Exploring Hip Culture: An Introduction
Exploring Hip Culture: An Introduction

Exploring Hip Culture: An Introduction

Available Only on StudyHippo
  • Pages: 31 (8256 words)
  • Published: March 30, 2022
View Entire Sample
Text preview


This chapter gives an overview of what this reaseach aims to achieve upon closure. It gives a summary of the background, questions, significance and expectations from the research.
Background to the study

Hip culture grew from Bronx, New York in the 1970s as African American youths protested percieved oppression and discrimination by whites at the time. Howeve, from the 1980’s the movement spread to several parts including Japan, Australia, Italy and so many major cities across the world (Bartlett, Cole and Rocamora, 2013). This is because youths that come from low class backgrounds faced similar problems as those in Bronx. The problem of identity, unemployment and seeking for independence motivated the youths from other parts of the world to identify with their counterparts in the United States. According to past studies, hip hop reached the shores of Japan through h


ollywood movies (Bartlett, Cole and Rocamora, 2013). However, the growth of mass media and internet further influenced the spread of the hip hop culture. This study explores the influence of digital media in the spread of the black American subculture through hip hop.

Research questions

The study of hip hop culture as a mass culture aims at answering the following two questions :

i. How was hip hop culture like in the pre-digital era ?

ii. How inevitable was the growth of the hip hop culture from being an underground movement to a mainstream movement ?

Significance of the study

In general, the paper aims at determining how an underground culture can become a mainstream culture. By answering the two questions about the evolution of the hip hop culture the researcher aims at finding the earlier motivations for association with this culture and the deviations from thes

View entire sample
Join StudyHippo to see entire essay

earlier motivations in the contemporary world. These questions also aim at finding out how the hip hop culture influenced other aspects of life such as fashion, communication, worke ethics, language and so on. Lastly, the questions will find the role played by media especially the digital media in the spread of the hip hop culture from an underground movement to a global culture.

Expected outcomes

The researcher develops the study with two hypotheses in mind. First, the researcher believes that digital media played a crucial role in the spread of hip hop culture from Bronx, New York to other parts of the world. Second, the researcher believes that the spread of hip hop influenced other aspects of life and culture such as fashion and relationships. The research therefore aims at falsifying or confirming these hypothesis.

Limitations of the study

Research studies are usually limited by time and cost constraints. These two factors determines the methodology and the research approach in general. As a result of these constraints, the researcher will adopt a case study analysis to anwer the research questions. The case study will be supported by comprehensive literature review to come up with reliable and relevant inferences from the study.

Literature Review


Literature review chapter in this paper will look at the various aspects of the digital age and its influence towards the spread of hip hop culture across the world. In this chapter, the researcher shall explore the concept of post modernity, hip-hop culture, the digital media and the globalization of the hip hop culture.

Sub cultural communities in the digital age

Post modernity is a state of being in association with changes in institutions and creations and with social and

political results and innovations globally but especially in the West since the 1950s.Postmodernity underwent several phases with noticeable changes in the way the people passed information (Bach, 2005). The first stage of post-modernity began in the late 1940s and 1950s and ended with the Cold War. The second begun at the end of the Cold War (marked by the spread of cable television and "new media" based on digital means of information dissemination and broadcast).Television became the primary source of news; manufacturing decreased in importance in the economies of Western Europe and the United States, but trade volumes increased within the developed nations. According to Bach (2005), a historical period coinciding with the modernity and post-modernity took place between 1967 and1969. During this time, a crucial cultural explosion took place within the developed world as the band generation. The period had grown up with post modernity as its significant experience of society, demanded entrance into the political, cultural and educational power structure.

The second phase of post modernity is the period of digital culture. This time experiences a rapid increase in the power of personal and digital means of communication including fax machines, modems, cable and high-speed internet. The improvements altered the condition of post modernity dramatically (Bartlett, Cole and Rocamora, 2013). Digital production of information allows individuals to manipulate virtually every aspect of the media environment. The digital production brought producers into conflict with consumers over intellectual capital and intellectual property and led to the creation of a new economy whose supporters argue that the dramatic fall in information costs will alter society fundamentally. In this regard, one can deduce that the website is a

new form of hip-hop subculture.

Post modernity in fashion has challenged the community to create a distinct sense of taste in which individuals modify their style to meet their characteristics and reflect on their identity within a geographical collective (Bartlett, Cole and Rocamora, 2013). The growth of various subcultures promotes a rising star of the postmodern phenomenon. The sub cultural group of the Hip-Hop/ African American community is the primary focus, in this case, to demonstrate their bricolage characteristics as a community online whereas influenced by postmodern new media and technology, and offline by centralised print and traditional local media.

Liquid modernity: Semiotics, mass media, and society

Signs are connotations which already existed in various cultures and were sometimes associated with second-order or third-order meaning, interpreted as a cultural value such as social status. The second or third connotative interpretation, however, are based on the signified’s previous experience and knowledge of the received message (Cagle, 1995). Therefore, a sign can build to different levels of the understanding associated with the original sign presented. Baudrillard (1994) also contributed to the theory with the component of an object into the equation of the signifier and signified. He uses the object, or in material cultures such as commodities for a representation of sign between the sender and receiver. In most cases, there exists an emphasis on the second and third order meanings over the original sign itself in everyday life. It results in the association of statuses and other hierarchy definitions with everyday objects. Using a previous example, the second-order meaning of the chain necklace as a commodity can signify the person’s wealth, and status depending on the experience of the


Examining media communications in modernity is epoch that settles on the timeline of changing from pre-modern to structural social orders. Bauman (2000) provided a definite description of the Liquid Modernity. He outlined that liquid modernity refers modernity as a stable institution. Many people depict modernity or heavy modernity as a "solid" form of the social structure due to the influence of the industrial age on the ideology of structuralism. “The industrial revolution influenced the development of cities, the mass society, and encouraged the taste for anonymity in worldly life” (Kellner, 1995). In semiotic, Baudrillard (1994) took this encouragement and claimed that the mass media causes material culture which commodities were an essential sign-vehicle for the signifier. In modernity, the signifier is one knowledge distributor that agencies monitor and produce to control time in productivity and indifferences in society. The community or ‘solidness’ mentioned earlier is merely a society without any personality, as everyone wishes to conform to the mass as the norm.

In postmodernism theories, it is a radical break to reflect the dominant culture and aesthetics. It conforms to the ideology of substituted disunity, subjectivity, and ambiguity, for the modernist unity, absolutism, and certainty. To conclude the differences, fashion moved from elitism to democratization in sartorial representation. With the acceleration of technology development, post modernity advocates the ideology of a self-sufficient and self-referential society (Felluga, 2002). It refers to liquid modernity or light modernity, metaphorically referencing its liberality in continuity with unfixed dimensions. It is also the evolution of deconstructionism towards a systematic society of modernity. The mass media altered its function according to deconstructionism by Jaques Derrida (Kellner, 1995). The philosophy questions the structural

hierarchy system in response to the post-modern phenomenon of society as the signifier.

Mass media in African-American subculture

The deindustrialization of America after World War II made a significant contribution towards the development of the African-American subculture. It alienated and oppressed the opportunities of ethnic groups especially the African-Americans and the Caribbean in urban cities. President Ford proposed a reform of the New York State and City that made the majority of the white population migrate to suburban areas. The changes affected the decline of job opportunities and increase in housing prices of the urban areas. The living situation created a trend of marginalizing the working class and lower class ethnic groups, leaving them hard to survive in a society dominated by white supremacy (Hebdige, 1997). With most of the black and other ethnic minorities in poverty and living on minimum benefits, public services and city renewals proposed in 1970 by Robert Mose facilitated fleeing from South Bronx. South Bronx existed as an urban city full of slums because of the demolition of permanent residencies. The people who continue to live in South Bronx suffered from the lack of leadership, cultural identity and vitality and discriminated by the white society (Tocci, 2009). The movement occurred in the same epoch as the establishment of Punks in the U.K. The working class starts a worldwide postmodern phenomenon to work against modern ideas of structuralism and elitism.
The origin of hip-hop begins from this chapter of American history in post-modernity. Since the society has the lack of any support from the rest of the community and government in providing education and other services, young generations of black Americans felt the need

to resist against the white dominated parent culture, and re-create their identity (Jenkins, 2006). Because of the lack of financial support, entertainment options were limited, such as disco nightclubs that were popular in the 1970s. Therefore, the black communities turned their focus to underground, street parties featuring Disc Jockeys (DJ) and MCs (microphone controller) along with break dancing and graffiti. MCs in those parties eventually became rappers by sampling funk and soul beats, and words spit out from the amplified microphone. According to Cherjovsky (2003) the breakthrough of rap music rocketed in the record industry, understood as a commodity fetish to the society. Furthermore, the fashion representation of the hip-hop culture was also a part of the ‘object’ or sign-vehicle of media consumption; such as the heavy jewellery, that mocks the wealth, and black caps and also Adidas sneakers.

According to Cagle’s theory, this mockery is a reconstruction of the mass-mediated sources that the black community applied in their sub-constructive manner on mass media impressions on subculture (Cagle, 1995). Hip-hop fashion served as a sign with second-order connotations of being cool and casual compared to suits worn by the white middle-class. This phenomenon spread across all African-American societies by the signifier, in this case, the rappers (Huq, 2006). The fashion commodities inspired by hip-hop are selling an image of the mainstream carried on by mass media and mass production of hip-hop culture through MTV rap and R&B program and records, which made hip hop a mainstream sensation among all races, class and locations across America. Subculture like hip-hop then turns itself as mainstream. Music videos produced by RUN-DMC and other rappers like Notorious B.I.Gall provided hegemony

of hip-hop fashion in the subculture community and later on, to the mass consumers. Descending from the trend of black dominated basketball teams in modernity wearing Converse sneakers, RUN-DMC’s song My Adidas used the sneakers as a representation of hip-hop on fashion and music (Kellner, 1995). This track is the commodity produced to communicate to the mass disregarding race, and resembles hip-hop to the consumers with second-order connotations of coolness and differences to the white. However, Baudrillard (1994) believes “sub cultural styles have become simulacra, copies with no originals.” In the late 1980s, as the mass community accepted and simulated hip hop as a part of popular culture, hip-hop fashion became hyper-real as reality eclipsed. The community of hip-hop fashion then grew from subculture to mainstream popular culture; this particular identity no longer belongs to the African-Americans suffered in South Bronx, but significant to the rest of America and World.

The Digital Age: New media and online communities

The Internet flourished the self-organisation and self-referential system. Cyber culture of the online society brought a huge influence on mass media, authenticity and community in reality and hyperactive reality. Fuchs (2008) wrote that Cyber culture is a world life of online strategy and value production as well as reproduction organised in the form of virtual communities. A virtual community is a subsystem of the common use of computer networks for the communication system of society. In this postmodern era where digital information is prosperous, structuralism and media centralised agencies are in a position.

The technologies brought the proximity of time and space to a very close distance. Stressed by Marx and Bauman, the substantial social frame, time has gradually become

more significant due to the inventions of vehicles, which shortens the time of travelling (Kellner, 1995). Moreover, time served as the intermediate code that citizens utilise to become more productive in a short period. The period of modernity experienced rapid technological development in post modernity. A distinction in communities in heavy modernity depended on the proximity of space and its challenges on the circulation of information by mass media. The cancellation of the problem of physical geographical distance by the digital age reduced the value of time because information circulates in real-time and instant through the Internet. In short, technologies liberated centralised mass media agencies to a multi-sourced signifier. One can explain this phenomenon as the start of individualism. Subcultures or independent communities chased social independence physically and networked as a collective online with the Internet. Van Dijk studied by Fuchs (2008) pointed individualisation is an inherent characteristic of modernism. Since the society requires fewer amounts of labor workers, social activities and leisure locations did not have a central point, with the Internet in the digital age of post modernity, individuals are free to connect and socialise as collective communities with various networks. The community as a term of part of the society rests in the consciousness of belonging together and the affirmation of the condition of mutual dependence in pre-modern to heavy modernity. However now, proximity of time and space democratized individuals and allowed by Internet, though still forms as collective communities online.

The blog is another method of taking part in social networks. The word emerged from the combination of the word Web and log, and many people use Blog to share contents including

text and images. This new media created an alternative space that’s completely hyper-realistic with multi-source shared hypertexts (Bartlett, Cole and Rocamora, 2013). Characteristics of blogging are identifiable through its non-linear form of distributing hypertext to readers. It is a feature that allows linking and reading non-related or non-sequential contents that traditional media cannot duplicate. In fashion, the method flourishes and dominates in different ways. It has capitals such as Paris, New York, London and Milan. Magazines often only write for major fashion updates encompassing those cities. Blogging as a form of new media has altered the central focuses on those locations and rather, the new media provides fashion updates in other places around the globe. By withdrawing the small focus of fashion inspiration and its’ people (audience and information generators) on certain attractive geographic locations, blog reshaped the fashion network by blurring the physical boundaries that are mundane to the fashion media houses. The multi-cultural network also has globalised fashion that drafts fashion articles from international sources instead of the four fashion capitals (Bartlett, Cole and Rocamora, 2013). The online blogging community simultaneously broke the ideals of the society by deconstructing the rules of physical location and elitism in fashion explained by Kelli Fuery (Bartlett, Cole and Rocamora, 2013).

Multimedia contents that include sounds, words and pictures on the screen maintains as an advantage that is not available on printed press. This hyper-experience is not available to magazines. It is more accessible and contains links which leads to an endless universe of relevant information. However, to discuss whether digital (new) media or tradition media could be a rivalry with each other, the answer would be no.

Both digital and traditional media rely on each other for contents. Blogs also bring out the relationship between real people and fashion instead of the glossy, idealised and un-organic side of fashion (Bartlett, Cole and Rocamora, 2013).

In the aspect of subcultures, social media has also shifted hip-hop culture on the idea of place or territory. The African-American dominated urban cities is important as it encompasses hip-hop’s origin as an urban culture and many hip-hop artists refer to their city in their music or visual arts. Furthermore, the city is a contrast to the suburbs that in hip-hop represents the white society (Fuchs, 2008). Africa as a place of origin is important to the Afro centric wing in hip-hop, as the continent represents the motherland. Territorial divisions are necessary within hip-hop as well, as the East Coast vs. West Coast feud illustrated. Decker argues that “time” as well as “place” is an important factor in hip-hop culture. Nation conscious rap can be either time- or place-oriented. According to Hug (2006) the focus on “place” in Afro centric rap is Africa, and 1960s inspired rap, such as Public Enemy, who uses militant rhetoric and uniforms as a reference to the Black Panther movement, refers to “time”. One can understand time as in the present time being a time of liberation for the African-American population, as a contrast to earlier days of oppression and slavery. Public Enemy furthermore supported this ideology by hanging alarm clocks around their necks, as mentioned earlier.

Levy and Jenkins believe that the online web community is held together by the joint production and reciprocal exchange of knowledge. The information is available at any given

moment that serves in as a site of collective discussion, negotiation and development. Members of a thinking community search, inscribe, connect consult and explores. Knowledge culture can never be relevant to commodity culture. However, Levy predicts that knowledge culture is dictating how commodity culture operates (Fuery, 2009). Online platform interactions depend on the roles of producer, spectators, creators and interpretation that forms an online knowledge culture that could sustain activities within an online community.

Globalization of the Hip Hop culture

Hip Hop culture movement began in the 1970’s in New York as a youth’s culture that protested and rebelled against the status quo. During that period, the African American youths felt underprivileged in the American society that was still characterized by racism especially within the socio-political circles (Hines, 2001). This culture later spread to other parts of the world where similar sentiments were shared among youths thus a common global culture arose among this segment of the population. According to Breitan (2015) this movement grew especially in the 1990’s to far flung cultures such as the Romani hip hop in the Czech Republic, Uyghur hip hop in Xinjiang, China, Basque country hip hop in Spain and a more diverse type of hip hop in Japan. The spread of this culture was further fuelled by the growth of the internet and social networks in the millennium. Despite the differences in language, cultures, social beliefs, heritage and even geographical situations, Hip Hop movement provided a platform for youths across the globe to express their various concerns (Breitan, 2015).

In Japan, for instance, hip hop reached the shores of the Pacific initially with the growth of Hollywood films consumption (Condry, 2001).

Some of these films highlighted some of the features of Hip Hop culture for example the break dance styles. Break dance style was exciting and energetic to most of the youths thus the inclination to identify with the culture. According to Condry (2001) one of the films that captured the imagination and beliefs of most youths was the 1983 film Wild Style that gained significant popularity across theaters in Tokyo.
According to studies of this movement, it was not only the rap, dance and message of ‘realness’ that sailed the oceans to far flung parts of the world but also this movement played an integral part in the clothing and general fashion trends of the youths world over (Jackson, 2007). The new fashion was deemed to spread the new cultural perspective of values away from the social norms, enhanced masculinity and the notion of authenticity (realness) which had resemblance to earlier sub cultural groups and their related musical genres such as the teddy boys, punk, Goth culture, heavy metal and the bikers. Australia, Japan, China, Italy and Eastern Europe are some of the areas where the movement first permeated outside the United States. Due to the underground status of the culture, it was originally associated with gang culture or a new culture that opposed the mafia values which were common during the time in Italy and Eastern Europe.

In Australia and Italy, the themes of individualism and brotherhood were commonly associated with this movement (Motley & Henderson, 2008). This was seen in the music, clubs and even writings on the attires. For example, the cover of the album ‘Messa Di Vespiri, by the Italian group Articolo 31

showed the artists wearing baseball caps turned backwards resembling the style promoted by the late 90’s and early 2000’s African American artists such as Snoop Dogg (Motley & Henderson, 2008). Additionally, the lyrics of the songs in the album also highlighted the themes of brotherhood, oppression and the need for the youths to stand up for themselves. Mitchell (2005) highlighted that in Australia, the ‘do it yourself’ similar to the American hip hop style permeated the mainstream music industry in the early 2000s. This was accompanied by the new culture of brotherhood which focused on supporting one another in events such as organizing gigs, selling CDs and working together in recording and performance projects (Jenkins, 2006).

Internet played a critical role in the consumption and adoption of this culture in other parts of the world especially in Japan. Dress codes of the millennium among the youths such as sagging trousers to oversized jeans became common among youths roaming along the streets of Tokyo during the early 2000’s (Condry, 2001). According to Condry (2001) the influence of hip hop culture across the world in the accessories, fashion and beauty industries were tremendous during this period. Tokyo stores recorded increased demand for Nike sneakers, baseball caps and oversized trousers among the youths. Internet, print media such as the fashion magazines and the hip hop artists had promoted this new fashion. The internet also facilitated the interaction of the hip hop followers thus the development of a global community that shared a sense of oppression and marginality and the need to be real and independent. As a result of the spread of internet and satellite media, the hip hop

culture influenced aspects of youth culture such as their body language, attitude and fashion in Japan and across the world (Rocamora, 2008).

Overview of literature

The digital age and the rise of the Internet, facilitates media communication and its impact on subculture community shift in post modernity. Baudrillard’s simulation studies on communication process of the signifier, object and signified gives a response on mass media circulation with extensive background information about the structuralism, elitism society in the industrial age. In heavy modernity, it was a one-way media system where the central of society (government, and other hierarchy) manipulates media outlets (signifiers), creates good challenging and plays a role of educational contents. The object which serves as a sign-vehicle function displays its value as a commodity to the media consumers, which depicted by Baudrillard. Subsequently, the same approach is applicable in postmodern industry after the WWII, with the promising subculture floating above within the society. The report shows that mass media in post modernity praised to the ideology of deconstructionism illustrated by Jacques Derrida, opposed to modernity, and promoted individualism and democracy. Mass media does not only belong to the elite but the rest of the society as well.

With the dissemblance of structuralism in heavy modernity, subcultures formed by young working-class, lower-class generations across the world attempted to resist against the norm or the mass society. African-American culture as the primary focus for community studies on subculture and its relevance to media, hip-hop was an example that changed massively in its history on race, political, and economic issues. Hip-hop originated in one of the poorest communities in America in the 1970s. They found their niche of culture resistance

towards the dominant white supremacy under oppression The sign vehicle of hip-hop includes rap music, DJ, break-dance and graffiti, but it also includes fashion focusing on the street, sports style, and mockery of the wealthy middle and upper middle class. The rise of rap music was gradually appreciated by the mass in America due to media publication to balance consumption in black music records disregard gender or class. Hip-hop fashion also took on the route of becoming a mass produced commodity from the original concept of mockery, coolness, and casualness, spreading hip hop fashion senses across American and eventually the rest of the world. Controversial basketball sneakers such as Converse, Nike and Adidas were a great influence adapted from new media like the television for example. Hip-hop community continues to carry their African-American ventures and sub cultural identities, but it became unauthentic due to mass production of relevant commodities and mainstream globalization

Regarding the digital age, communities stop functioning in society in real life with the use of the Internet. However, they reunite themselves online forming a hyper-real community. One of the ways that they communicate online is through blogs. This phenomenon changes the value of the signifier, and its entire interaction depends on the consumer (signified).The invention of Internet allows online fans, independent collectives to share information online, without the challenge of physical distance and accelerated circulation time, a theory mentioned by Bauman. This new system of information sharing pushed subcultures’ limits that had more benefits to the society. It globalised the same value towards one resistance and then formed multiple similar commons across the globe. However, since the information shared came from an open

source of the mass and not controlled, it is questionable whether the knowledge is trivial, and, therefore, creates a hyper-real image and masks subculture representation in the digital age of post modernity. Communities in conclusion also would be different online and offline from heavy to liquid modernity due to the change in media communication.


This chapter highlights how the study will be conducted by the researcher. In this regard, the section is divided into research approach, research design and analysis.

Research approach

The research shall be conducted using an explorative and descriptive qualitative approaches. Explorative approach imply that the researcher is going to apply certain tools of analysis to arrive at causal-effect relationships as far as this research is concerned. For instance, explorative study will aim at identifying reasons for the start of the movement, motivations for its spread, influence of digital media on the hip hop culture and lastly how the culture impacted on other aspects of life. On the other hand, Collis and Hussey (2015) highlighted that a descriptive approach focuses on the evolution of the hip hop culture and the media. This approach look at the media from the pre-digital era of 1970’s and 1980’s, early digital era of the 1990’s and the contemporary era of digital media from the mid millennium. Regarding hip hop culture, a descriptive study will review the motivations and features of the culture from Bronx, New York, the era of globalisation in the 1990’s and the contemporary era of ‘glocalisation’ of the culture. An exploratory and descriptive approach is chosen since it deals with all the aspects of this study thus is able to answer the two main research questions.



The design of this study is a case study analysis. The research aims at fulfilling its objectives by conducting a textual analysis of the website hypebeast.com. Textual analysis refers to the examination and evaluation of features of a text, image, video or website(Stevens, 2015). Hypebeast.com is a website dediacated to marketing of the hip hop fashion culture. Since its inauguration in 2005, the website has posted hundreds of fashion trends from sneakers, to trousers to t-shirts. Textual analysis aims at finding out the motivations behind these changes.

Case study analysis

The study analysis shall be conducted in two stages. Stage 1 concentrates on the review of the main features of the site while stage 2 links the features of the site to other general aspects of the study.

In stage 1, a textual analysis is conducted on a yearly basis to identify fashion trends for each year from 2005 to 2015. For every year, the researcher also finds the motivation for the change and the theme of the fashion. Additionally, the researcher explores the length of time that a certain fashion design takes before another one come into the market. Here, the study motivation is not only the movements in the market but also the reasons for such movements.

Stage 2 of the case study analysis is finding out the relationships between the findings of the textual analysis and those from the literature review. In this stage the researcher aims at finding if there is conformity or deviation between the textual analysis of hypebeast.com and the literature. The literature provides both the background for such movement while at the same time helping in predicting future trends. This stage is

very important in making comprehensive inferences about the study and coming up with relevant recommendations.

Case Study: Hypebeast.com

Hypebeast.com is a website that focuses on bringing to light the new fashion trends within the hip hop culture. The website was formed in 2005 and since then it has seen numerous changes in the youth fashion as presented by the popular culture (Hypebeast.com, 2016). The main reason for choosing this website as a material in this research is because its editor, H. Yeung is Asian. The significance of the editor in this study is that it implies that the hip hop culture has been received and accepted within other communities who are not African Americans. The development of this site was inspired to the growth in the major fashion companies developing attires associated with the hip hop culture. For example in the early 2000’s, Nike collaborated with Stussy and other skating companies to start making skating products that favored non skaters. Additionally, high top sneakers and basketball jerseys became a top product in the hip hop fashion market. In this regard, basketball also influenced the culture tremendously. As a result, this site promoted baggy clothes and expensive leather jackets which were associated with hip hop artists of that time during the sites early days (Huq, 2006). These rappers also identified with expensive jewelry as a way of showing off their new wealth. For instance, Bach (2005) indicated that the estimated combined income of urban youths between 15 and 24 years had a combined income of around $ 203 billion in 2004.

Prior to the development of the Hypebeast.com, hip hop and rap artists had become important fashion trend setters

among the youth. Clothing and accessories used by these artists had become an instant hit in the fashion industry. These new fashions began in the shopping centers of Los Angeles, New York and Chicago but later would spread like wild fires to almost all the major cities across the globe due to the influence of the digital media (Romero, 2012). Initially, the culture was identified with tracksuits, sporting gear, oversized t-shirts and combat boots in the 1990’s. This new appeal among the hip hop artists was adopted by major fashion labels so as to be presented to the growing market of hip hop consumers. As can be attested to by this site, the fashion trends associated with this market has changed more than ten times in the last decade alone. Today’s hip hop culture is associated with designer brand focused wears. For instance, Cherjovsky (2003) noted that trendsetters such as Russell Simmons, Jay Z and Sean Combs who have also become successful entrepreneurs today adorn a more sophisticated tailor look that include formal wears which were initially a distaste of the hip hop urban roots.

In 2005, hypebeast.com promoted fashions such as (1)BAPE hoodie, (2)BABY Milo Tee, (3) BBC Dog Denim and the (4) Nike SB Tiffany Dunks as shown in fig 1 (Hypebeast.com, 2016, Deleon, 2013). These were brands which were associated by Pharell Williams. Pharell Williams was a major hip hop artist at the time and his style had permeated the hearts of most hip hop lovers at the time.

In 2006 as a result of the success of the album, late registration, Kanye West style defined the hip hop fashion industry. Condry (2001) indicated

that West was associated with Louis Vuitton backpacks and pink polos which was the origin of a more relaxed style in the hip hop industry. Some of the popular outfits which gained popularity as a result of West success included LRG Dead Serious Hoodie, Kiks TYO T-shirt, Evisu Jeans and the Incredible Hulk BAPEStas (Deleon, 2013).

Fast forward to 2007, the Kanye West style had diminished and now the hip hop followers were more for the skater hipster aesthetics as shown by the website. These new trends were mainly promoted by companies such as the Nudie and A.P.C through the social networks and online forums. They highlighted the new look ‘sick fades’ or the ‘raw unwashed denim’ (Hypebeast.com, 2016). These was the period associated with the rise of trend motor bikes which were associated with these hip hop followers. According to Hypebeast.com, some of the outfits and wears associated with this culture included (1) insensitive Keffiyeh, (2) Supreme Flannel, (3) Nom de Guerre Ballistic Down Vest, (4) Nudie Slim Jim Jeans and (5) Supra Skytops as shown in fig 2 (Deleon, 2013).

In 2008, Kanye West was back again at the top of the Hip Hop fashion trendsetter due to the launch of his new album ‘graduation’. Cardigans were the main feature of the West new look and his association with premium brands such as Louis Vuitton and Nike had led to the growth of this trend outside USA to the rest of the world. The 2008 top outfits according to hypebeast.com included, Staple Pigeon Snapback, Shutter Shades, Neckerchief, BBC Cardigan, Rogue Status AK-47 T-shirt and Vans x Supreme Bad Brains Sk8-Hi (Deleon, 2013).
Hypebeast.com outlines that from

2009 the fashion trends began to become less sophisticated, more formal and less weird (Deleon, 2013).

However, the focus of the current period is the high quality wears from premium fashion stores. Jewelry and top class sports cars remain important accessories in the hip hop culture though. This new trend signifies spending culture as a testimony to the new found wealth with less emphasis on rebellion and oppression as the original message of this movement. As the message slowly changes to a more conforming one to the norms, the fashions are also becoming less sophisticated. Hypebeast.com is one of the sites where evolution, revolution and the cycle of the movement is particularly highlighted albeit in terms of fashion (Hypebeast.com, 2016).

In 2009, street wear brands such as baggy jeans, basketball jerseys and baseball caps has significantly declined ushering in a new trend associated with varsity jackets and t-shirts (Hypebeast.com, 2016). Jeans and waxed denim were still popular with the culture though. According to Deleon (2013) Cool was the new message as highlighted by companies such as Mishka, ONLY and PEGLEG with their graphic tees and snapbacks. Additionally, this period showed the rise in higher quality hoodies and more tailored pieces. In 2010, Japanese companies and other non-American companies joined the fray in trying to forecast and determine the hip hop trends as artists became more entrepreneurial minded and less sophisticated (Breitan, 2015).

From 2013, few hip hop stars or rappers can claim to have a significant influence of the hip hop fashion as the early millennium (Deleon, 2013). Globalization has led to glocalisation of the hip hop culture with artists and their fans across the world having more

choice onto what to put on and accessories. Additionally, the fashion trends are no longer a preserve of few premium fashion houses as fashion lines have grown in most countries across the world. As a result of the internet and social media, the hip hop fashion have become less colorful with fewer brands such as Hood by air, PYREX and LPD New York the only ones targeting this group (Hypebeast.com, 2016). High profile fashion events such as fashion weeks in Milan, London, Paris and New York are now the major predictors of fashion trends.

Textual analysis of hypebeast.com highlights two aspects of the hip hop culture and the impact of media on this popular culture. First, hip hop played an important role in determination of fashion among the youths across the world and second, these fashion trends were short lived. In addition, the digital media led to fusion of the hip hop culture with other culture diluting the original message as well as shaping the fashion trends towards a more formal and less colorful ones we see today. However, new found wealth has remained the highlight of this culture today. As a result, premium designers such as Gucci, Louis Vuitton, Dolce and Gabbana still draw most of their sales from the hip hop market (Deleon, 2013). Additionally, the involvement of women in this industry has grown in the past few years with the development of more sexy and high class outfits for women.

Textual analysis of the site also shows a big difference between the pre-internet and the internet era. For instance, the pre-internet era shows spread of a single message among youths across with fashion trends

that lasted for several years. Romero (2012) outlined that the theme of independence, brotherhood and rebellion were common among earlier generations as opposed to the current generation where the new found wealth is the main message. In the current culture, the message has been different from one group to another with fashion trends that last only a few months.

Comparison of the textual analysis of hypebeast.com and previous studies

Past analysis of literature shows how the traditional hip hop evolved from the streets of Bronx, New York to the rest of the world (Martin, 2010). Earlier hip hop stars identified with hammer pants and sagging jeans, a trend that lasted through the 90’s to the early millennium before the spread of the internet. Before the 90’s hip hop groups of the 80’s and 70’s such as the Afrikka Bambaataa and Grand Master Flash wore flashy clothing with leather trousers (Martin, 2010). They also showed a particular disdain for fashion labels as opposed to the millennium generation. These groups though can be credited for being the inventors of a fashion that revolved around tracksuits, large jackets and bucket huts that were common among the hip hop artists of the early 90’s.

Literature review also indicates that showing off wealth through accessories, clothing and jewelry is one of the major feature of the popular culture that have lasted through all generations of hip hop. According to this literature, wearing big flashy chains symbolized the artist’s wealth. In this regard, Baudrillard (1994) theory that highlights the importance and status symbols and what they imply is vital in examining the reception of hip hop culture in other countries such as Japan. These

feature originated with the generation of the 80’s (Martin, 2010). The 90’s generation shows the emergence of large glasses and bucket huts, baggy jeans and construction boots and other baggy styles that also influenced female hip hop fashion. Major female hip hop fashion trend setters of the 90’s include groups such as Da Brat and TLC Will Smith and 'The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air'. The rise of the digital media and the internet media changed the hip hop fashion industry and its spread across the world. Additionally, the mid 90’s showed a new generation of rappers who identified themselves with colorful sweatshirts, tall tees and sneakers. It was during this time that show the emergence of entrepreneur/artists where most artists wanted to create and develop their own fashion brands. As a result, fashions were associated with certain musicians not the entire industry. According to Martin (2010) some of the artists who became popular and particularly rich as a result of this new venture included Jay Z, P. Diddy and Nelly with brands such as Sean Jean and Rocawear dominating market at the time.

Relating the past literature review, studies on evolution of the popular culture and the textual analysis of the hypebeast.com highlights one fundamental implication of the digital media. That is, the internet extended the reach of this culture thus the world was viewed as a market for this fashions thus the growth of hip hop entrepreneurs. Prior, to the internet, hip hop artists had a narrow line of identity in regard to fashion such as all hip hop artists and fans were defined with baggy clothing in the early 1990’s (Martin, 2010). Apart from

the jewelry, the concept of similarity has diminished giving way to a more elaborate and flashier culture. Hypebeast.com highlights a trend where fashions are set by the success of a particular artist i.e. LL Cool J with the baseball hut, Kanye West with the ‘realness attires’ and ASAP Rocky with the ‘skinny jeans’ (Cherjovsky, 2003). This fashion trend is therefore short term in nature due to the high number of successful artists with their own identity brand. In this regard, textual analysis of hypebeast.com serves as an important insight to the influence of digital media on the evolution of the hip hop culture which is the main theme of this study.

Finally, textual analysis of hypebeast.com highlights the role played by blogging and internet in the spread of the hip hop fashion culture. In this regard aspects of the Baudrillard theory which shows that an object serving as a sign signifies a certain value of the commodity to the media consumers (Baudrillard, 1994). Hypebeast.com displays objects such as sneakers, jackets, trousers which are associated with a certain culture that is deemed by its followers as ‘cool and real’. In this regard, blogs such as this have blurred geographical boundaries and created an online consumer community derives value and satisfaction from the consumption of objects associated with hip hop culture. Consequently, hypebeast.com and blogging in general have therefore facilitated the spread and development of the hip hop culture from New York to cities and streets across the world.


The main objective of this study was to find out how digital era has impacted on the spread of the hip hop culture from an underground movement to a popular

culture. In trying to realise this objective, the researcher divided the question into two parts (1) how the hip hop culture was in the pre-digital era and (2) hip hop culture in the digital era. The study analysed the evolution of hip hop from underground youth movement in Bronx, New York to becoming a popular culture across major world cities in Italy, China, Japan, Australia and other parts of the world. The paper found that the initial message of hip hop was that of identity i.e. moving a way from the social norms. The African Americans in Bronx, New York sought to use music (rap music) to send messages against oppression and discrimination which were prevalent in the American society at the time. Rap music, DJaying and break dancing were the main features of the initial movement.
Hip hop began after the culmination of the civil rights movement of the 1960’s in the United States. During this time, tremendous efforts were being made by various African American groups to develop this sub culture. African American youths grabbed the opportunity to air some of their grievances through poems which became the origin of rap music.

In New York, rising unemeployment and shooting house prices continued to marginalize the ethnic minority groups cementing the belief among these groups of white supremacy and privileges. The frustrations of youths belonging to these communities (African Americans) called for a new identification and a new message. According to review of past studies, this message was not only received by the American youths but it also created identity to youths from other parts of the world such as Japan, Italy and Australia. In this

regard, the culture began to spread outside United States to other parts of the world.

Finally, hip hop identity in terms of clothing and accessories became more prevalent in the 1990’s as a result of the spread of the mass media and growth of the internet. In the 1990’s, this culture was associated with baggy clothes and gold jewelry and later with track suits. However, textual analysis of the hypebeast.com showed how the growth of internet and blogging led to rebranding of the culture. It led to more success with major fashion stores investing in clothing associated with this identities. During this time, hip hop artists were associated with major fashion labels like Nike, Gucci, Louis Vuitton among others. Furthermore, the site also highlights the rise of personalized brands which followed success of certain hip hop artists such as Kanye West and Jay Z. However, hip hop fashion today moves towards conformity with the general trends. Despite this expensive jewelry has remained a constant feature of this movement. The paper therefore recommends further studies into the motivations for changes in perceptions about the hip hop culture and if the statement by rapper ASAP Rocky that hip hop fashion had become ‘weird’ in the last decade is true.


  1. Bach, A. (2005). From Subculture to Popculture - An Analysis of the Mainstream Appeal of Hip Hop Culture. 1st ed. ebook Available at: http://www.opgavebank.dk/opgaver/719.pdf Accessed 2 Jan. 2016.
  2. Bartlett, D., Cole, S. and Rocamora, A. (2013). Fashion media: Past and present. London: Bloomsbury Academic Baudrillard, J. (1994).
  3. Simulacra and simulation. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press.
  4. Baudrillard, J. (1998). The consumer society. Thousand Oaks, Calif.: Sage Publications.
  5. Bauman, Z.

(2000). Liquid modernity. Cambridge, UK: Polity Press.

  • Breitan, J. (2015, 10). Global dance laboratory:Hip Hop culture in Japan blogpost. Retrieved from https://thirdspacesblog.wordpress.com/2015/02/10/global-dance-laboratory-hip-hop-culture-in-japan/
  • Cagle, V. (1995). Reconstructing pop/subculture. Thousand Oaks, Calif.: Sage Publications.
  • Chambers, D. (2013). Social media and personal relationships.Palgrave Macmillan
  • Cherjovsky, N. (2003). Virtual hood:Exploring the hip hop culture experience in a British online community. Retrieved from University of
  • Central Florida website: http://etd.fcla.edu/CF/CFE0003029/Cherjovsky_Natalia_201005_PhD.pdf
  • Collis, J., & Hussey, R. (2015). Business Research: A Practical Guide for Undergraduate and Postgraduate Students (3rd ed.). Hampshire: Macmillan Publishers ltd.
  • Condry, I. (2001). Japanese Hip Hop and globalisation of the popular culture. Anthropology, 357-387. Retrieved from http://web.mit.edu/condry/www/pubs/Condry_Japanese2.pdf
  • Deleon, J. (2013, August 22). The Evolution of the Hypebeast: An Illustrated Guide. Retrieved from http://uk.complex.com/style/2013/08/evolution-of-the-hypebeast/
  • Felluga, Dino. (2002) "Modules on Marx: On Fetishism."Introductory Guide to Critical Theory. Available at: http://www.purdue.edu/guidetotheory/marxism/modules/marxfetishism.htmlAccessed 27Dec. 2015.
  • Fuchs, C. (2008). Internet and society.New York: Routledge
  • Fuery, K. (2009) New media: culture and image. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.
  • Gottdiener, M. (1995). Postmodern semiotics. Oxford, UK: Blackwell.
  • Heard, N. (2003). Sneakers. London: Carlton.
  • Hebdige, D. (1979). Subculture, the meaning of style. London: Methuen.
  • Hines, T. 2001. ‘Globalization’, in Hines, T. and Bruce, M. eds. Fashion Marketing: Contemporary Issues. Oxford: Butterworth Heinemann
  • Huq, R. (2006). Beyond subculture. London: Routledge.
  • Hypebeast.com. (2016). Homepage. Retrieved from http://hypebeast.com/footwear?utm_source=hypebeast.com&utm_medium=internal&utm_campaign=Navigation+Bar+Categories&utm_content=footwear
  • Jackson, P. 2007. ‘Local consumption cultures in a globalizing world’ in Welters, L. & Lillethun, A. (eds.) The Fashion Reader. Oxford: Berg
  • Jenkins, H. (2006). Fans, Bloggers and Gamers: Exploring participatory cullture. New York University Press.
  • Kellner, D. (1995). Media culture: cultural studies, identity and politics between the modern and the postmodern. London: Routledge.
  • Martin. (2010, November 18). The evolution of Hip Hop clothing web log post. Retrieved from
  • https://psupopculture.wordpress.com/2010/11/18/the-evolution-of-hip-hop-clothing/

  • Mitchell, T. (2005). Australian hip hop’s multicultural literacies/ a subculture emerges into the light. Retrieved from https://opus.lib.uts.edu.au/bitstream/10453/8171/1/2008002722.pdf
  • Motley, C. M., & Henderson, G. R. (2008). The global hip-hop Diaspora: Understanding the culture. Journal of business research, 61, 243-253. Retrieved from http://www.sociodep.hku.hk/bbf/BBF%20Readings%20W13/W13%20The%20Global%20Hip%20Diaspora.pdf
  • Muggleton, D. (2002). Inside subculture. Oxford: Berg.
  • Stevens, M. (2015). Ethical issues in qualitative research. Social care workforce research unit. Retrieved from http://www.kcl.ac.uk/sspp/policy- institute/scwru/pubs/2013/conf/stevens14feb13.pdf
  • Rocamora, A. 2008. Fashioning the City: Paris, Fashion and the Media. London: IBTauris
  • Romero, E. (2012). Free stylin: How Hip Hop changed the fashion industry. Santa Barbara, CA: Praeger.
  • Tocci, J. (2009). Geek Cultures: Media and Identity in the Digital Age (Paper 953). Retrieved from http://repository.upenn.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=2112&context=edissertation
  • Tönnies, F. and Loomis, C. (1957). Community and society. East Lansing: Michigan State U.P.
  • Get an explanation on any task
    Get unstuck with the help of our AI assistant in seconds