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One o'clock in the morning at "Tramps" in New York. It's as full as the Cavern Club in Liverpool used to be when the Beatles played there. And now, with similar enthusiasm, the audience is waiting for one of the hottest acts on the Hip Hop scene: the Blastmaster of Rap - KRS One.

KRS One: "Hip Hop is formed out of the necessity to have an identity in a society that doesn't recognize you."

Hip Hop and Rap were created in the streets of the Bronx in the late seventies. Music with the message: "We are somebody - listen to us - we have something to say." Rap became the "CNN of the Blacks", the jungle drum of the modern city. Today, the drummer is KRS One.

KRS One: "When they gave us ballet, we would give them breakdancing. When they gave us Leonardo da Vinci, or Galileo, we gave them graffiti art. When they gave us Beethoven, Bach or classical Rock'n'Roll even, we gave them Rap."

From the streets of the Bronx, Hip Hop conquered the hit parades of the whole world. One world ...

KRS One: "In another 30, 40, 50 years from now, there'll be no black, there'll be no white, there'll be no Asian, there'll be nothing. There'll be one person called the American. And that person will have probably a little darker skin than you and a little lighter skin than me. That's it."

Hip Hop as a global culture - propagating the disappearance of racial differences? Why not? Already, this musical style from the Bronx has been adapted by all kinds of cultural communities. Want proof? In this Manhatten studio, a hit is being put together. Recognize the text and the melody?

The German Alfred Hochstrasser lives in New York. He and Elvis Herbert, nicknamed "the Pope", are working on their version of "Butzemann", a German children's song. Elvis is from the Bronx and grew up on Hip Hop. Working with Alfred is fun for the soundmixer. For Elvis, Hip Hop is a bridge to other cultures and people. And it's his life.

These are friends of Elvis, his crew. He used to live right around here. In summer, life in the Bronx happens on the streets. It's time for basketball. Since the New York City government got together with a sporting goods manufacturer and installed thousands of basketball nets, juvenile delinquency is said to have gone down noticably. "In the media, you only hear about the hard side of the Bronx," says Elvis, "Drugs, crime, murder and death. But it has other sides too."

Elvis: "Every corner here has a vibe and every corner has a history. How can you turn your back on something like that, you know what I mean? We got some of the greatest people walked through here, some of the greatest people in the world were born here - greatest designers, greatest ball players. But ... You know, you get a good energy out of here, you know what I mean? It's the kind of place you could find whatever you want and no matter what hour of the day. I don't see me living in any other borough. It's not hard to represent the Bronx."

The studio in which Elvis, "the Pope" works, is in the middle of Manhatten - 57th Avenue. A music journalist once wrote: "From here, the Bronx looks like an island of development and invention, surrounded by a sea of commerce." Elvis feels quite comfortable in the sea of commerce, but in his spare time he prefers to go home to his crew. Every evening he and his friend Don drive out of Manhatten, over the Willis Avenue Bridge, into the "promised land".

Past Yankee Stadium, home of the legendary baseball team from the Bronx. It's their team - Elvis and Don are as proud of the Yankees as they are of their music. The car radio plays one station only ...

Graffiti is as much a part of Hip Hop culture as Rap is. It was mainly Latinos who first developed this art out of the spray can. Brian and his assistant are working on a Graffiti for the Butzemann project. His "open air atelier" is a very famous wall in the Bronx. Many Graffiti idols have sprayed their texts, their "tags" and their pictures here. Brian sprays his work on a canvas, out of respect for their work.

Brian has worked his way up from the bottom with his spraycan art. He's a "genuine" graffiti artist.

Brian: "In order to be real, you had to get on with the whole program. You had to steal your cans, you had to sneak into the train yards, you had to put up your art and get away with it."

Graffiti was an outcry against the dreariness of America's big city slums. Graffiti has its own rules, generally unknown to outsiders. Every symbol, every "tag', every picture has a message. The New York City Police has a special unit, which analyses graffiti to predict upcoming gang wars and take action to prevent them. As Elvis and Brian know, graffiti can be a murderous affair.

Brian: "When somebody comes and disrespects your art, puts his art over yours, it's a form of him telling you that he's better than you or that he has more fame than you. So it's a form of challenge and it can cause problems, fights amongst different graffiti crews. And most of the time it results in a big rumble about it."

Boxing, often the most benign form of the "big fight", is still at home in the basement gyms of the Bronx. Thousands dream of a career like Mike Tyson's.

Quick leg work and fast, hard punches. There is one who has always remained unsurpassed to this day, one who also worked his way up from the bottom, the idol of generations. Cassius Clay, alias Muhammad Ali, the most charismatic boxer of all times.

The young Cassius Clay had nothing to be ashamed of when he came fresh from his Olympic victory to challenge the champion Sonny Liston. What followed was more than a boxing match. Liston embodied the good Black, the "Uncle Tom", while Cassius represented the self-assured, rebellious black. Liston was the white man's "good Negro".

Muhammad Ali won. And flung a few mocking verses after the defeated Liston. Nowadays, one would say he was rapping in the ring.

Elvis: "He's an MC. I mean, the man was MCing off the top of his head with no beats, no nothing, in front of millions of fans. He could flow with the rhyme at the drop of a dime. At any given point, Ali was ready to roll."

Ali the loudmouth. His outspokeness made him one of the first Blacks world famous also for his comments. Here's a sample:

Clay comes out to meet Liston And Liston starts to retreat. But if he goes back an inch farther He'll end up in a ringside seat.

Clay swings with his left. Clay swings with his right. Look at young Cassius Carry the fight!

Liston keeps backing But there's not enough room. It's a matter of time And Clay lowers the boom.

Now Clay lands a right. What a beautiful swing! The punch raises Liston Clear out of the ring.

Liston's still rising And the ref wears a frown, For he can't start counting 'til Sonny comes down.

Now Liston disappears from view. The crowd is getting frantic. But our radar stations have picked him up - He's somewheres over the Atlantic!

Who would have thought When they came to the fight, That they'd witness the launching Of a human satellite?"

Scratching, also an invention of Hip Hop. Kid Capri is one of the masters of the platters. A DJ who does a lot more than just put on records. Kid Capri - where does the unusual name actually come from?

Kid Capri: "Well, if your name's Jason, you don't want to come out and say, "My name is Jason." So you say your name is "Cool J" or something like that, you see what I'm saying? So that's the reason for that, you know. A lot of people don't like their name, or another name, a name like that might sound a little better. You see, my real name is David Love, David Anthony Love, and I couldn't come out saying DJ David Anthony Love. That wouldn't sound right, I probably wouldn't even be where I"m at right now, but it came out like that. So, Kid Capri. Well, Kid Capri came from a girl I used to go with back in the days, that was killed by accident - she was shot in the chest by accident - so I kept the name."

A DJ's treasure is his record collection with hundreds of discs. The secret, the art, is in the right mix. Of course, every DJ has his favourites. But there is one they all love and consider their idol. For Kid Capri as well, he remains the "Godfather".

Kid Capri: "The very first one, I think , that dedicated Hip Hop or created Hip Hop, was James Brown, in my personal opinion. But brothers like Bambaata took it to another level and made it into a street form to where it's progressed and great deals right about now. Where people thought it wasn't going to go anywhere. Just like anything else, times change, styles change and stuff like that, but no matter what, you always got to give props and homage to the people that started it, like the brothers back then."

Respect is what James Brown wanted, even as a young artist, when his music was put down as so-called "negro music". "Respect" is one of the key words of black protest in the 60s. So James Brown sings: "Say it loud: I'm black and I'm proud."

And of course James could dance too. Breakdance just had to follow.

Breakdance, the third pillar of Hip Hop - together with Rap and Graffiti. It blossomed in the eighties, when crews even had competitions. Nowadays, it's more for fun at the beach. In fact, the Bronx actually has a beach: Orchard Beach. Elvis and his crew love the hustle and bustle there. On summer weekends, thousands crowd the promenade to see and be seen.

Orchard Beach belongs to the Latinos and the blacks. Any whites you might see are generally in blue uniforms. Elvis would love to take a couple of friends from Manhatten to Orchard Beach. So far, none of them have had the nerve. However, what Elvis encounters every day is not just fear, but also rejection.

Elvis: "See, people tend to disrespect Hip Hop. They find it easier to talk about Hip Hop in this day and age and say how ugly and black it is and this and that because that's the easiest way that they can say what they really have inside. A lot of people that say this really want to say, "These fuckin' niggers, man, them and their black music is so ugly and murky." What you're really talking about is the people. They use Hip Hop to cover up what they're really trying to say, because this day and age, in '96, I don't care where you're at, you better be behind closed doors if you want to start yelling about "fuckin' niggers" and - you know what I mean?"

Some whites would probably prefer black Hip Hop music to stay locked away in its ghetto. But there are also blacks who don't want to share their culture with the whites. For example, handball, a typical Bronx sport. Hard and fast. "This game is played only here, by us, and that suits us just fine," is the unanimous opinion on the concrete of Orchard Beach.

Burning crosses of the Ku Klux Klan. Symbol of the racial unrest of the 50s and 60s. One man became the voice of the oppressed blacks: Martin Luther King. He preached non-violent resistance, which was supposed to lead to equality. Segregation would be abolished for ever. A long path. King was imprisoned over twenty times. White judges sentenced him for speeding, but acquitted white lynch murderers. Yet the Civil Rights Movement led by King gained more and more followers.

Alabama was the stronghold of white racism. The so-called "nigger riff-raff" was to be kept in place by police violence. The non-violent demonstrators were to be provoked into breaking the law. Then white judges would have an easy time of it. A hard test for Martin Luther King and his peaceful Civil Rights Movement.

But King endured the police dogs and clubs and the water bombs - and countered the screaming injustice with his vision, his dream ...

King: "I have a dream that, one day, this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed. We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal. I have a dream that, one day, on the red hills of Jordan, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will then be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood. I have a dream."

Elvis: "Here in the Bronx we would only learn in February, "Black History Month." The rest of the year, we were learning about early settlers and stuff like that, so through the education I had a lot of boundaries set up, you know what I mean? You're not going to tell me that a five-year old is just going to pick up "Well, I want to learn about Malcolm X." There are those five-year olds, this day and age, 'cause through the media, we have more films and, you know, his name is up much more than it was, like, in the late seventies and stuff like that when I was going to school. And it was tough."

Audubon Palace, a historic building. In September 1976, Grandmaster Flash and Melle Mel performed here together. A dancing audience of 3,000 witnessed the birth of Rap. A bloody birth, since shootings are a part of daily life in the Bronx. The long trail of violence. The Audubon first received notorious fame in February 1965, when the black political activist, Malcolm X, was assassinated while giving a speech there.

Malcolm X, like his friend Muhammad Ali, was an icon of black revolt. His politics were much more radical than those of Martin Luther King. This made him a hero to young people.

KRS One: "Malcolm X is a big influence in my early studies. Not a big influence today. No disrespect intended, but I think I've thought past him already. Same thing with Martin Luther King, Marcus Garvey, Adam Clayton Powell, etcetera, etcetera. There was a point where I was - I didn't understand them, I studied, I understood them. Now I am at a point where I am beyond that because I'm living now. Malcolm X could have never seen what I'm seeing today."

What KRS One sees, he works through in his raps. This piece - "Reality" - is about life in the Bronx, which he has known at its worst.


I've lived in a place called Millbrook Projects The original criminal minded rap topic Twenty cents in my pocket and I saw the light If you're young, gifted and black, you got no rights Your only true right is the right to a fight And not a fair fight - are we wondering who died last night? Everyone and everything is at war Makin' my poetic expression hardcore I ain't afraid to say "amindy kan kiquity" At times in my life I was a welfare recipient I ate the free cheese while the jerks that believe 'em Went to school every day like the goddamn bull Here I am chillin' it apart Brothers lookin' at me like they want to kill somebody A sight from an invested in this interrupted jam I got to show those white crackers who I really am It's me against them So I'll clear the phlegm And wage the war Hardcore to the end For someone lookin' inside Here from the out It seems like disrespect Is what Rap is all about But Hip Hop as a culture Is really what we're giving But sometimes the culture contradicts How we're living 'Cause every black kid Lives two or three lives The city's a jungle Only the strong will survive Reality ain't always the truth Bronx equal actual life in the youth Reality ain't always the truth Bronx equal actual life in the youth

Elvis: "The violence is very prevalent in the Bronx. I mean, you don't give the kids nothin', the kids are gonna take somethin'. You know what I mean? They don't got nothin', they don't got nothin' to lose."

Countless Graffiti artists also had nothing to lose. Those best-known are the ones who managed to spray their pictures all over town without getting caught by the police. Some of them created their own characters and became stars in their own right. "Zone" is one of them. He recalls his career beginnings.

Zone: "A subway is just like going to school. It's like, when you're in the train yards, and you paint the subway cars and stuff, it all about you, it's all about, " I want to make this a career" or "is it just a fad?" or if it's just fun or it's just something that I want to do for now. Some people just quit, some people keep going on. So it's all about the person and if he wants to be a serious business man, make you rich."

Today, money has certainly become an important element of Hip Hop culture. Business has claimed the creative minds and they are proud of having made it. Including "Zone", whose "Baby" helped him make his breakthrough. Instead of painting subway trains, he's now decorating his own store in Manhatten. He's copyrighted his character. Greetings from Walt Disney ...

Zone: "The graffiti market is about T-shirts and buttons and hats and stuff. I'm taking it to another level, I'm taking it to a toy company. I want to be the first graffiti artist to have a mass producer. A big toy company, have all dolls, teddy bears, furniture. I want to take it to another level."

And you still find the street rappers - rapping at night to the sound of ghettoblasters.

The street-corner as a stage, the Bronx as a talent scout - it's a part of these streets, along with drugs and violence. Kids carry automatic weapons, sell Crack on the streets, shoot one another for a pair of sneakers. Broken families, single mothers - normal in the Bronx. Elvis also grew up with his mother and grandmother only.

Elvis: "You can go out in the middle of the night and you'll see cliques and packs on every single corner. Where are these kids' parents, you know what I mean? So, if this kid is rollin' out in the street without a family, you know, the family image in his mind, he's not going to think twice about killing the next man and not even thinking for a second that that man has a family 'cause he can't even fathom the idea of having a family. So, to him, he's just seeing another body drop."

For many rappers, violence is topic number one. They describe the violence around them and some create violence. In so-called "Gangsta Rap", groups try to outdo each other with more and more brutal texts and videos. The content is often irrelevant. The weapons, murder and manslaughter serve only to promote sales of their CDs.

KRS One: "America as a culture loves sex and violence only. They only promote these kinds of acts. Or if we as an artist do something like "madism" - or talkin' about smokin' herb - then they'll promote that. But when we say something about - you know - promoting mind, spirit and body - even if Nas says it - he's not really going to be promoted."

And so the shooting continues, to keep the bucks rolling in. A sign of the times ...

Fashion is also a part of the marketing of Hip Hop. It's important to look cool. The right sneakers, the right T-shirt, the right hairdo. Elvis, "the Pope", has his hair trimmed for the weekend. Short is cool. The girls tend to prefer a bit more colour - fingernails to match the hairdo are very important.

Fashion idols are movie stars and musicians. In this point, Hip Hop is no different from any other youth cult. What's new is that for the first time, blacks not only initiated the trend, but also determine its further development. Hip Hop gives them a distinct identity. Elvis and his idol KRS One agree on that.

Saturday night. Elvis and Don are in Tramps. KRS One is performing. The highlight of the month. What he says, the audience listens to. Today, he's rapping that violence is crap and that education is the most powerful weapon of the oppressed. That goes down very well and everybody has a good time. KRS One calls it "edutainment".