In the native tongue of hip-hop heads, the notion of the Four Elements is as familiar as the boom-bap of an 808 drum machine. Allow us this quick primer for those who may be less familiar. Hip-hop culture is composed of four distinct disciplines, or elements, that together make up a rich and diverse culture: Breakdancers (b-boys), DJs, emcees and graffiti artists, and they created a foundation that's held generations of heads afloat since the inception of the genre in 1970s New York City.
These are not only immutable but a source of pride for all practitioners of the art. These elements have galvanized communities and, perhaps more than any other type of music, provided an outlet for the underprivileged. "Hip-hop changed my life" is a chorus heard by anybody close to the movement. It empowers those who live it, those who are told by outsiders that what they do isn't art or isn't worthwhile.
Brought to you by local skateboard shop/record store/street supply depot Rec Shop and hip-hop promotion/multimedia company Poor Vida, The Elements of Hip-Hop celebrates its third year at the Green Elephant. The all-day event is our local underground's answer to the summer festival game and is one of the most ambitious and unique affairs Dallas has to offer. The extravaganza will feature two stages with more than 40 live hip-hop performances (Awkquarius, Playdough, the Mohicans, Brain Gang and DFW Cypher are but a few of the acts), a few live bands, b-boy and b-girl battles, turntable showcases and live graffiti art.
"One of the things we wanted to emphasize is that this is educational," says Poor Vida's Donny Benavidez, who stresses that one of the goals of Elements is to illuminate the local hip-hop community.
"A big knock on local hip-hop is that people don't work together and that it's hard to build, but we are proof," says fellow Poor Vida promoter Joel Salazar. "We are doing it."
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And the event's momentum in its third year is further proof. To go from not being able to pay artists in the first year to pulling major sponsors such as Red Bull and Vitamin Water shows Rec Shop and Poor Vida are getting the attention of some heavy hitters. Houston even spawned an Elements clone, the FlyFest, which took place in May.
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While unity is a guiding principle of the festival, one should not forget that each of the elements is highly competitive. A medal will be awarded for each of the four elements, with the prize going to the day's top performer in each discipline. And they're doing a little something special for the b-boys: The winner of that element will also get a trophy, which will be engraved with their name and the year, Stanley Cup-style. Expect some heavy competition for that one.
"We've got a lot of love for Dallas," Salazar says. The sentiment was echoed by Rec Shop's Islam Sesalem: "We want to be able to give everyone a platform, provide a different point of view from the usual stuff you'd find in Dallas."
Elements of Hip-Hop 2012 happens Saturday, July 7, at the Green Elephant.