Shared life experiences and defining events that take place over decades link members of a generation.
“During the mid-1990s, as head editor I began to use the term ‘the hip-hop generation’ (to describe) those young African Americans born between 1965 and 1984 who came of age in the 1980s and 1990s,” Bakari Kitwana said.
Kitwana is known as the editor for America’s best selling music magazine The Source: The Magazine of Hip-Hop Music, Culture and Politics.
Hip Hop music originally served as a way young African Americans expressed their frustrations at the disenfranchisement of their race.
“This worldview first began to be expressed in the insightful mid- to late 1980s sociopolitical critiques of rap artists like KRS One,” Kitwana said.
Associate Professor of Philosophy Matthew Stolick remembers this movement well.
“I was in my early-middle teens when groups like KRS One were performing and Los Angeles burned after the Rodney King verdict. Things felt different,” Stolick said.
Now, as hip-hop music has become mainstream, American youth of all races embrace it.
“With older hip hop it was speaking truth to power. That message has been lost because now it is more about individualism and making money,” said religious studies major Luther Mayfield.
Kitwana refers to Mayfield’s generation—those born between 1985 to the present—as the post-Hip Hop Generation.
“That sort of edgy, vibrant and continuing disgust at injustice based on race seems distant now, and so in that sense I can understand the meaning of a “post hip-hop culture,” Stolick said.
Kitwana claims through organizations like the Hip Hop Summit Action Network (HSAN,) this post-Hip Hop Generation is “getting more involved and are more issue oriented.”
“I have to disagree,” said Robert Postic, associate professor of political science. “Young people are not issue oriented.”
Stolick thinks Postic is correct.
“(Young people) seem less concerned with moral issues and much more willing to conform, blend in and give the politically correct answers,” Stolick said.
Some UF students agree.
“I agree the older generation are more political. The issue now is where do we fight for equality for one another?” Mayfield said.
If there is one main thing that separates the post-Hip Hop Generation from the Hip Hop Generation it is the replacement of large social gatherings like Woodstock, which brought many people of different backgrounds together.
‘We didn’t really have anything like Woodstock that brought our generation together. All we had was Sept. 11,” said Casey Dahle, graduate student in TESOL.
Social media replaced physical gatherings for this generation, and this is part of what keeps the post-Hip Hop Generation from influencing events the way earlier generations did.
“Technology is keeping us from getting more engaged. It has the promise, but not the way I see people using it,” Postic said.
And access to more information is not necessarily translating to greater awareness.
“Ironically, the more information available the dumber people seem to become," Stolick said. "Being informed is not about the media and available information so much as it is about the inner drive and motivation of the student her or himself.”
To get the post-Hip Hop Generation moving toward critical thinking and social action Kitwana thinks President Obama may play a big role.
“I had 170 students in my ‘Political Science and the Hip Hop Generation’ class during the Obama presidential campaign. The power is not in the candidate, but in the young people,” Kitwana said.
Mayfield said Obama might be a catalyst who helps bring the Hip Hop and post-Hip Hop generations together because the president seems to share traits of each.
“Obama’s platform is bringing back values that were instilled in our parent’s generation. In this time we need someone who can reach people of many different walks,” Mayfield said.
Teachers of the post-Hip Hop Generation like Stolick say they have faith in the new generation, but still feel something is missing.
“I think what is foreign to current students is the conception of bleeding and sacrificing for one’s issue,” Stolick said. “If students wake up to this, we will see a push for Obama to make social changes.”