Have you ever felt like people are staring at you funny? If the way you express your love for hip-hop includes hoodies, jeans and fresh pairs of sneakers as a uniform, then this is often what you have to live with.
Expression through fashion, ways of speaking and behaviour is stigmatised when it comes to hip-hop. Take this story for example:
I walked into a shop and after spotting a few interesting items that I wanted, I noticed the security from the corner of my eye. Now, I know my hoodie-jeans-sneakers combo attracts unwanted attention because the securities assume I'm up to no good, so I tested this hypothesis. For the next twenty minutes or so, I walked around the store pretending to browse. Eventually I got bored of the attention, walked up to the security and asked him why he was following me and no other shopper. His answer was: "My job is to keep this shop safe." This assumes that I was a threat to the shops safety. I knew then that my clothes defined my level of threat to safety in the eye of the security guard.
I have come across many such instances just randomly travelling around Cape Town. The way you dress in public comes to determine how people perceive you. To be associated with hip-hop culture then is not necessarily a positive thing.
The perception on hip-hop culture becomes clear just by looking at the reception it gets from the public. Often, we are perceived with rebuke for being figures on the margins of society.
This is not just so for hip hop culture but really any cultures that are on the fringes of society. Skaters are finding fewer spaces to ride freely even though they pose no threat other than injury to themselves. Some weaker critiques have argued that the gathering of skaters is an incentive for possible criminal elements to conduct illegal activities, and by implication, influence the youths by proxy. Photographers’ creativity is likewise limited in Cape Town by the refusal for them to capture public places for fear of espionage or some other hoo-hah that the authorities can conjure up.
We see a trend in the way people treat these cultures. This gives us an idea of the stigma attached to being associated with these cultures. The identification of a “self” within these cultures lead people, ironically, to associate individuals with a preconceived notion that paints everybody belonging to the culture with a single brush. Autonomy is replaced with heteronomy.
This brings us to the dogma of hip hop. The dictionary definition for dogma is: "A principle or set of principles laid down by an authority as absolute truth." What a laughable concept when we think that hip-hop itself encourages freedom to express yourself autonomously. Yes, the irony is that this autonomy is rooted in a collective consciousness, but I would argue that the individual adds their own unique flavour to a culture by adopting their own ethics to mix in with the ethos of a particular culture.
To be perfectly honest with ourselves we should see the culture for what it is; an expression of the individuality of a person through the celebration of previous forms of expression and knowledge.
Hip-hop is much like Oros or "aan-maak" drinks. We all have a common ingredient like the water; our common ingredient is that we are all human beings. The magic happens when we add culture and find that we each have a different flavour of culture, and everybody enjoys their own particular flavour.
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