By Nick Parker

Hip-hop started out as the music of the ghettos in Harlem, but is now one of the most popular music genres in America, making up over 20 percent of iTunes’ most popular songs as of last week. However, many students are oblivious to the movement that is behind the music.

The four elements of hip-hop – break dancing, rap, DJing, and graffiti – are all present at UC Santa Cruz.

There are break dancers practicing at the College 9/10 dining hall, emcees on the Stevenson knoll, the Porter Quad, and the Oakes Lawn, DJs spinning in their rooms and at small events, and graffiti artists throwing up their tags at the McHenry Project construction site. 	

Although all of these pieces of hip-hop culture are present on campus, it is the understanding of the spirit behind the music that is often lacking. 	

Some students see the bling bling accessories that accompany the mass media image of hip-hop and discredit the music genre as superficial.

Ironically, the hip-hop movement is about hearing the often-silenced poor and disenfranchised voices – the exact opposite of the rich and famous playboys consuming the airwaves. 	

Most students know there is something deeper to this music, but ignorance of the meaning of hip-hop is often a product of circumstance. Many people see the hip-hop community as an exclusive clique that is impossible to permeate from the outside. This view arose because hip-hop was founded on the principle of struggling against oppression from spheres of high society.

As the most affluent UC campus, and with diversity that pales (no pun intended) in comparison to other California campuses, it is easy to see why students would have a hard time connecting with rap artist Common’s lyrics, “The corner is a sanctuary.”

Students, it seems, are under the impression that because they are not from the ghetto, they cannot represent hip-hop. The fear of being labeled a faker or a wannabe overpowers the receptiveness to one of the most important musical movements of our time.

In essence though, hip-hop is really no different from the widely embraced movements on campus such as, at the risk of sounding cliché, the hippie movement of the ’60s and ’70s.

It is a movement about challenging authority and questioning the precedents of social structure that put groups of people, namely African-Americans, at a disadvantage in today’s world.

It is not about ostracizing people who are not ghetto, it is about brotherhood.

Hip-hop advocates strengthening the community and helping the less fortunate. It is in this sense especially that UCSC students could learn a lesson. I cannot say that anyone who listens to hip-hop will unconditionally love their neighbor and immediately begin volunteering at the homeless shelter.

No one’s racial or ethnic background should prevent them from listening to and appreciating the genre. In the lyrics of the Dead Prez, “It’s bigger than hip-hop.”