Blog Post 6 (Part 2)

     Main key points from chapters four and five (continued). 

Blog Post 6 (Part 1)

     These images are some of the main ideas in chapters four and five of John Leland’s Hip:The History. There is everything from the pulp fiction hero to Eminem. 

Blog Post 5: Hip intertwined (Ch. 4 & 5)

    What happens when one lets go of attachment? Hip happens. In chapters four and five of John Leland’s Hip:The History hypermasculinity is a key point in defining hip, and the ultimate hipster is known as Elvis Presley. Leland states that the heart of hip is reinvention. Men definitely reinvented themselves into what they wanted to be like in real life. In 1912 the United States saw a progressive movement in masculinity as men copied the pulp hero/detective. In pulp fiction, detectives were seen as the cool guys who are muscular, smart, strong and unemotional. All men wanted to be this guy, the one who no one dared to mess with. The detectives who were tough and rough were in at the time and hard boiled literature wooed men into wanting to be this detective. With its emphasis on apprehension, horror, terror and awe, hard boiled literature sought to suck the dead out of hard working men and aimed them towards the cynical attitudes towards emotion. There was a sense of letting go from the mother figure in a man’s life since they felt emasculated due to the fact that they worked approximately 40 hours a week while women stayed home to blow their money. Therefore, men wanted to escape from femininity and sought to reinvent themselves literally and metaphorically. In the pulp universe the idea of a “mother” did not exist. In the film noir world, guys invented their own universe. This was considered the hippest of the hip. One key thing that Leland highlighted in chapter four is that the White culture is laid back and restrained while the Black culture is wild. This emphasizes that hypermasculinity was all about the Black culture. From this ideal pulp hero emerged different rappers with the intention of giving birth to a new form of themselves. This can be seen through rappers like Eminem, Tupac and Biggie. Eminem’s song “Kill You” about his mother illustrates his hatred towards his mother and at the same time highlighting his tough, bad guy, unemotional self. Biggie stated that “You’re nobody till somebody kills you,” which further highlights the reinvention of a man getting rid of his old self and giving birth to the tough and aggressive detective. In a more broader sense, “hip is to see the underlying message, to see something not literally, but to see it as more than what it is,” and these men wanted to be more than what they bargained for. Dwelling into chapter five, although not stated in the beginning, Leland’s central focus is that the hippest of them all is Elvis Presley and Dr.Jive. Leland introduces readers to bebop. Bebop was a “nigger music” and a form of rebellion. Many people engaging in bop considered it to be music from “dark days” meaning it came from the past with bad experiences etc. In this chapter it is obvious that there is no real definition for bop because according to Leland bop ranged all the way from the anxieties of racial threshold to “sexual lives of royalty”. Some of the famous artists involved in the culture of bop include Parker, Dizzy, Gillespie and Thelonious Monk who were flamboyant in their personal style, intellectual arrogance and rebel grace. It is important to remember that what lead to bop was the Cold War in which the author mentions that it was the golden age of hip. Bop was not something nice. It was a rebel against society, stereotypes, and even jazz music. Bop was so strong that poet and novelist Gilbert Sorrentino described it as “non-popular” which brought together young people who were tired of living a fake life. Bop addressed real issues and was not afraid. Instead of praising artists that produced music, bop did quite the opposite. Bop was smooth, colder, harder and more purer. People thought that they were going to listen to something happy and eccentric but they were wrong. Bop presented to them the sound of rebellion and hatred in a prideful way. In the beginning of the chapter Leland mentions that there are two important dates that contribute to the golden age of hip. These dates include November 20, 1955 and nine months later.On November 20, Tommy “Dr.Jive” Smalls played simple rhythms in which bop revolved around and lived on. Nine months later Elvis Presley came out as the boy who stole the blues and that was the end of it all. Nothing and nobody could beat him and his music. As Leland states, “The other stuff didn’t have a chance”.

"Cool was the aloofness of bebop taken literally." - John Leland

"Hip is the ability to hear both meanings in their voices, to catch the undertones complicating the plainest prose" - John Leland

King of Nigerian Empire of Benin. The original king of hip.

King of Nigerian Empire of Benin. The original king of hip.

Blog Post 4: The Origin of the Word “Hip”

When it comes to the word “hip” what do you think of? This word is subjective and does not have a stable definition. However, its roots are buried deep in Africa where the king of the Nigerian Empire of Benin first used the word. No, it was not “hip” that the king used but the word “cool”. The word was originally used by the king to define something/someone as “keeping calm and peaceful”. Thus, it is why today you still hear some say “keep cool” referring to keep calm and do no harm. “Cool” has taken many turns and directions and has eventually arrived at its destination “hip”. Now, there’s a difference to hip and cool. While cool is the “mask of mind itself” (according to John Leland), hip is the process or the attitude and everything that happens underneath. To better understand this statement we must look at an example of the rapper Lil Mama. Still remember her? Lil Mama was famous for her hit song “lip gloss” in 2007 and while her fame only lasted for about a year she quickly died out of the scene. Taking this example we can see that she was cool at the time but she was not hip because she did  not last. Her process did not have an effect on us today. Many of us still try to come to terms with it what exactly the word means and we attempt to define by the way we dress, talk, act, and do. But by doing so we do not entirely define the word but rather we create a stereotype of what it is because in reality hip is anything out of the ordinary. In Hip;The History by John Leland, the author states that the Black culture needs to exist in order for hip to exist. The intertwinement of the Black race and the White race are essential to hip because its origins lay in America. “Cool” is “America’s signature style” and America defined on its own is the mixture of Black and White. So, going further any stereotype made on the word is false because hip has no one definition. The only form of definition one can truly rely on is Leland’s definition and that is that black is hip. Remember, its roots date back to Africa and the king so therefore it is crucial to remark that anything black can be or is hip. Hip is so many things and one important thing it is, is technology. The invention of the radio, phonograph and cars in the 1910’s and 1920’s helped pop culture spread as many people were getting around and information was being transferred. It’s like todays many social networking forms such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. These forms of communication help us to keep up with hip and its many forms. Modernism is a form of hip because it allows one to be updated with the newest trends but at the same time it gives us insight of what was then and what is now. In conclusion, the origin of the word hip derives from cool which comes from Africa. With its deep culture, the word today is used in many different shapes, forms, and ways.


Blog Post 3: The Harlem Renaissance aka “The Spiritual Coming of Age”

    When it comes to America we so often think about all the racism that exists especially towards the Black race. However, even though racism still exists it has been declining steadily. There was a time when Blacks were on the top of the world and that was during the Harlem Renaissance. The Harlem Renaissance took place in Harlem. It was during this time that Blacks finally came out of their shell in terms of population, music, literature and art, just to name a few. Harlem was the place to be, it was “live”. After the Civil War the Black race moved from the country to the city in search of jobs. They created a new culture and Blacks finally had a chance to become their own identity. Can you believe that at one point whites wanted to be Black?! Yes, whites actually went to Harlem to enjoy the nightlife there, to enjoy the prestigious sound of jazz in the ever famous Cotton Club and Apollo Theatre. A famous singer of the 1920’s was Blue Holiday. Another was chorus dancer, Josephine Baker. These artists brought fame and entertainment in Harlem and benefited both Blacks and whites. Because of their funding in Harlem, whites had great expectations of Blacks which the Blacks successfully met.The whites wanted to adapt to the Black culturally but not 100%. As they went out they would automatically turn “Black” but that ended when they went back home to their daily lives. When it came to literature, the whites wanted to see more of it and they did indeed. Black literature was rising as more and more Black authors came out writing about the struggles of being Black. Not only that but Blacks educated themselves so that they had something to prove not only to the white race but also the world. Many of us know Langston Hughes. Yes, Langston Hughes was part of the “roaring twenties” when all this was occurring. Something key to note was that jazz was a very important part of the Blacks “ re-claiming themselves” era. Want to know how everyone partied with their favorite jazz song? Just look at The Great Gatsby movie. A hell lot of fun! There was also something “hip”, as John Leland might say, called “The Harlem Stride Style” and this was basically a new and fun way of playing the piano that created new life for both races and brought them together as one. Apart from literature and music, there was something else Blacks intended to prove worthy and that was arts. The arts along with jazz presented a “Negro Vogue” in the city that left everyone feeling “primitive and exotic”. It was almost a feel of being high. The Harlem Renaissance helped create a “high culture” for the Black race and brought light to a few other things. These things include people like Marcus Garvey and Booker T. Washington fighting and speaking against racism and oppression in America. The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People was also born. “The Black Mecca” (what the Harlem Renaissance was sometimes referred as) gave Black a new power and voice that still stands today. You can say it is perhaps why John Leland praises Blacks so much and why we all want to be hip and rad as our neighboring race, family, and friends.


As a delivery system for hip, popular culture moves in tandem with technology and media. Technology has a way of making race into an abstraction, because it removes information from its human source. The media are literally in the middle, between the author and the audience, beholden to neither. They demand only that the people on either side play their roles—that they produce or consume. Whether they are black or white, young or old, rich or poor, is secondary.
John Leland, Hip: The History (via detectivemikan)

we remember the stories we tell about our lives; we invent our lives in the remembering.
John Leland (via conspiracytheorist79)