Hip hop in Finland: Discourses by researchers and practitioners

Venla Sykäri, Inka Rantakallio, Elina Westinen & Dragana Cvetanović (eds.)


Hip hop refers to the musical, verbal, visual and bodily forms of expression and communication - rap music and rap lyrics, DJing, break dance and graffiti - that developed in New York City in the United States in the 1970s. These genres that emerged as youth street culture all have performativity, interaction and often also competitive spirit in common. Since the beginning of the 1980s, hip hop has developed into a global youth culture. The first cultural currents arrived in Finland around 1983 and 1984. Soon, hip hop enthusiasts began forming distinctive local peer groups, particularly in the Helsinki Metropolitan Area but also in the rest of the country. The culture became established during the 1990s. Although rap music is the most visible aspect of hip hop in popular culture today, all elements of hip hop continue to exist as the self-organised activities of young people. In Finland, as in the United States and many European countries, the forms of creativity and self-expression offered by hip hop culture have also found their way into teaching at schools and state-supported leisure activities for young people.

Hip hop studies has also evolved into an international, multidisciplinary academic area of research. Hip hop research holds societal influence and investigates the culture’s various aspects and meanings in a changing world. An independent research network Hip Hop in Finland: Genres and Generations was established in 2014 as an initiative of the Finnish Youth Research Society. The purpose of the network is to provide a joint platform for hip hop research in Finland regardless of academic field or career stage and to promote scientific social influence and dialogue with the field of research. This book has been created within the research network as part of a three-year project called Hip Hop in Finland (2016–2018) funded by the Kone Foundation.

Hip hop in Finland: Discourses by researchers and practitioners is a book in which researchers and the culture’s practitioners join in dialogue: the book contains both peer-reviewed scientific articles as well as the artistic voices of practitioners drawing from their experience-based expertise. While the book sheds light on the phases of hip hop culture and its forms of expression, it aims to build bridges between academic analysis and the field’s own analysis and to advance the written documentation of the verbal and functional culture that is characteristic of hip hop.

The book is divided into three sections in which scientific articles alternate with articles written by practitioners. The first section of the book reviews the early stages of hip hop and the peer cultures of graffiti, break dancing and improvised rap. The second section of the book focuses on rapping and rap music. The writers first concentrate on the discourses of authenticity in Finnish-language rap. Social themes are analysed next, ranging from the sociopolitical and ecocritical opinions contained in the rap songs to religion, race and gender. In the third section of the book, the culture’s mediators and other actors working in the background, such as DJs, journalists, producers and hip hop workshop leaders, shed light on the parts of hip hop culture that are not directly visible to the audience as artistic production or performance. The 18 texts in the book also include profiles of two younger generation hip hop enthusiasts, which indicates that hip hop culture continues to be a living and constantly evolving part of contemporary culture in Finland.