Yaad/Yard-Hip Hop Culture and Identity

La Tasha Brown
Yaad/Yard-Hip Hop culture and identity is the hybrid form of Dancehall (reggae) and Hip-Hop (rap) music and culture. It bridges the experiences of migrational identities of the past and present through music. It embodies the diasporic memories of Jamaicans, who reside in foreign locations.

Yaad/Yard evokes the primordial ties of their former identity and place of origin, and the Caribbean yard or background which is a common setting and trope in Caribbean Literature and culture. It is a significant factor in how Jamaicans and their offspring’s construct their identity in a foreign location.

Chevannes argues “for to be Jamaican a farin [foreign] is to have a diasporic memory, that is to say, the memory of a particular reference point, a land, with which there are primordial ties of sentiment but to which there may be no real or enduring return”.

Adams concurs with Chevannes’s analysis in stating that: “the loss of the physical connection to a space is profoundly influential on how a people define themselves”.

Therefore, yaad/yard becomes a vital reference point in the process of self-definition among the African-Caribbean peoples. The Caribbean yard has been a central location for a great deal of self-identification for many first and second generation American born children in the United States.

Migrational and transnational identities between Jamaica and North America fuse the experiences and contemporary expressions of Black music in addressing the movement of people from a variety of locations in the African Diaspora, one of the products is a new identity.

In examining Dancehall (developed in Jamaica) and Hip-Hop music (hybrid of the Jamaican sound-system, Rhythm and Blues, and the New York City urban life styles of North America), the foundation from which the two forms of music emerged gets transfigured in urban centers, where the music converged to form a new variation of the previous Black music expression of reggae and rap.

Reggae and rap music have allowed for the experiences and identity of Blacks to be deployed into the public forum of Western culture. The two genres of music have successfully created the production of a multilingual expression, which has given voice to the voiceless.

The relationship between the spoken and written word has created a rich amount of historical narratives to surface. Thus, the popularity of the two genres of music has functioned in exerting the cultural and political voice of the oppressed.

The conceptualization of Yaad/Yard-Hip Hop, as a new Black cultural aesthetic and identity speaks to the migrational and transnational identities that reside in foreign locations. The urban center becomes the space and place, where the identities of many Blacks get reconfigured away from home.

Therefore, the poor inner city communities of North America are described as locations where the marginalized Black population lives. The term “ghetto” has been used to describe such locations. It is a term that is derived from a Euro-American socio-political ideology, which thrives on negating and suppressing the experiences and the livelihood of Blacks and immigrant populations within urban spaces.

Television commercials and print ads romanticize the decaying urban “space” in which Black youth play, and in so doing they have created a vast market for potential White corporate investors to profit. Therefore, the Black experience in the urban setting becomes legitimized by the media, specifically by the entertainment industry in ways that rearticulate the historical-narrative of race, gender, and xenophobia ideology.

The representations of the ghetto, as a space of play and pleasure amid violence and deterioration are more than simply products of the corporation imagination. The ghetto is romanticized for the purpose of corporate economic gain.

However, for the individuals and the families that migrated to and reside in these centers, the realities of urban life in the U.S. are a reconstituted to express their own cultural identities. Therefore, the formulation of Yaad/Yard-Hop Hop, as a new cultural form is a tangible expression and extension of their migrational and transnational experience of Blacks in foreign locations.

This new cultural forms and identity provide an infinite amount of autonomy and freedom for young women and men in the African Diaspora to refashion the symbols, language, and idioms of their loss memory of home to create /or invent a new /or temporary yaad/yard (home) within the contexts of the oppressive socio-political Euro-American context into a tangible expression of their experiences and identities.

Some of the major creators of yaad/yard-hip hop include Foxy Brown, Sean Paul, Busta Rhymes, Notorious B.I.G., Wyclef Jean, Born Jamaicans, Super Cat, and Petra. Each artist mentioned has had a tremendous impact on the growth and the transformation of Hip-Hop music from its’ inception in the 1980s and 1990s to what is presently marketed in the Americas and Internationally as Hip-Hop is really the fusion of Hip-Hop and Dancehall music or yaad/yard-hip hop.

Yaad/Yard-Hip Hop reflects the increasing international makeup of North America’s urban centers resulting from immigration, demographic, and structural changes to the urban landscape, as well as, the pioneering employment of technology in creating new sounds and/or rhythms/riddims.

Additionally, the employment of technology strategically fuses cultural objects, style, and vernacular from both the English and the Spanish speaking Caribbean into mainstream American culture, which has allowed for a new sound to be born. This new sound has cultivated a Jamaican-American identity beyond the Caribbean enclaves found in urban centers throughout the Americas.

The ritual of wordplay and sound (rhythm, riddim) empowers the performer and the audience in ways that conceptualize the reality of the yaad/yard (place of origin) within the context of a farin/foreign location. The cultural transcript of yaad/yard-hip hop music within the context of the North America allows for the experience of many Afro-Caribbean immigrants to be heard. Therefore, yaad/yard- hip hop can be seen as an embodiment of social memory and collective history of African people in the Diaspora.

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