Author: Darrin Korte, Director of Out-of-School Time Programs, The Hip Hop Transformation Program Director
From its inception, hip hop music and culture has represented the voice of a movement. The descendant of spirituals, jazz, blues, and rock, hip hop has evolved through constant innovation to become arguably the most passionate art form in our society today. While many people only think of rap music when they think of hip hop, hip hop culture takes the form of many different genres such as dance, graffiti, DJaying, and fashion. At its core, hip hop still carries this history and message of unity with it. However, due to many outside forces and influences, hip hop has developed an image as being hyper violent, misogynistic, and anti social leading many to believe that hip hop is a negative influence on the youth who consume it.
The appropriation of hip hop culture has been a history of exploitation and degradation. From the moment people realized that there was money to be made from hip hop, its sole purpose switched to just that – profits. The voice of the movement was watered down and replaced by images that aligned with the stereotypes associated with the hip hop generation that already existed in mainstream culture. Hip hop had become something that negatively impacted the public’s perspective of inner city, minority populations. Middle class America now had a carefully constructed, yet inaccurate idea of what hip hop was all about.
The Hip Hop Transformation is a program that seeks to reverse this troubling trend by teaching youth the true history and spirit of hip hop culture that arose in the early 1970’s. Through this process the youth are able to see through the glitz and glamour that is so often pushed to the forefront. They learn about the impact that high powered investors had when they took control of the direction of hip hop in the early 1990s and steered it down a detrimental path. They confront how hip hop culture has impacted their own upbringing and how it influences their current perspectives. Instead of defining hip hop as a negative influence, we flip the script and define hip hop as a culture of positivity and community. We challenge the teens to question the messages delivered through mainstream hip hop and we challenge them to spread the message of positivity to their peers outside of the program.
The good news is that the potential for hip hop to have a positive impact on the lives of youth has never been greater. More youth consume hip hop music and culture today than they ever have before. This makes hip hop an ideal avenue to engage teens in something positive and constructive. They are connected with positive role models in hip hop as opposed to the rappers that they are encouraged to emulate through the radio every day. I have seen firsthand the impact that a program like ours can have on the youth that it serves, and it is incredible. It’s amazing what kids can do when they find something that they are truly passionate about.
The Hip Hop Transformation is a program for teens ages 14-18 offered by the Cambridge Community Center in partnership with the Cambridge Health Alliance and Cambridge Police Department. THHT teaches teens the history of hip hop, the role hip hop plays in society, and the skills needed to write, record, and perform original music.
The summer of 2013 was the pilot season, during which THHT put out a full album available for free at www.TheHipHopTransformation.org. They have performed at the Agassiz Baldwin Hip Hop Festival, City Hall, Cambridge Public Library, and at University Park in a final show hosted by DJ Hustle Simmons of Hot 96.9.
Friday, June 6th at 7PM-9PM, the “THHT Fam” will perform a “2014 Kickoff Show” to bring the group back together and raise money for year two. THHT will perform their own original music and local hip hop artists Fran-P and Dagha will be performing as well. The event will be held at the Bridge Sound and Stage Studio, 18 Edmunds Street Cambridge 02140. Entrance is $5 and all proceeds benefit the THHT program.