When people think of February, Valentines Day instantly comes to mind. They picture love, candy, flowers, and the commercialized shenanigans that go along with the month. While many people are so focused on Valentines Day and how they’re going to be sitting on their couch Netflix and Chilling by themselves, or receiving generous gifts from their significant other, they fail to realize an important aspect of the month. As we all know — and if you didn’t, wake up — it is Black History Month.
Although there is only one month dedicated strictly to Black history, the impact of African American culture is constantly influencing the world. Everything from music, clothes, hairstyles, linguistics, all originated from the Black culture, has been adopted by other ethnic backgrounds. Many fail to realize that Black culture is in reality, pop culture. So let’s take a look back on all the things that were heavily influenced or were even created by Black Culture. Get ready, this will be a quite hefty editorial.
The popular slang that we use to interact with our friends, see on social media, and hear throughout the day, didn’t just magically appear. The sad fact is, we, African Americans, are not accredited for coming up with the catchy phrases and jargons that are used endlessly by pretty much the whole world. ‘On fleek’ and ‘bae’ are just a few terms derived from African Americans, utilized by literally everyone. You hear ‘on fleek’ coming from individuals of all races and even famous celebrities such as Nicki Minaj and Beyoncé. Many are unaware that Chicago teen, Kayla Newman, actually created the jingle. People are continuously assuming that famous viners came up with ‘bae’, when we all know the word has been thrown around by the Black culture for decades. Let’s not forget the timeless terms ‘dope’ and ‘homie’. Even ‘or nah’ has somehow recently shaken the world. People actually think that these words are new when in reality they’ve been around for quite some time. They’re just now getting recognized because slang is normal for everyone regardless of demographics these days. Somehow we tend to fade into the background, just as for everything else we create.
Without a doubt, Black culture is constantly forming fashion trends. People are always trying to execute the ‘urban/street’ look. Not to say other races can’t pull it off, it’s just that when it all adds up, that was also started by African American culture. The aesthetics that have been popularized within the fashion industry, like loose, dark clothing, and streetwear in general was originated in the 70s and 80s, with heavy influence from hip hop. You know what I mean; the baggy/torn jeans, oversized tees, bomber jackets, and loose clothing. Artists like RUN DMC popularized the look, as well as making fedoras and gold chains a cool thing to do. Oh yeah, they also made Adidas sneakers cool.
Back when the trend was starting, people, mainly parents, weren’t too fond of it. Kids began sporting the styles they saw their favorite rappers (who were mostly Black of course) wearing. They frowned upon their kids donning the attire because of who they saw influencing them. We were considered devious and bound to cause trouble because of our apparel, but somehow younger people were joining the wave. Rappers flexed designer brands such as Louis Vuitton, Gucci, and Tommy Hilfiger, all of which at the time really didn’t care about them rocking their fashion. Take a look at runway shows from the early 90s to today. Oddly enough, the baggy, street wear that was once stereotyped for only certain races quickly began dominating the fashion world.
The most universal aspect of the world, music, is a form of art that was heavily influenced by African American culture. Artists such as B.B. King, Muddy Waters, Ray Charles, and Billie Holiday created music known as the Blues. As time went on and people began to experiment with the genre, Rock and Roll was born. The new sound introduced artists such as The Rolling Stones, Fleetwood Mac, Jimi Hendrix, and many more. Few people are aware that the head banging, guitar breaking, ear melting music that is our current perception of Rock was actually stimulated from the shouts and chants of African Americans.
Now, as for Rap, R&B, and Hip Hop; that’s a completely different story. African Americans innovated poetry and created Rap to bless the 70s and decades to follow. Then, we innovated our own art forms such as Blues, Rock, and Rap, to create R&B and Hip Hop. THEN, we innovated all five of these genres to create Trap and Trap Soul! We have created a cultural powerhouse that is now universal. We have also integrated our sound of music with other genres. For example, musicians such as Raury, Theophilus London, Kid Cudi, and Outkast have mixed Rap and R&B together with aspects of Rock and Soul, creating their own “alternative” sound. Hip Hop has always been our scene. Music is evolving, just as well as the people making it. While there are more White rappers coming in, majority of the rappers that people idolize today are African American. Kanye West, Kendrick Lamar, J Cole, Future, Kid Cudi – these are just a few rappers who have taken over the rap industry, influencing people of all ethnic backgrounds. Go into any major African American musician’s concert and you’ll see a crowd consisting of Whites, Blacks, Asians, Hispanics, etc. Our music is limitless to race.
All African American artistic geniuses, such as Horace Pippin, Jacob Lawrence, Kara Walker, Charles Wilbert White, and Jean-Michel Basquiat, contributed to shaping the styles of visual art we see today. Art is the most complex form of expression. There are hundreds of ways to express thoughts, emotions, and perspectives through the strokes of a paintbrush dabbed in various colors of paint. African American artists are the most daring. They are known to have the most thought evoking (and provoking) pieces. With images consisting of slavery, sexuality, political messages, and a spectrum of topics people stray away from, they have inspired other artists to step outside of their comfort zone, and also differ from the rest.
Basquiat is a great example of an African American artist who heavily impacted the art scene. He created a new, interesting style of painting while also depicting his heritage and Black history onto a canvas. The illustrations he made were risky. At the time, his art was mysteriously admired. Just as many people were in awe with his work, many people were not. His success has inspired many current artists to not abide by the rules and just create whatever comes to heart.
Listed above are only the key pieces of our modern culture and society that was heavily influenced by African Americans. When you break it down to the very details, our entire world was impacted by Africans, and black people in general. The human race began in Africa. The United States of America is currently being run by an African American man. We have no choice but to progress and accomplish more. Only time will tell what we’ll do next.
Happy Black History Month. Learn a lot about your history.