Hip: The History

Identifying the origin of “hip” as an anti-establishment stance that came with slaves in the 1700s, John Leland constructs a feedback loop between black and white America. He discusses six flash points—paradigm shifts—of hip brought on by ripples in time. The mid-19th century—minstrel shows looking one way, blues the other—gave us Emerson, Thoreau, Melville and Whitman. The 1910s-20s produced the Harlem Renaissance, the Lost Generation and the beginnings of recorded music. In the ’50s bop was in the clubs, and the Beats were on the road, laying the groundwork for the ’70’s do-it-yourself explosion. In the ’80s, it was the Internet and Gibson’s Neuromancer. The sixth flash point is now—when Miles Davis-Jack Kerouac cool morphs into mass media, hawking merchandise for the gap, and the hip response is: I’ll take both.