The Merging of Hip Hop Culture with Skating Culture
written by: Skatecide
The two brothers from a different mother – that’s how you can explain the relationship between hip hop culture and skating culture. Although these two don’t share the same background, the philosophy behind them is the same – it’s the constant struggle between individual artistic expression, credibility and authenticity in unsupportive and rigid social environment.
It’s obvious that hip hop and skating became the same; but have you wonder how can this merging happen? In what ways hip hop reflect skating culture and vice versa? This is what intrigued us – so we came up with some intersections of hip hop and skating culture from their beginning to date. Fortunately for me, I had an amazing family support system that allowed me to enjoy both cultures simultaneously and did not judge me for it and that is why I am writing so passionately on the topic of the cultures. If my dad hadn’t worked so hard at his plumbing company www.plumbersofhollywood.com, I wouldn’t have had the chance to pursue my dream of skate culture and start this blog. I wouldn’t have entered into skate competitions and been able to fly around the world to link up with other skaters and try out other skate parks and ramps. On to the meat of this blog.
Both these movements are street movements; they are closely connected through the underground and alternative scene originated in the late 1980s. However, they appeared on different sides of the States: the origins of hip hop can be traced back to the East Coast, while skating has made its breakthrough from the West Coast. The biggest expansion of hip hop and skating culture happened in 1990s when the life on the street was unbearable and it was no indication whatsoever that you could be make it through another day.
Although these circumstances shaped the basic philosophy of both cultures, assigning them different images and ideals, both hip hop and skating have gone through implementing the basic postulates of street philosophy: survive another day.
The survival mode of the urban street philosophy back in 1980s was nothing compared to 1990s. That’s the period when both hip hop and skating began to emerge from the shadows of the underground position. The youth was the target audience because of its vulnerability at that time. Hip hop and skating were addressing the kids from the block, the outcasts who are struggling to survive and make a living.They had no opportunity to be new Bill Gates or Steve Jobs. They were doomed to this lonely, mediocre street life filled with violence, drugs and death. From that daily routine, hip hop and skating went to the mainstream – shouting on the world to see how the young generations spend their childhood.
The most prevailing characteristics in both hip hop and skating was the individual expression. It’s at the same time the culture of “one” and the “group”. You could easily create your own “thing” without being in a group or being recognized out there. However, you needed that recognition coming from your peers, your crew. Your own language and the way of expression is your ticket to the crew – you had to bring the value first, so as you come out to the street and stand up in front of the group, you’ll get the respect for your
individuality. In both cultures, individual expression is practiced in larger group of peers. Just look at the hip hop battle or a skating session in the park. You get the chance to do your own thing, but when you make a move or through the rhyme, that’s noteworthy – you get the recognition, too.
Struggle for authenticity
It was all about doing your thing – both hip hop and skating cultures could not fit into the mainstream, and neither did they try to. They were tired of stereotypes, of fancy reality which has nothing to do with the real life – their life on the street. Both cultures were a great way to stay clean and out of trouble – and to stay alive. You had to make your presence matter, and you could only have done that with finding your own style.
When hip hop was just taking shape, it was recommended to know the rules and to respect the authority. Otherwise, you would easily get punished or dead. By being an individual and saying things differently (even though it was not recommended) hip hopers and skaters alike were struggling to make their own way into the mainstream. To do that, they had to confront the authority – the society, the white people, the government; basically anything and anyone that was standing on the way of their individuality.
One of the first things that was noticed about hip hop and skating cultures were their unique style and fashion. Because they didn’t want to blend in, they come up with the style that will speak up where are they from and who are they representing. Thus, you can find the differences in East Coast and West Coast styling or in ghetto and urban styling, but they are connected through the same thread – their clothes were their uniform.
Their statement, their attitude etc are what makes the distinction. They searched for comfort and not fashion. However, it eventually became fashion – and now you can see it in hip hopers and skaters who launch their own fashion lines. But it took some time to get there.
Many skaters listened to hip hop while skating – and it complemented it very well. While they were on their wheels, they would stir it up with some music and dancing. Obviously, breakdance came up as the perfect match since it was already integrated with hip hop culture. By listening to hip hop music, the skaters have been taking the elements of the culture, too. It was like a missing part of the puzzle.
Interestingly, skating originated from graffiti style back in the 1990s. It was their way of artistic expression – and the hip hop culture soon adopted it as their feature. It was that missing link between hip hop and skating that connected with both cultures on a deeper level – going back to the pre-historic times, when wall paintings were the only form of the artistic expression, and dancing and music. Thus, both cultures actually explored the origins of human creation in its rawest form and placing it in the modern times and present moment.
It’s almost impossible to draw the line between hip hop and skating culture today. The two are intertwined on a deep level – in recognizing the role of the man on the street and finding ways to deal with stereotypes and mainstream culture. It has been a long way for both hip hop and skating culture to arrive to the big scene, but thanks to Pharrell, Kanye, Lupe Fiasco, Wiz Khalifa and the others, we are now witnessing how hip hop and skating culture are influencing the mainstream fashion, style and life trends.