In this lesson, students discuss how the logos of the Hip Hop groups Run-DMC, Salt-N-Pepa, Wu-Tang Clan, and A Tribe Called Quest reflect their musical identity. From what they learn about these groups, students then develop their own personal logo that expresses their own unique individuality.
Hip Hop is a culture that celebrates individuality. Break dancers break free of spatial norms to assert their presence. Graffiti artists are admired and recognized for their customized signatures, characters, and styles. DJs and producers dive deep into forgotten records to create a unique sonic signature. And rappers freely express themselves in creative cadence and verse.
The most legendary Hip Hop groups have managed to combine many or all of these forms of expression into a singular image or statement. Coming out of Hollis, Queens, New York City in the 1980s, Run-DMC created a style based on minimalism, performing over skeletal beats and eschewing bombastic outfits for street clothes like tennis shoes, jeans, and tracksuits. Also from Queens, Salt-N-Pepa, a trio of women recording artists, helped elevate Hip Hop into the sphere of popular music, releasing a series of hits that offered a woman’s perspective on relationships. In the 1990s, the Wu-Tang Clan emerged from the borough of Staten Island in New York City. The group, which would become a long-lived Hip Hop institution, is known for a unique worldview inspired and defined by encyclopedic knowledge of Kung-Fu films and Asian philosophy. Finally, from St. Albans, Queens, emerged A Tribe Called Quest, a group at the center of the Native Tongues collective which also included De La Soul. Known for eclectic sounds, ideas, and visuals, the quartet’s debut album featured samples of Cannonball Adderley (a collaborator of Miles Davis), the Beatles, and Stevie Wonder.
Remarkably, each of these groups were able to distill their complex artistic personas into a single group logo, each of which has become iconic not just in Hip Hop, but across global culture.
Using these groups as an inspiration, students will reflect on their own unique personality, and consider how using colors, shapes, and letters in a logo might express parts of their personality. After creating a personal logo, students will then share their work with others, and collectively organize all the personal logos into groups based on criteria developed in the class.