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The Journey of Black Music and How it Affects American Culture

Music is the main aspect of popular culture, like radio, print, and television; music reaches a big audience through mass communication. Every aspect of popular culture has had a journey of development, whether it’s a technological development or a cultural development. 

I was watching the new Netflix show From Scratch where the American character was talking to the Italian character, and one thing the Italian acknowledged about American culture is the Blues, saying, “Oh, come on, that’s Blues … I mean America at least did one thing right.” 

The Blues is a music genre that emerged from the deep south of the United States in the 1860s by African Americans. Numerous components, including the call-and-response structure and the use of blue notes, have their roots in African music. The spirituals, a form of Afro-American religious music, are also closely related to the blues’ earliest developments. The beginning of the blues is frequently dated to the period following the abolition of slavery and the emergence of juke joints

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Blue Guitarist Robert Johnson

The call-and-response pattern, of which the twelve-bar blues is the most popular, is what distinguishes the blues form, which is widely used in jazz, rhythm and blues, and rock and roll. Blue notes, which are typically flattened thirds, fifths, or sevenths, are also crucial to the sound. The rhythm is reinforced by blues shuffles or walking bass, which create the groove, a repetitive effect.

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Juke Joints

When Jazz became popular in 1920, by the iconic black musicians that we still listen to today. Jazz originated in New Orleans as dancing music, and some jazz inventive musicians are Louis Armstrong, Charlie Parker, Miles Davis, and Duke Ellington. 

But jazz music was only recognized nationwide when Frank Sinatra came into the picture; he performed in the Paramount in New York in 1942. 

Though we know that Miles Davis is an extraordinary Jazz Musician, Frank Sinatra got most of the gigs and the appeal. Proof of that is that at death, Sinatra’s net worth was $200 million, while Davis’s was $19 million. 

Rock and roll are no different. When we recall who’s named king of rock, it is Elvis Presley. We ask ourselves why Chuck Berry wasn’t called the king of rock. 

Rock and roll was a massive movement in the 1950s. For one, it saved the radio from going out of business. Rock and roll were considered the devil’s music. At the time, it raised moral panic among the older generation as they were concerned about the youth listening to “promiscuous” music such as rock and roll. 

The journey of hip-hop and how it emerged from black culture follows the same story. 

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Hip-Hop band: NWA

Hip-hop has developed into one of the most significant musical genres and cultural influences in the world, moving from the street corner to the global stage. Hip-hop is a cultural movement that incorporates various forms of art in addition to music. Hip-hop culture is characterized by four fundamental components. DJing/turntablism, MCing/rapping, B-boying/breaking, and visual/graffiti art were the first four main tenets of hip-hop.

The Bronx neighborhood of New York City saw the emergence of the hip-hop subculture and art movement in the early 1970s. Its growth was a reflection of the detrimental effects of the post-industrial downturn, political discourse, and a dynamic economy.

Hip Hop History - Bronx, New York City Block Party

Looking back on this time period, we observe an economic collapse in New York City. Due to the collapse of the manufacturing sector and the building of the Cross Bronx Expressway, the city’s economy was in disarray. To avoid the social and economic challenges, a large portion of the white middle class relocated to the suburbs. 

The migration changed community demographics and created segregated areas. Neighborhoods with a high concentration of African Americans, Puerto Ricans, and Caribbean immigrants saw a worsening in conditions. In addition to increased crime, gang violence, and poverty, urban despair.

DJ Kool Herc, a Jamaican immigrant, widely regarded as the father of hip-hop, was one of the genre’s most important pioneers. When Kool Herc and his sister hosted the “Back to School Jam” in the recreation room of their Bronx apartment complex at 1520 Sedgwick Avenue in 1973, they made history. The hip-hop movement is credited with getting started because of this historical event.

DJ Kool Herc Party at 1520 Sedgwick Avenue

One of the main problems hip-hop music ranted about was police brutality against African Americans. Like “Fuck the Police” by NWA. 

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The movie Straight Outta Compton shows NWA’s journey in the industry, dealing with manipulating management and police brutality is all captured in the film. Representing how black musical band rise and the issues they have to deal with to do so.

Music genres and styles that originated from black culture is often adapted by white musician (understandable because they are so good). The issue lies when the music style or genre only becomes popular when a white artist presents it, giving no credit to who originated it. This derives from issues in society and corruption in the music industry. 

Music is a form of art, and it is considered a huge part of every culture. It often represents a societal issue that different cultures face. War, slavery, poverty, racism, and police brutality are all issues artists write about from across the globe. Black music represents black culture with its beauty as well as issues. While you might be able to copy or adapt a style, the meaning and core cannot be copied.

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