racial origin of the hip-hoppers. Though the audience was prepared for a new hip-hop star, his rise still was striking. He made his contribution to overcoming the racial prejudices and enlargement of the hip-hop themes and methods of diversity. “No figure symbolizes this more than Eminem, rap music’s first genuine white superstar. His rise to celebrity was meteoric…” (Watkins 85). After Eminem’s glittering career in hip hop it is hard to deny that white men are capable of writing and singing beautiful and touching songs, which became the cultural heritage of the hip hop generation.

The attempts to extend the habitual idea of the breaking dance were made as well. Due to the overall cultural mixing Caribbean Latino dance forms influenced breaking immensely. Puerto Ricans played an important role in the development of the b-boy/b-girls dancing style, though this fact contradicts the racial prejudices concerning the hip hop culture as well. Rock Steady Crew, Dynamic Rockers and the Furious Rockers have Puerto Rican roots. Perhaps it is in their national peculiarities that helped them to develop the original idea of breaking so successfully. Mambo and Rumba had a lot of material to add new sides and techniques to hip-hop dancing. All these facts prepared the ground for Boricaus not to be judged according to the racial origin. The efforts of Puerto Ricans gave the idea of breaking a new interpretation and brought new blood into it.

Having involved new people and places, hip hop gained new energy for further development and new spheres for self-realization predetermined by the change in the frames.” Despite a fascinating history and undeniable influence in America’s pop cultural, political and intellectual life, the struggle for hip hop, amazingly has only just begun” (Watkins 275).


Watkins, Craig. Hip Hop Matters: Politics, Pop Culture, and the Struggle for the soul of a Movement. Beacon Press. 2005: 279.

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