Encyclopedia Surveys World of Hip Hop
TONY COX, host:
Hip Hop culture encompasses some of the misunderstood yet wildly celebrated elements of pop culture. Rap music, graffiti, break dancing, slang, even fashion were born of Hip Hop, and its impact has been felt globally. NPR panelist and author Yvonne Bynoe researched the many facets of Hip Hop and compiled a book titled the 'Encyclopedia of Rap and Hip Hop Culture.'
Yvonne, this is quite a book you have here. Why would you personally want to do this?
Ms. YVONNE BYNOE (Author, Encyclopedia of Rap and Hip Hop Culture): I think it's very important. Certainly, the material is out there in a whole lot of forms. But what I found most problematic that a lot of information was wrong. So I thought it was really important to put it in one book and try to be as accurate as possible. So certainly, you can't get everybody and everything, but I wanted to look at the whole 30 plus year history and try to pull out the finer points and make those accessible to readers.
COX: What were some of the most interesting things that you discovered while you were researching the book?
Ms. BYNOE: Well, I don't know that I discovered anything new. I knew a lot. And as I said, I've writing about Hip Hop and its various forms for about 10 years now, and again, having grown up with it. I think I was more intrigued and satisfied to see the wealth of information that was there. A lot of times we get caught up in the controversy of rap music and Hip Hop culture, but there is a lot of interesting characters there. There was a lot of innovation that was there. It's a lot of dynamic creativity that was there. And I think that gets too often lost in the conversations about lyrical content and imagery. Not that they're not important, but I think that the creative element sometimes gets lost in that.
COX: Well, let's talk about some of the specifics, because I'll admit, I'm a Motown guy. My son is a Hip Hop guy, and he is going to take this book from me, I know, as soon as he gets the chance. So, for the audience, that is Motown or other town, give us some tidbits from the book that are something that we might not have ordinarily known.
Ms. BYNOE: Sure. Hip Hop was a term that didn't really exist in the earlier days of the genre. It was something that was a new music. It had been around since the beginning of the '70s, late '60s, but it didn't really have a name. So Afrika Bambaata is a person who kind of used the term, and he credits DJ Lovebug Starsky with coining that term.
So we look at the early origins of it. It's African in origin. We can go back to the Griots and their storytelling. It came to the United States through the slave tales and narratives. But then it has a Caribbean element too because one of the premiere deejays, DJ Kool Herc was a Jamaican immigrant, and there was an old school radio deejay, Jacko Henderson, he kind of influenced the Jamaican sound. It's been an infusion of a lot of different elements.
And as this becomes more global, there is even an African and a kind of, to a lesser extent, a European flair. But I think what is really important to me to continue to stress is that as global as it might get, as inclusive as it might be, we can't forget the fact that it is African in origin. The public face of Hip Hop is still that of black youth. And I think that is important when we start assessing Hip Hop either from an economic or a social component.
What it represents to the public, I think to a certain extent, might have a greater importance.
COX: Let me describe this for the audience, because I have the book in front of me. It's about 400 pages or so. I'm on page 183, and I found this just so fascinating. It is the description and the root and the parsing of the word izzle.
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COX: You have examples in here. Let's talk about some of these, because you attribute it to Snoop Dogg as the creator of that form of that word.
Ms. BYNOE: Well, if you go a little further, there are actually some others. There's E-40 from the Bay area. So he really starts it out, and then Snoop kind of picks it up. But I use that as one example. But there are a lot of others where Hip Hop slang has crept into the mainstream consciousness. So when we think about Hip Hop, I think that there would be some that would credibly argue that Hip Hop has really influenced and is the most influential component of popular culture today.
COX: I want to read a passage from this description under izzle. In 1991, Another Bad Creation and their song Cooling at the Playground sang--and this is in quotes--"into the mizark, chilling in the pizark. Mother came home by dizark." I love this. This is just so fascinating that you have these kinds of stories interspersed all throughout the book. You have the given names, Christian names, if you will, of some of these rappers who have only gone by initials.
Ms. BYNOE: I thought it was important to try to give the fullest picture as possible. I think what you will also find as you go throughout the book, the reality is very different than the methodology. A lot of rap artists came from or come from middle class or at least solid working class backgrounds. A lot of them have two-parent homes. So this whole idea that everybody who is in rap is a high school dropout from the slums, that's not quite the reality. That sells a lot of records, but that's not always the reality of the situation.
COX: Yvonne Bynoe is the author of the Encyclopedia of Rap and Hip Hop Culture, and the book is in stores now. Yvonne, thank you very much for setting the record straight for us.
Ms. BYNOE: Thank you very much for giving me the opportunity.
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COX: That's our program for today. Thanks for joining us.