From the Beastie Boys to Pharrell: This Film Looks at the Merging of Hip-Hop & Skateboard Culture.
As with any culture, the influences of the few can infiltrate the consciousness of the many, transforming a movement at large into a collection of smaller microcosms. One of Hip-Hop’s greatest strengths is its eagerness to embrace the flavors of its surroundings, and while now it is arguably the world’s most influential culture itself, some of Hip-Hop’s earliest phases contained aesthetics absorbed from external forces, particularly when it comes to street culture. While now a mainstream, respected sport, skateboarding began as a response to a desire for something more, something different, and something self-created, much like Hip-Hop. And, like the new kind of dance, DJ’ing, and MC’ing that was bubbling into existence in late-’70s New York, at its genesis, skateboarding was deemed by many to be just a fad, an eye sore, and a nuisance. However, the two counter-culture ideals eventually collided, and what on the surface seemed to be two diametrically opposed movements (skateboarding was seen as a Californian, Caucasian activity) united in a way that is still influencing Hip-Hop culture, more than three decades later.
In 2009, a documentary was released entitled Concrete Jungle, whose title is synonymous with Hip-Hop, for many. Probably the favored nickname for New York City amongst Heads, “concrete jungle” encapsulates the city’s urban, survival-of-the-fittest attitude. Director Eli Gesner (one of the founders of NYC-based street-wear brand Zoo York), in titling his film as such, captured not only the philosophical relationship between New York City and skateboarding (after all, without concrete, skateboarding is quite difficult), but also the integral role Hip-Hop played in making skateboarding a more visible street culture in mainstream American awareness. In a recent article for Uproxx, writer Dariel Figueroa examines the film, which he says “explores the relationship between hip-hop and skateboarding as both sought to find a foothold in alternative, and then popular culture.”
With artists like Pharrell (Skateboard P), the early aughts were a time of great skateboard visibility within Hip-Hop music, and it’s only grown more prevalent. Since the film’s release, skateboarding culture has permeated Hip-Hop even more, thanks in part to artists like OWFGKTA, Cyhi Da Prince, Lil Wayne, Yelawolf, and Joey Badass. However, it’s Concrete Jungle‘s examination of the past that makes it a must-see for Heads. You can watch it in its entirety, right here.
So…is the high saturation of skateboard culture in Hip-Hop in recent years just a trend, or just a long time coming?