ElevArte Blog

ElevArte Studio

7 Things That Hip-Hop Taught Me

By Dai-Milan Coleman

I was introduced to ElevArte Community Studio and the We Are Hip Hop Youth Festival program in 2014. When I first joined the program I wasn’t aware of what hip-hop really was. I looked at it as another cool genre. At ElevArte we learned about the five elements of hip-hop and my appreciation started to grow. This year I am once again part of the festival management team. As I reflect on my time here, the following are the many powerful things that I learned from hip-hop.

1. Hip-hop brings the community together
Hip Hop started back in the 1970s, parties were thrown for artists to display their skills on the mic and on the turntables. Let’s not forget that break dancing was also hot. The special thing about these events is that they brought and continue to bring the community together. This was way before sets were against each other. There was a connection between the people and there was a connection amongst the people. In today’s world, Hip Hop is a way for the people, especially the youth, to stay active. Events that take place in the Hip Hop world keep them occupied.

2. To Appreciate Instruments
As a fan of Blues, Jazz, and R&B/Soul I listen for the sentiment in the bass, piano, and beat. This takes people back to a time when technology wasn’t necessarily as accessible. Groups like The Roots, The Fugees, and N.E.R.D all respect Hip Hop due to the fact that they are more original, even when remixing songs. Listening to music now is not the same because the originality is missing; artists are quick to use beats and sample songs rapidly, instead of coming up with their own style.

3. The Significance of Activism
This thing we call hip-hop is not only a genre. Hip-hop is a movement that has had an impact on the black and brown community. With the many issues that communities of color goes through, we use art as a way to express our emotions. When we aren’t protesting, we take these issues to the canvas, dance floor, and notebook.  Kendrick Lamar said, “We gon’ be alright,” and it soon became an affirmation that represented the ongoing struggles and a reminder that will last forever. As artists, what we create speaks louder than what we can hear.

4. How To Express Yourself
Hip-hop tells stories—it is a reflection of a situation. I learned that art is a pathway to freedom. As a poet I get lost in my thoughts. Listening to A Tribe Called Quest, Lauryn Hill, and Mos Def puts me in a place where I can relate to their music based off of the vibe from their instrumental, words, and production. The movement in your body describes the story you’re telling or the way a song makes you feel. The scratching of the vinyl is your painting on the wall. The graffiti that you create is a representation of where you come from.

5. Symbolism
The words from MCs, the rhythm from the DJ, and the body language from B-Boys and B-Girls says a lot about one’s art. They move their supporters in a way that no other genre can. These things make people think and grow an appreciation for art. A certain word or gesture can be represented as something so meaningful. Graffiti artists rely on direction and shape to display their work. The way a letter or number appears on an object determines what it means.

6. Teaching/Knowledge
Public Enemy and Nas were artists who spoke about where they came from, but also were the educators in the music industry. They were ones who were vocal to the issues and gave solutions to those issues. When listening to music you are always entertained. In some special cases you will be informed on things that you might know or not have known about. One of the elements of Hip Hop is knowledge. This is one of the most important elements because it keeps the listeners socially conscious.

7. Finding The Right Energy
A certain sound can correspond to your emotions. For example, when you feel like listening to music, you tend to choose a song that relates to how you are feeling at the moment. Sometimes you just want to hear a certain rhythm. This connects to song writing, when you find an inspiration for what you want to write about, you flow with the energy you have. Hip-hop takes us through many journeys that can make us reflect about a certain someone or something.

The We Are Hip Hop program exposed me to many forms of art. Most people don’t know, but hip-hop is a lifestyle. These behaviors that we’ve practiced at ElevArte affect the way I go about things in life. I get a sense of consciousness and confidence. The program has taught me a lot about artistic expression and how it can have a positive impact on my life.


Dai-Milan Coleman is a recent high school graduate from Perspectives Charter School. This fall she will be attending Illinois State University majoring in Communications. She will continue to express her passion for the arts through her poetry. Her plans after graduation are to start a program for young performing artists in Chicago.