“It begins with the words: mic check. The MC counts it off, one, two, one two, before running down his pedigree.”
We learned from Chang’s “Can’t Stop Won’t Stop: A History of the Hip-Hop Generation” that “the origins of hip hop can be traced back to traditional beats of our African motherland and the deteriorating streets of Kingston, Jamaica, the nature of hip hop in the United States comes from the ghetto black youths yearning for a voice and existence in an impoverished South Bronx dictated by slumlords, gangbangers and drug lords during the 80s.” A lesson behind the history of hip-hop? Check. Now we can delve into the cultural and literal elements that make up hip-hop and how to separate the “mere corporate rappers from the creative MCs” in Cobb’s “To The Break of Dawn.”
By highlighting two of the four core pillars of hip hop, deejaying and rapping, Cobb identifies and outlines the aesthetic principles of hip hop by tracing its roots back to the traditional days of ancestral poetic and traditional black oral culture to the South Bronx to the present era.
Cobb starts his novel by identifying the external elements that shape the production of hip hop and, more explicitly, emceeing, with stating that “at its core, hip hop’s aesthetic contains three components: music, or “beats,” lyrics and “flow” ---- or the specific way in which beats and lyrics are combined.” Cobb explains that since hip hop is often more of a discussion of politics and commerce versus a level of art, that “it’s easy to miss the fact that the form has its own aesthetic, its own standards and measures.” Cobb then points out that the MC is at the center of hip hop and it is how the MC does what he does that gives hip hop its heart. And with his tools, verbal craft, articulation, and improvisation, the MC keeps that heart beating.
“Articulation in a foreign tongue---- one that was learned in bondage and taught solely as a means of conveying orders--- is in and of itself a form of...