Written by Alan Ng
Edited by Jenkin Au
Photography by Jenkin Au
In hip-hop, giving is important and it is an essential part of its street culture. Often times, the media focuses on the negative aspects of hip-hop and they disregard the positive support that its community has been consistently giving. To truly understand why the art of giving is so common yet unnoticed in hip-hop, I examine the notions of respect, mutual benefits, and the importance of one’s image.
While classic economic laws may theorize that a lot of the moves and strategies that people in hip-hop apply are unproductive, the birth of its business has much to do with the notions of respect. There are traditionally many unconditional trade-offs that people in this culture artistically inherit and it’s due to the strong appreciation of the historic the elements of hip-hop. In context, the acts of performing without compensation, assisting one another in creative projects without contracts, or even collaborating with one another without direct guidelines show that in a culture that’s governed by the rules of respect, little time is spent calculating one’s individual offerings. The art of giving and sharing is inarguably the collective basis of hip-hop.
In hip-hop, collaborating and working together virtually cause no harm if you look at the overall spreading of the culture and movement. Strictly speaking, a more established artist working with an underground artist could be risky, but in the long run, there’s a hidden mutual benefit in place where the underground artist would one day either creatively repay the established artist by assisting in a future project, or pass down their knowledge to an aspiring artist down the road, recalling the opportunity and help that were given to him. In addition, the underdog often delivers a fresher approach to what’s at hand because of how green he might be. In a further and even more collaborative stage of hip-hop, the mutual benefits from the teamwork between a DJ and a group of breakdancers are so self-evident that compensation need not even be discussed.
Embracers of hip-hop must be able to hold a reputable image, whether it is in their attitude or their work. Greed and excessive pride alone only lead a hip-hop artist’s image to a ceiling of success. In the long run, one’s upwardly mobile image is highly attributed to their track record of giving and will draw the most popularity and support not only in the community of hip-hop, but across genres as well. While one might argue that there are often times hidden intentions behind moves by extremely wealthy hip-hop artists, the notion of continuous giving is an integral part of the hip-hop production cycle. Through these common factors of sharing and lending expertise, the art of giving sums up why hip-hop is still a burgeoning industry and continues to evolve as a culture. It expresses not only the voice of individuals, but also the vision and direction of a greater movement that empowers unlimited freedom of expression and creativity, without the need of direct compensation every step of the way.