Italian hip hop

Italian hip hop

Hip hop music and culture in Italy is an evolution of the way in which Italian youth make known their dissatisfaction for the current social and economic issues that are presented to them in everyday life. While the size of the Italian hip hop movement was modest at first there was a tipping point in the creation of hip hop as an alternate form of expression. In the January of 1990 when protests demonstrating the controversy over a law that involved the private sponsorship of universities caused protesters to create the centri sociali. It is at these underground locations that the left-winged radicals in which hip hop was embraced would hone their graffiti and rapping skills in order to present their viewpoints through different media outlets. This movement of a few Italians that disapproved of the authority that ruled over them is what sparked a hip hop culture in Italy. It continued a political movement that was last occupied by punk rock, and the war of youth against authority that began before hip hop seems like it will end well after hip hop makes its way out of Italy.

:The music of Italian hip hop itself is derived from Jamaican ragga and dance hall it incorporates samples, scratches, and break beats from world music, traditional Mediterranean folk music, and African American and Latino hip hop. However the culture of hip hop began with a musical genre that has no musical influence on hip hop in Italy, punk rock.

:Punk rock began in England during the 1970’s and made its way to Italy shortly after. Punk Rock was the means in which youth displayed their rebellion towards society. They would dress in apparel that took a great deal of effort to not only wear but also to find since local markets didn’t carry the necessary clothing needs of Punk Rockers. Coupled with their non-conforming clothes, Punk Rockers also kept an anti social and rude attitude in order to highlight their rebellious nature. Punk Rockers often gathered at Centri Sociali in order to listen to Punk Rock bands while slamming into other patrons in the crowd along with jumping off stage into the crowd, thus ignoring the political issues of the day. The anti-political politics of punk rock grew old for some patrons of the centri sociali and they began to look for something that would fuel their anti-conventional lifestyle.

:As interest in people’s need for a new political outlet began to grow in Italy so did hip hop. The switch from punk rock to hip hop in the centri sociali seemed not only inevitable but also natural. While punk rock can be seen as a politically motivated form of music it does not stress the urgency or need for change in a society. The reason why punk rock music is labeled as political is because patrons of punk rock take a cold shoulder to political issues, they want nothing to do with politics and would probably prefer anarchy to government any day. This absence from politics is what makes punk rock a political music genre. However the problem with this cold shoulder approach is that in the end, nothing is truly accomplished, and a lack of political opposition in the wake of the privatization of universities, and the Gulf War, along with other political stances that the Radical Left youths held had the possibility to be directly affected by a voice stressing the need for things to be changed, and the switch from punk rock to hip hop was the answer to having the voices of the voiceless be heard by not only each other but also the government that ruled over them. This switch took place over several years in which hip hop began as a new social and musical phenomenon that quickly swept the youth of a nation with its catchy music and “in your face” political stance that was quick to let its voice be heard.

:Hip hop began in Italy during the 1980s. Small groups involved in the punk rock and centri sociali scenes heavily influenced by such movies as Beat Street and Wild Style; became entranced in all four pillars of hip hop. They experimented with graffiti, b-boying, DJing, and MCing, within the confines of centri sociali and did most of their music work in English. Thus creating hip hop that began to slowly take over the centri sociali as a main form of expression.

:When rap began to gain a slightly larger following in the centri sociali posses began to form. These groups of hip hoppers highlighted the most important aspects of the centri sociali. The economic and political independence that each centri sociali had from not only the government but also one another is astonishing when put into perspective. The localization of each centri sociali is very specific to each separate abandoned building that was occupied considering there were fifty-three centri sociali in thirty-three Italia cities from the 1980s to 1992 it is difficult to assume that they would all be inter-connected. The autonomy of the posses highlighted the fact that the complex inter-workings of the centri sociali were run free of government interference or rule. Consequently this government free atmosphere made the centri sociali labeled as illegal, even criminal a times, as places for youths to congregate they were often shut down by police. The closing of different centers was damaging to Italian hip hop because they were the building blocks of the culture both physically and metaphorically they housed the ideas and kept the inspiration for hip hop alive.

:The posses that created and performed the political hip hop found in the centri sociali were geared toward creating and using their music to criticize many social and political issues that they associated with an increasingly visibly corrupt Christian Democrat government. Hip hop was one of the many gears that operated a political renaissance of oppositional Italian youth movements. In addition because of its ability to be performed in front of and capture audiences hip hop was greatly used during an increase of political demonstrations against both the Christian Democrat government in the 1990s and later with the Berlusconi government of 1994. It is through well though out and straight to the point lyrics that Italian hip hop was able to create a political movement for disgruntled youths.

:As hip hop began to gain popularity within the centri sociali the music started to make its ways through the posses and into the streets. However commercialism was not as quick to follow hip hop as a following was. As hip hop made its way into the realm of popular music posses kept their anti-government mentalities, which was prominently displayed through their self-organized recording and distribution processes. Recording studios were located within the centri sociali and were used by not only hip hop but also punk rock, reggae, and ska groups in order to create music that could be heard by people outside of the confines of the centri sociali. One of the consequences of hip hop recordings making their way out of the underground and into the mainstream was the inflation of compact disc prices. However this was quickly remedied when such artists as 99 Posse added special terms into their contracts when they were signed to major labels. These conditions included records being shipped to the centri sociali as well as record stores, and all of the compact discs were stamped with a price in order to end high markups, something Italian retailers were infamous for. The production and distribution of hip hop to areas outside of the centri sociali led to the use of hip hop by more than just people that were involved in posses and launched a much larger mainstream acceptance of hip hop.

:When hip hop started to make its way out of the centri sociali a new chapter in Italian hip hop was created. Young men who lived on the edges of the city in high-rise apartment buildings began listening to hip hop and started making the form of expression their own. These “B-Boys,” the term given to hip hoppers not associated with the centri sociali, began making beats and writing raps in their bedrooms, and were quick to become major label rappers and the face of Italian hip hop for the national market. This second wave of hip hop is sometimes labeled Old School and while it still speaks out against the government, it has its own concerns and issues separate of the centri sociali. The content of Old School rap was a switch from the political militancy of the centri sociali to a socioeconomic insight into the everyday struggles of Italian youths. During this time period street consciousness and street credibility became highly symbolic values and authenticity began to play a larger role in rappers personas. Hip hop in Italy owes a boom in its popularity to such artists as Articolo 31 who used catchy beats and non intimidating lyrics to capture audiences that were not once fans of hip hop. This gave way to full-blown commercialism and a complete abandonment of the sociopolitical roots that hip hop started with.

:The emergence of pop rap and hip hop that is more concerned with aesthetics, boasting, and being hardcore eventually began to phase out politically orientated rap as the predominate sound of hip hop. This may be due to the emergence of a more left-wing government in Italy, or it could just be part of hip hop’s life cycle. Rap artist Jovanotti is seen as the only Italian rap artists that Americans know, and the pioneer of pop rap in Italy. He has sold more records and has created more chart toppers than any other hip hop artist out of Italy. He was not a part of either the centri sociali or old school scene, but a radio disc jockey turned teeny bopper sensation that unfortunately for hip hop pioneers became the face of Italian rap. Italian hip hop today has become more about communicating feeling than anything else. In recent years there has been an emergence of gangsta rap in Italy and it is feared that Italian hip hop will come full circle and just become the same as American rap, only in Italian not English.

Articolo 31 started out as a mainly East Coast rap-inspired hip hop duo, but changed to a more commercial style during their career and eventually evolved into a punk/pop/crossover group. Other important crews and rappers include Bologna's Camelz in Effect with their unforgettable early hit "Slega la Lega", Sangue Misto with their 1994 album SMX, the political crew 99 Posse whose music have influences from world music to trip hop. Gangsta rap crews include Sa Razza, La Fossa from Sardinia and Flaminio Maphia from Rome. Probably the most famous Italian rappers apart from Articolo 31 are Sottotono from Varese, Neffa from Napoli and Piotta who represents Rome and became famous through an ironic interpretation of the "coatto" (The stereotypical Italian boy with an attitude). Caparezza is often referred to as the Italian Eminem because his records sold many copies from 2000 on. Frankie Hi-NRG MC is often referred to as the Italian NAS, since his rhymes are very complex and intellectual. Turi from Calabria and Colle der Fomento from Rome are considered hardcore rappers by many. Italian hip hop also has a tradition of political-minded lyrics, e.g. 99 Posse and Assalti Frontali.

There are also some crews rapping in the local dialects or languages, e.g. La Famiglia in napoletano; Sa Razza (partly) in Sardinian and DLH Posse that raps in Friulian, as well as in Italian. 99 Posse also use Italian as well as neapolitan while La Pooglia Tribe and Sud Sound System rap in both Italian and dialect from the Puglia region .

In the last few years new groups like Cor Veleno, Brusco, Gli Inquilini TruceKlan and La Squadra from Rome, Club Dogo and Vacca from Milan, Co'Sang from Naples or Stokka & Madbuddy from Palermo have emerged in the Italian hip hop scene.

"See also: List of Italian hip hop musicians"


*cite book
editor = John Shepherd, David Horn, Dave Laing, Paul Oliver and Peter Wicke
publisher = Continuum
year = 2003
location = London
id = ISBN 0826463215
first = Martin
last = Stokes
chapter = Ethnicity and Race
page = pg. 216
title = Continuum Encyclopedia of Popular Music of the World, Volume 1: Media, Industry and Society


Hip Hop Sangue & Oro

External links

* [ - italian undergroud hip hop portal]
* [ Joe Sciorra 's site about Italian Hip Hop]
* [ zero-plastica 's site hip hop underground from Italy genova]
* [ italian american Mikie Da Poet's break out performance on fox news national]
* Italian based hip hop site supplying international exclusives (news, interviews, audios, videos, gallery..)
* Italian Hip Hop Portal which includes a large database of Italian as well as International (mainly US) artists
* [ Brief overview of Italian Hip Hop]
* [ Hip Hop Selection - Daily news and links about Italian and international Hip Hop]

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