Since its inception, hip-hop has been inherently political – a powerful vehicle for conveying the messages society needs to hear. Through speech, his MCs have often conveyed the politics of hip-hop even more directly than those of their rock and folk predecessors.
Whether it’s Boogie Down Productions’ KRS-One which depicts the cow’s journey from the slaughterhouse to your plate, or Doug E Fresh (and, later, Common) speaking of the sensitive subject of reproductive rights, hip-hop has always been the genre where no subject is off limits.
Imbued with political messages
Dating from his the first versions, hip-hop was steeped in political messages. On Harlem World Crew’s 1980 release “Rappers Convention,” the lyrics read like a report ripped from the headlines, telling people rhyming, “But we Americans are sick and tired of this political gong show. / So we »Send our message back to Iran: let our people go / Now we have been pushed around a lot but we are not afraid of war / And Iran, your cat and mouse game is really got boring. ”
Hip-hop as a genre can be traced back to militant spoken word groups such as The Last Poets and The Watts Prophets; just as they reflected the realities of their surroundings, modern hip-hop delivered its own missives from the front lines, becoming, as Public enemy leader Chuck D say it, “black america’s cnn”. For much of a decade, much of hip-hop politics turned and reacted to the policies of President Ronald Reagan, who served from 1981 to 1989.
Black America’s CNN
The earliest records of hip-hop captured the attention of urban America and a significant portion of the mainstream, and in January 1983 Robert Hilburn wrote in the Los Angeles Times: “The Grandmaster Flash Message & The Furious Five was the most outstanding single of 1982. A groundbreaking seven-minute record that is a brilliantly compact chronicle of the tension and hopelessness of ghetto life that tears the innocence of the American Dream apart.
While the song’s iconic closing verse originally appeared on the band’s ‘Super Rappin’ in 1979, Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five lead vocalist Grandmaster Melle Mel performed it on “The Message. “. Forever anointed as the father of modern and socially conscious hip-hop, Miss Mel went on to write several songs that inspired generations of MCs to write rhymes that went far beyond the materialistic swagger and fanfare rooted in the genre. .
From “Message II (Survival)” to the iconic “White Lines”, “Beat Street Breakdown”, “New York, New York” and “World War III”, Miss Mel has set the lyrical bar high, and many MCs would aspire to mimic its efficiency.
Set the lyric bar high
Kurtis Blow was the first hip-hop solo artist signed to a major record company (Mercury), and his first single was actually a Christmas song, “Christmas Rappin ‘” from 1979, giving little clue to the songs he was soon to release.
As the 80 years saw an ever-widening economic gap, coupled with declining wages and cuts to social programs that disproportionately affected America’s downtown areas, even rappers who were seen as easygoing party MCs have talked about socio-political issues. On his fourth EP, Party Time ?, Blow manages to weave international relations in a festive jam as he does on “Nervous”.
Blow was no stranger to political commentary, as evidenced by his self-titled 1980 album, Kurtis blow, which contains the William Waring-written gem “Hard Times”, which would serve as hip-hop’s first cover when, four years later, it was performed by Run-DMC.
No stranger to political commentary
The trio from Queens, New York, were the first commercially successful hip-hop group to record a side record. James brown‘s “Say it loud – I’m black and I’m proud. “Proud To Be Black” appeared on their critically acclaimed 1986 album Raising Hell.
Just around the corner from Raising Hell was the self-proclaimed prophets of rage, Public Enemy. But a number of factors set PE apart from their predecessors, including their concoction of Nation Of Islam dogma, James Brown samples, Black Panther visuals, and the mind of First Grandmaster Miss Mel.
Self-proclaimed Prophets of Rabies
Everything about the group became the subject of conversations and debates that continue to this day. Even their iconic album covers are still being dissected and their meanings debated. Whether they raged against companies that exploited black communities in “Shut ‘Em Down” or created an anthem for the streets in “Fight The Power,” Public Enemy was both ahead of its time and just on time.
Just as the success of Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five opened the doors to Public Enemy, Public Enemy, in turn, opened the doors to songs like Stetsasonic’s anti-apartheid anthem “AFRICA”, the Chill Rob classic. G “Court Is Now In Session” and the political rap “Arrest The President” by Intelligent Hoodlum (aka Tragedy Khadafi).
Stop the movement of violence
This movement peaked at the turn of the decade when KRS-One brought together the best East Coast MCs of the day to jump on the collaborative track, “Self Destruction,” in support of the Stop The Violence movement, featuring everyone from Public Enemy to Doug. E Fresh, Heavy D, MC Lyte and the other members of Boogie Down Productions.
Just as hip-hop aimed at the war on drugs and its societal consequences in the ’80s, the’ 90s saw the genre make its way into mainstream audiences and tackle a new set of obstacles that plagued the world. America and beyond. Groups like Black Star, Development stopped, Roots, and Dead Prez picked up where the Native Tongues collective (Jungle Brothers, De La Soul, A Tribe Called Quest, Black sheep interrupted, addressing violence, racism and afrocentrism through complex puns. After their historic release in 1998 Mos Def and Talib Kweli are the black star, Yasiin Bey (formerly Mos Def) and Kweli continued their legacy as formidable political writers.
As much as gangsta rap seemed to be the antithesis of socially conscious hip-hop, so much the style brought its own socio-political commentary, ancestors NWArallying cry of “F__k The Police”, in 1988, for 2Pacthe redemptive hymn of “Changes” (1998) and Ice Cubethe controversial “I Wanna Kill Sam”, from its second release in 1991, Death certificate. Just like Tipper Gore censorship campaign sought to regulate rock in the ’80s, hip-hop became the target of Capitol Hill in the’ 90s (starting with a 1994 Congressional hearing on the lyrical content of gangsta rap), and again in the 00 years.
A new school of artists
While much of hip-hop politics arose out of opposition East and West coasts, during the 00s, the Midwest (especially Chicago and Detroit) would generate its own new school of politically inclined hip-hop artists. One of the most progressive artists to come out of this scene was Common. From his beginnings in the underground hip-hop scene of the 90s to his time in the neo-soul and alt-hip-hop collective Soulquarians, and his commercial breakthrough in the 2000s Like water for chocolate, Common has always worked to advance hip-hop. His song “A Song for Assata”, on the trial, incarceration and political asylum of Assata Shakur (member of the Black Panther Party and godmother of Tupac Shakur) always puts him in hot water.
Another seismic change
Just four years after its release, hip-hop experienced a new seismic turning point, with the arrival of Kanye west. The same year he released his flagship debut album, The College Dropout, in 2004, West teamed up with Common and John Legend to form the GOOD Music team and label. As Common described years later, West was instrumental in breaking down the walls between commercial hip-hop and socially conscious hip-hop: ”he told Fader in 2016. Jay Z and Mos Def. Kanye began to bring these different worlds together.
Kanye would inaugurate a new era of hip-hop who distinguished between commercial and conscious hip-hop, attacking racism in a story of his grandfather’s arrest for sitting at a separate lunch counter (“Never Let Me Down”), and surpassing the swashbuckling gangsta rap of the mid-2000s. Meanwhile, OutKast was blasting the charts with “BOB” (“Bombs Over Baghdad”), Eminem shouted “White America” in the years 2002 The Eminem show, and Lupe Fiasco was going geopolitical with her critically acclaimed debut, Lupe Fiasco’s Food & Liquor, in 2006.
Enter the political sphere
Occupy Wall Street, Black Lives Matter and March For Our Lives… the 2010s brought with them a number of political movements that quickly made their way into hip-hop. With more platforms to spread the message via social media and the rise of streaming, artists can broadcast their gospel on a microphone or broadcast it directly to their fans. Political activism is no longer limited to lyrics, as more and more artists like Chance The Rapper and Kanye West have started to enter the political realm.
The biggest statement of the decade, however, came from Kendrick Lamar, whose groundbreaking 2015 album To Pimp A Butterfly somehow sums up a whole story of African-American experience, while managing not only to talk about the present moment, but also to itself. ensure that its avant-garde brilliance will remain relevant for generations to come. Suddenly, “Alright” became the de facto anthem of the Black Lives Matter movement, while the follow-up to To Pimp…, DAMN., Would see Lamar win a Pulitzer Prize for songs that offer “affective vignettes. complexity of modern African American life.
A new class of artists continues to push the political envelope alongside Lamar, including Vic Mensa, Noname and Childish Gambino. And as each generation gives birth to new groups of political thinkers, hip-hop will continue to be a tool in which artists can hone, refine, and wield.
As Lamar says in his “interview” with Tupac on To Pimp A Butterfly: “In my opinion, the only hope we have left is music and vibes.
Looking for more? Discover 20 Songs That Bring Back Hip-Hop Conscious.
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hip-hop politics – Marseille News