The Tao of Hip Hop is a collection of diverse media that aims to bridge the gap between the originators of the hip hop genre and the new generation of its practitioners that has sprung up on the other side of the planet.
Hip hop is, as it stands, the modern world's most influential youth culture. Now far removed from the inner-city house parties and street corners where it was born, hip hop has undergone countless changes, adaptations, and innovations, finding footholds in contemporary worlds ranging from fashion to visual art to internet culture. You no longer must identify as a hip hop fan in order to find yourself constantly in contact with the movement; rather, it is inescapable in the developed world. TV soft drink commercials display images of whirling breakdancers, Hollywood blockbuster depictions of the scene or of popular artists rake in big at the box office, and politicians execute carefully planned rap references in efforts to win street cred among millennial voters. The validity of the genre is no longer up for debate; contrary to the predictions of those who looked down on it at its inception, hip hop is here to stay.
In China, the same is true. The hip hop sound, dance, and lifestyle are beginning to connect with a new audience in ways that wouldn't have been possible ten years ago. But the members of this new audience find themselves pulled in opposing directions, subjected to the same conflicting forces that meet when any culture is transposed on top of a pre-existing one. They belong to an identity that is foreign to their parents, their community, and the system in which they function. What's more is that hip hop culture itself suffers the same pitfalls as any emerging movement in a developing country, and is restrained in its growth by a host of factors from government censorship to dialectic language barriers.
As the forces of westernization churn onward in China, and the greater forces of globalization press on worldwide, the subject of cultural transmission reaches peak importance. Our world is shrinking, and the "Far East" is no longer so far. Hip hop is an American youth subculture that has grown into a worldwide wave, and China's scene presents a relevant case study of its diffusion across the globe. Simultaneously an academic and a personal undertaking, the project's end goal is to equip readers with the knowledge, context, and tools to understand the hip hop identity of a different 'hood. Echoing the sentiments of Nas on 1994's Illmatic, we're asking the question, whose world is this?