Societal Issues Reflected in Hip Hop
Music has had numerous periods of time where musicians decided that enough was enough, and they were going to make some kind of wonderful music statement about it. Many people think of Jimmi Hendrix’s National Anthem, the two We Are The World celebrity and recording artist behemoths that were well-intentioned but not that impactful, and of course the Headed For Self-Destruction rap video of the 80s featuring numerous Golden Era emcees that are still considered important to Hip Hop today. Fortunately, we are in a time and age where protest songs are no longer oddities that happen only when everything is reaching its boiling point but rather much sooner, like when an issue arises. The following are tracks that are reflective of this paradigm shift (thankfully aided along by a resurgent independent music movement) and tracks that still bear relevancy to today’s issues and problems. First, let’s start off with a track that demands you to re-examine just what the United States has been up to the past couple of decades.
Killer Mike’s Reagan is off of his critically acclaimed R.A.P Music album from 2013, and is a venomous track discussing all of the nonsense the United States has helped to perpetuate over the last number of decades; the Iran Contra situation, the beginning of the prison industrial complex, the higher rates of incarceration for drug-related offenses, and the classist and racist practices of police departments. This track is powerful and speaks to the fact that those in power have gotten away with a great deal, and will continue to do so unless something changes. Those in Hip Hop have to make the change, and you can see with the recent Grand Jury decision in Ferguson, many artists have spoken out against the decision:
The system that instills & protects white supremacy wins again. Humanity loses…No justice. I pray for Mike Brown & his family. So sad.
— Macklemore (@macklemore) November 25, 2014
This isn’t the first time artists fed up with another bad decision have voiced their opinions on it, and it will not be the last either. Some of those artists who have voiced their opinion have been doing so for quite a while. Talib and Yasiin are two great examples of that.
What’s great about this track from Kweli and Bey (collectively known as Black Star) is that over 15 years after this track has been released and these two first starred in this video, the music still pertains to what is happening in society and the social structure within the US today. Racial profiling is still a heavily-used tool, and still today there is a deeply rooted mistrust of law enforcement among poor and underrepresented communities dating back years before this song came out. This is because of a countless number of incidents where violence and an excessive use of force are unnecessarily utilized by those with a badge, which needs to stop happening.
This is just a brief serving of the music out there to get you thinking about the state of the US and the people within it. Artists that will do that for you include Public Enemy, Immortal Technique, Lupe Fiasco, Brother Ali, Hasan Salaam, Run The Jewels, Rebel Diaz, and many more. Check out their pages on Twitter, and other social media outlets.
Miss someone off of your list? Comment below and let us know why we are missing an amazing artist. Until next time, Peace.