As I sat down to read my son a book before putting him to bed a few days ago, this question lit up in my mind:
Who owns hip-hop (music and culture)?
We know who controls it (business wise) for the most part (Universal, Viacom, etc.) but who owns it (the art)? Are the fans and consumers just participants in a side show? Are the creators of the music itself the ‘real’ owners? And what of the DJ’s, graffiti artists, break-dancers, historians, journalists, etc.? Who determines their portion of ownership? Maybe Gangstarr attempted to address this issue on their 2003 album The Ownerz. And I would agree that, in my eyes, they own a portion of hip-hop as creators who have set the bar high.
Looking at myself, I can only say that I’ve been a participant as far back as ’78. I’ve tried my hand at just about everything as a pre-teen and teenager. Beat boxer, DJ, break-dancer, wannabe MC and producer, music critic, etc. Every guy I grew up with was doing one or more of these things. I still have most of the tapes me and my friends made back in the 80’s using my cheap turntables and boom box. We were living it to the fullest. But does that mean we owned hip-hop, had a hand in creating it or just participated? Does it even really matter in the grand scheme of things? Probably not but I can’t get it out of my head. I don’t know why this question is so prevalent in my mind now but I wanted to get outside opinions on this. Whether you’re a DJ, producer, MC, graf artist, photographer, journalist, or a fan/consumer, do you consider yourself an owner, creator, and/or participant in hip-hop? If so or if not, why or why not?