Clawing to escape the belly of the beast here in Hollywood. To commiserate, email my name assistantatlas at yahoo.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005

The Hip Hop Generation: 2.21

It's actually a tradition of mine to write while listening to fireworks on the Fourth of July. Often, I end up writing about our fair country-- no surprise, I guess.

This year, my thoughts on our fair country have been leavened and enlightened by my recent trip to the homeland of my great-grandparents, Italy (Sicily, to be more specific).

In talking with our guide about globalization (which she, an Italian, fears will demolish her unique culture-- I didn't tell her that as Ho'wooder that that was my fault), I realized something. Americans are different. We don't have identifiable cultural characteristics-- we make ours up as we go along. Sure, there are identifiable American images, myths, etc.-- the normal stuff that usually comprises a culture-- but it just doesn't congeal in America like it does elsewhere. I think this is mostly because we have such a diversity of people and cultures that it becomes impossible to talk about Americans without qualifying them with a subculture of some kind.

Now our guide is actually a fan of America-- she found most Americans to be lovely, charming and truly nice people. But when we talked about Americans, the only thing she really saw uniting them was their need of material comforts. Americans tourists were just as respectful (if not more so, according to her) as other cultures, but they did get irked if their hotel was too small, their bus not air-conditioned, etc. But this really ain't enough to define a culture (though it's obviously a part of it).

So maybe Americans are defined by the very fact that they can choose, or even create, a definition. They aren't defined by their culture, they define it in their individuality. And that's never been more true than today, when our generation is actively engaged in building a popular culture. And not just here in Hollywood. Hip-hop is rising everywhere.

In my view, hip-hop is the most obvious representation of just how we're creating our collective identity. Whether you're a fan or not, I think we can all acknowledge that hip-hop is hugely popular and resonant for many people in our generation. It is at once what we pull from the past, our living language, and our eulogy. And I think it's as close as we're going to get to a culture for our generation.

And this is why I refer to us as "The Hip Hop Generation", instead of the highly-derivative "Gen Y".


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