Basic Building Blocks
According to the pioneers of Hip Hop, there are four main elements or “pillars” that define hip hop culture, and more recently a new element has been introduced.
MCing/Rapping, DJing/Scratching, Break dancing, and Graffiti Writing are the main pillars, and some even consider other elements such as sampling and beatboxing. But hip hop artists are now considering Knowledge to be the fifth element. This can be seen as a way of preserving hip-hop culture from being the misogynistic, materially-focused ego trip that mainstream media has made it out to be, because now more and more artists are focusing on the truth of things that matter. When you look at these pillars on a more symbolic level, we can see that they are building blocks for a certain lifestyle and way of being.
Hip Hop & Life
An example of the practical applications of these pillars can look at MCing as the act of honestly vocalizing your thoughts and opinions. Speaking your mind for yourself and nobody else; being original.
The element of DJing can be interpreted as the act of creating music. Be it playing Guitar, Bass, Piano, Drums, Scratching, Beat Boxing, Pencil Tapping… this pillar, for me, represents creating music. Music is an expression of self, and when created from a pure place, free of alternative motives, it has the power to heal yourself and others. So creating music in itself can be taken in many ways - everything is music. Poetry, Art, Nature, it’s all music and that’s why we love it, and we can make music in many ways, even through living our lives harmoniously.
Graffiti Writing is something people can feel with their eyes - it’s primarily a visual experience that can trigger emotions. Whereas making music is a very feeling-based, internal process, Graffiti art is more about putting it out there for people to see.
Breakdancing is one pillar that many people struggle with because it requires you to be very present in your body and to lose the fear of being silly. This element can be summed up to represent physical energy. Exercise, dance, running, biking, gymnastics, breakdancing is all about movement and using your body in creative ways. This really anchors more of your awareness in your body and can even be a very meditative practice for some.
Last but not least we have knowledge. This one does not need to be simplified. If we’re not learning, what are we doing? Gaining skills and abilities is the key to empowering ourselves. No one becomes great by sitting on their ass. Successful people are known for developing an ability. Attaining knowledge. Knowledge doesn’t always have to come from a book. Life is teaching us lessons everyday through our very own lives, and growing through those means we gain personal experience. But we can also learn from other people’s experiences by connecting and sharing, or reading books about the things people have learned and passed on. We can learn through art and we can learn by creating, the important thing is that we nourish our soul through personal growth.
Once these five pillars become the foundation for your life, one can realize how and why hip-hop is much more than a style of music - it’s a way of life.