In the company of my boyfriend, who is African-American, I watched part of a documentary on the history of hip-hop music, followed by a countdown show of "The 100 Greatest Hip-Hop Songs." It was interesting to see the differences in the way he and I experienced the music being highlighted on these shows.
To me, what is now considered "old school" hip-hop music was part of the culture of youth in the 1980s. When I originally heard this music, it was part of the soundtrack of my life. It was a new, youthful music style. It was cool. I learned to break-dance (there is an extremely goofy photograph of me, age 8, backspinning on a flattened cardboard box); I wanted to decorate my bedroom walls with graffiti a la New York subway cars. (My parents wouldn't let me actually spray-paint my walls, so I faked it. I made poster boards of graffiti and tacked them to my walls.)
Part of it is that radio was not as genre-fied then as now; when I was growing up, and really up until about the time that alternative rock burst upon the popular consciousness, the pop/rock radio station might play Salt 'N Pepa, followed by Def Leppard, followed by Janet Jackson, followed by the Eagles. No present-day commercial radio station would play Disturbed and follow up with Nas. You might get that kind of variety out of an independent online radio station, or a college radio station, but not commercial radio these days. And that's a shame, although it is reflective of the changes that technology has brought to music; there are other ways besides commercial radio for an artist to get his/her music to the listening public, but that's headed for a digression and not my point right now.
Anyway, it didn't really occur to me in the 80s that I was listening to black music. It was just good music, new, interesting, fun music. And I don't think that's a bad way to see hip-hop. But it's a viewpoint that is made possible by being white, to be able to see music by black artists about black issues as just good music. (And yes, I know there are white hip-hop artists, but they are the minority.)
And the experience of hip-hop music is very different for someone who didn't come up as a middle-class white girl. Hip-hop music is neither part of nor reflective of my ethnic identity, and that makes a difference to the experience of the music.
And I don't know that you can separate black music from American music. Music historians say that jazz is the first "American" music style. Well, white people did not come up with that one, folks. Rock and roll itself came from blues, which has its roots in the spirituals of black slaves. Elvis was said, even then, to be a white boy singing black music. And separate hip-hop from pop and rock now. Without hip-hop, there would be no rap/rock-fusion-type music, like the Beastie Boys or Linkin Park. And certainly no Kid Rock or Eminem.