When listening to hip-hop I never think of where it came from, how it formed, what its influences are. In fact I never think about the historical significance of most music I listen to but that is one of the most interesting aspect of music. It is odd that once you look into it most music is rooted in crime and begins as something taboo. Rock and roll, hip hop, rap, even icons like Elvis Presley began their musical careers as something that your parents wouldn’t want you to listen to. Rubble Kings looks into the roots of hip and hop and documents the rise of hip and hop and its roots in crime and gangs in New York in the 1960’s and 1970’s.
Following the social wreckage of the race wars in the 1950’s and 1960’s gangs had control over New York City. The gangs were so strong and powerful that they did not bow down to social norms and even the law could not control them. New York was a city that lived in fear of gangs and had no control of itself. Violence was through the roof and it seemed that everyone hated everyone. There seemed to be no end to the violence. The end to the violence was a very unlikely source. It was not the police or a change in law, it was music. It was hip-hop which critiques today say, promotes violence. A music that supposedly promotes violence ended one of the most violent times in New York’s history. Why music? Music brings people together. All throughout history people have used music to bond, to connect, to control. Music holds immense power that I think people do not recognize or expect. In the EDM culture of today music connects people, there are symbols within the culture that bond people. What is the first question you ask when you are getting to know someone? Usually it is what kind of music do you like, we go to concerts together and shift our taste in music to be similar to the people we surround ourselves with. Music has the power to heal and come together for one common cause. The people in the gangs in Rubble Kings were not in gangs because they were inherently violent. It was necessary for survival. Everyone was in a gang and in order to survive in the cold, harsh world and have social interactions they had to join.
The interesting thing about the documentary is all of the real, raw footage that the director, Shan Nicholson was able to collect. When you tell someone about an issue they care, but it does not usually fully absorb and capture their attention; however, when you show them is when it fully resonates. People must be shocked into caring and that is why Rubble Kings had so much cinema success. With all of the real footage it is able to create a connection to something that seems so foreign and distant. New York Times states, “Rubble Kings is a fascinating, valuable work of social, music and New York history, a celebration of a peaceful revolution by those who helped birth it.” The power in the documentary is that it was able to take music, something we all feel a large connection to, and gang violence of the 1970’s something we don’t feel a large connection to and bring them together. This opens the eyes of people who do not usually see violence and gangs, and helps them to realize that this is a prevalent issue. It is also interesting that music is the primary tool used in the peaceful revolution. There are very few peaceful revolutions that have happened in the past and I think it is truly amazing that music accidentally stumbled upon an extremely successful revolution. When they began creating music, it was not to start a revolution but for fun. The after affects of the music were just an extremely fortunate accident. That just goes to show the power in art and music. Art has been at the basis of almost every cultural shift in history. It can change someones beliefs, attitude, outlook on life, and connections with people. Maybe our society today should take a look at history and learn from it. With all of the violence we have in society today maybe all we need is to come together to form a new genre of music, a new work of art. Anything to help soothe the wounds that violence has created on our society.