Elements of The Movements
Importance of Music, Art, and Dance
The Harlem Renaissance, like the Hip Hop movement, was not
simply just about music, but reached also into other forms of art such as dance
and visual arts. Both attempted to bring recognition to the African American
community in a time without civil rights, in a time when the outside world chose
to ignore the world of Harlem and the larger community of the Black race.
Unlike the Hip Hop movement (which was driven by those in poverty), the Harlem Renaissance was started by a rising middle class of African Americans. Jazz and Blues were brought from the South to the North by African Americans with Great Migration which started after World War I.
While Hip Hop expresses its message through the lyrics of rapping, the Harlem Renaissance accomplished this mainly through literature and poetry. This is very interesting in that there was a reversal in the way music and poetry went together. Langston Hughes, an prolific poet of the Harlem Renaissance, used his poetry to express music. Rappers during the Hip Hop Movement use music to express their own brand of poetry.
Both movements spread relatively quickly across America and in both movements, the music of the time became mainstream. However, the massive growth and popularity of the movements contributed in some ways to the demise of the original purposes of the movements. For instance, during the Harlem Renaissance, artists competed against each other for sponsorship and began to compromise ideals and beliefs for the sponsorship. Rap artists began to speak more for commercialized reasons rather than the poverty of the urban inner-city which led to its beginnings.
The main place to showcase dance and music for the Hip Hop movement was the streets, but in the Harlem Renaissance, it was the Apollo Theater, originally a burlesque showplace. The Hip Hop Movement used music and the spoken word as a way to combat violence on the streets, emphasize peace, and promote non- violent confrontation of ideas, beliefs, and practices.
Both the Harlem Renaissance and the Hip Hop movement wanted to strive for “a common endeavor…to giving artistic expression to the African-American experience.” They wanted to make a statement about "their" way of life that could no longer be ignored by the larger majority community. In many ways, the movements were essentially an opportunity for minorities (including Latinos) to establish a culture of their own and promote the search and establishment of a cultural identity.
While the impact of the Harlem Renaissance and the Hip Hop movement are similar in some ways, there are points of conflicting interests and foundations. During the Harlem Renaissance, artists and writers wanted to use their craft to record the history of their struggles and establish an identity. While as a whole they did not actively seek acceptance and respect by the majority community, some did hope that it would be an eventual byproduct of the movement. However, the Hip- Hop movement is reminiscent more of the Black Power movement and its associated ideals. Blacks and other minorities were more separatist because of the fear that they were losing their culture to mainstream ideology. Statements such as "Black Power" and " I'm Black and I'm Proud" reveal to some extent the separatist nature of the movement. The movement was an opportunity for young African- Americans to unite under a cause and become more of the family- oriented race it had been in the past.
Nevertheless, both movements are similar in that they
“became a point of reference from which the African-American community gained a
spirit of self-determination that provided a growing sense of both Black
urbanity and Black militancy.”* No longer would either generation allow
themselves to be judged or evaluated by white aesthetics. Rather, the
black race would define and judge for themselves the value of their works.
Interestingly enough, the catalysts for both movements began with men from the West Indies. Recent immigration and a changing society bred more strident ideas and thoughts. This and more led to the beginnings of revolutions in the fine arts.
Musical Comparison of Harlem Renaissance and Hip-Hop Movement Comparison Lab Example
Harlem Renaissance Art and Art of the Hip Hop Movement
Harlem Renaissance art was considered avant-garde during its
time. Many of its artists depicted the night life and everyday life of their
Harlem contemporaries. It also attempted to separate itself from what White
America had accepted as art up until this period. Many artists also tried to
make statements about racism, the Great Migration, and slavery.
They attempted to convey emotion, not just a scene. They wanted the person viewing the painting to feel what they felt. The movement is marked by the extreme fortitude of the artists to get their work in the public eye despite racism.
The Harlem Renaissance is not marked by one particular style, but rather by the fact that it encompassed a great many styles. It embraced men and women, realist and surrealist, folk and classically trained; however, they were all African American and they were all trying to convey the African American experience and create an identity for their peers.
William H. Johnson Palmer Hayden
Similar to the Art of the Harlem Renaissance, the art of the Hip Hop movement was an expression of African-American social thought and culture. Graffiti was an expression of young artists in the urban ghettoes of the 70’s and 80’s, while the Harlem Renaissance art expressed the ideas of black consciousness of the 20’s and 30’s.
The word graffiti derives from the Greek word graphein meaning: to write. This evolved into the Latin word graffito. Graffiti is the plural form of graffito. Simply put, graffiti is a drawing, scribbling or writing on a flat surface. Today, we equate graffiti with the “New York or Hip Hop style which emerged from New York City in the 1970’s. As Hip Hop music emerged so did a new outlet for artistic visibility. Keith Haring began using posters to place his uniquely drawn figures and characters in public places. Soon he began to draw directly on subway walls and transit posters. The uniqueness of his drawings eventually led to their being shown in galleries and published in books and his art became “legitimate.” At about the same time as Keith Haring, a delivery messenger began writing Taki whenever he delivered documents. Soon his name was all over the city. Newspapers and magazines wrote articles about him and Keith Haring. Both became celebrities. This claim to fame attracted many young people, especially those involved with rapping. They began to imitate Taki 183.
Graffiti was incorporated into the Hip Hop culture and became a sort of triad with rapping and break dancing. Breakdancing has since lost much of its initial popularity, while rapping has emerged as a major style in American music. New York City was inundated with graffiti during the late seventies and early eighties. But as media coverage faded so do did the graffiti. Then in the mid-eighties a national TV program did a graffiti story and set off a graffiti wildfire which has become world-wide.
At first pens and markers were used, but these were limited as to what types of surfaces they worked on so very quickly everyone was using spray paint. Spray paint could mark all types of surfaces and was quick and easy to use. The spray nozzles on the spray cans proved inadequate to create the more colorful pieces. Caps from deodorant, insecticide, WD-40 and other aerosol cans were substituted to allow for a finer or thicker stream of paint. As municipalities began passing graffiti ordinances outlawing graffiti implements, clever ways of disguising paint implements were devised. Shoe polish, deodorant roll-ons and other seemingly innocent containers are emptied and filled with paint. Markers, art pens and grease pens obtained from art supply stores are also used. In fact nearly any object which can leave a mark on most surfaces are used by taggers, though the spray can is the medium of choice for most taggers.
Graffiti in the 21st Century
As graffiti has grown, so too has its character. What began as
an urban lower-income protest, nationally, graffiti now spans all racial and
economic groups. While many inner-city kids are still heavily involved in the
graffiti culture, one tagger recently caught in Philadelphia was a 27 year old
stockbroker who drove to tagging sites in his BMW. Styles have dramatically
evolved from the simple cursory style, which is still the most prevalent, to
intricate interlocking letter graphic designs with multiple colors called pieces
Melvin Samuels Jr. aka NOC 167 Jeffrey aka Doze Green
Harlem Renaissance Dance and Dance of The Hip-Hop Movement
Dance of the Harlem Renaissance can be best described as physical displays of the Harlem culture. Blacks created new dance moves to coincide with the flourishing music of the Harlem Renaissance. Similar to the music of the time, dance during the period expressed, anger, sadness, joy, frustration, and lust, many things that could be expressed in music could be translated to dance.
Perhaps the most indigenous of black entertainments, the rent party was an institution created in response to the sorry reality that Harlem's inflated rents were $12 to $30 a month higher than in other areas of Manhattan, while salaries paid to African Americans were lower than those of their white counterparts. The average Harlem resident spent 40 percent of his or her income on rent-and if it wasn't paid by Sunday, the landlord put the furniture on the street on Monday morning.
Anyone could throw a rent party. One made up a party slogan, had it cheaply printed up by the peripatetic Wayside Printer, who pushed a cart that carried rudimentary printing equipment. Cards were passed out in pool halls and Laundromats and distributed to passersby along Seventh Avenue. The apartment's temporary halls were removed, the contents of the parlor and dining room cleared out, to be replaced by a dozen chairs borrowed from the local undertaker. Cheap proletarian food, redolent of the South, filled the kitchen. These events, which were Harlemized versions of the jook-joint parties of the deep south, reminded many recent immigrants of their roots. Rent parties were staged most frequently on Saturday nights and Thursday nights (when domestics often had the evening off), but one could find a rent party any night of the week. The public paid admission, ranging from a dime to a half- dollar, to be admitted into a parlor dimly lit with red lights.
The dancing was usually slow and sensual-"slow- dragging"-broken up by livelier performances such as a Black Bottom contest, a Charleston contest, or a breakdown. The dancing continued through the night, and the $5-pernight piano man (who improvised rather than read music) usually paced the event not only with songs but with his salty repertoire of wisecracks and shouts-"Shake that thing, Mr. Charlie!" "Do it, you dirty no-gooder!" The dancers, in fresh ginghams or peg-top trousers, bright blouses or gaudy arm bands, responded energetically. As Thurman put it, "Liquor has lit the fire, music must fan it into a flame." At the best rent parties, professional Harlem musicians- who called them "jumps" or "shouts"- would show up after their paying gig. By the night's end a screaming match or a switchblade fight might have broken out, but more often the peaceful partygoers tumbled home happy and exhausted. And most important, the rent got paid.
White Oriented Dance Clubs
In general, white- oriented dance clubs catered only to white patrons. African-Americans entertained on stage and waited on the customers who would often travel to Harlem just for the "exotic" entertainment.
Most popular Dance Clubs: Cotton Club, Connie's Inn, and Small's Paradise
Breakdancing began in the 1970’s in the Bronx on the streets and
at street parties. It eventually spread to the Discos of New York on its way
into mainstream culture. The term is used because the dancers would dance to the
“break” in the music, the part with the beat but no words.
It draws inspiration from a myriad of sources including the Charleston, Kung-Fu, ballet, and the Lindy Hop. It requires extreme athleticism and even grace; however, it is extremely dangerous and can even be deadly.
The sport of breakdancing is highly competitive and people would battle through dance, almost like a fight. Those who participate in breakdancing are called “B-boys” and “B-girls.”
Information and Pictures Courtesy of:
Foundation of Hip-Hop Movement
Foundation of the Harlem Renaissance
Elements of Movements
Change Over Time
Links and Other Resources