Political hip hop
|This article needs additional citations for verification. (April 2013)|
|Political hip hop|
|Stylistic origins||Hip hop, protest songs|
|Derivative forms||Conscious hip hop|
|List of Political hip hop artists|
Political hip hop (also political rap) is a subgenre of hip hop music that developed in the 1980s. Inspired by 1970s political preachers such as The Last Poets and Gil Scott-Heron, Public Enemy were the first predominately political hip hop group. Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five released the first sociopolitical rap song in 1982, called "The Message", which inspired numerous rappers to address social and political subjects.
Conscious hip hop
Conscious hip hop or socially conscious hip-hop is a subgenre of hip hop that challenges the dominant cultural, political, philosophical, and economic consensus. Conscious hip hop is related to and frequently overlaps with political hip hop, and the two terms are often used interchangeably. However, conscious hip hop is not necessarily overtly political, but rather discusses social issues and conflicts. Themes of conscious hip hop include afrocentricity, religion, aversion to crime & violence, culture, the economy, or simple depictions the struggles of ordinary people. Conscious hip hop often aims to subtly inform the public about social issues and having them form their own opinions instead of aggressively forcing ideas and demanding actions from them.
History of political and conscious hip hop
The proto-rap of Gil Scott-Heron is often noted as significant influence on political and conscious rap, though most of his earlier socially conscious and political albums fall within the jazz, soul, and funk genres. One of the first socially conscious hip-hop songs was "How We Gonna Make The Black Nation Rise?" by Brother D with Collective Effort. The first big hit hip hop song containing conscious rap was Grandmaster Flash's "The Message", which was a hugely influential political and conscious hip hop track, decrying the poverty, violence, and dead-end lives of the urban poor of the time.
Examples of conscious and political hip-hop music throughout the decades include Whodini's "Growing Up", Kurtis Blow and Run-D.M.C.'s "Hard Times", MC Lyte's "Cappucino", Lupe Fiasco's "Conflict Diamonds", Big Daddy Kane's "Lean On Me", Mos Def's "Mathematics", most of Public Enemy's discography, including notable tracks such as "Give It Up", "Black Steel in the Hour of Chaos", "Rebel Without a Pause", "Fight The Power," "911 Is a Joke", "Burn Hollywood Burn," and "Night of the Living Baseheads"; much of the The Roots' discography, including the track "What They Do" and albums such as Things Fall Apart, Game Theory, Rising Down, Undun, and ...And Then You Shoot Your Cousin; much of Kendrick Lamar's discography; much of KRS-One's discography, including the tracks "Move Ahead" and "Know Thyself"; Boogie Down Productions' albums Criminal Minded and By All Means Necessary; Eminem's "Like Toy Soldiers"; much of Talib Kweli's discography, much of Lupe Fiasco's discography, much of rapper Common's discography, such as the track "I Used to Love H.E.R."; Main Source's "Watch Roger Do His Thing", and much of 2Pac's discography, including "Changes".
Early gangsta rap often showed significant overlap with political and conscious rap. Pioneers in the gangsta rap genre such as Ice-T, N.W.A., Ice Cube, and the Geto Boys blended the crime stories, violent imagery, and aggression associated with gangsta rap with significant socio-political commentary, using the now standard gangsta rap motifs of crime and violence to comment on the state of society and expose issues found within poor communities to society at large. These early gangsta rap artists were influenced in part by the bleak and often "revolutionary" crime novels of Iceberg Slim as well as hip hop groups such as Public Enemy and Boogie Down Productions, groups that mixed aggressive, confrontational lyrics about urban life with social-political commentary and often radical political messages. The controversial Straight Outta Compton by N.W.A. brought gangsta rap to the mainstream, but it also contained harsh social and political commentary, including the confrontational track "Fuck tha Police."
After his split from N.W.A, rapper Ice Cube released sociopolitical and conscious rap with gangsta rap elements in the 1990 album Amerikkka's Most Wanted and the companion EP Kill at Will; the 1991 album Death Certificate; and the 1992 album The Predator. Furthermore, Ice Cube produced and appeared on the controversial and radical political rap/gangsta rap album Guerillas in tha Mist by Da Lench Mob in the wake of the 1992 Los Angeles Riots. Though Ice Cube would continue to sporadically insert political and social commentary into his music throughout his career, he once again focused on conscious and political rap with the 2006 album Laugh Now, Cry Later and 2008's Raw Footage, featuring the single "Gangsta Rap Made Me Do It", a song dealing with the perceived correlation between music and global issues (i.e. the War in Iraq, school shootings, etc.).
A particularly notable conscious hip-hop track in recent years was "Same Love" by Macklemore and Ryan Lewis, the first Top 40 track in the United States to ever promote marriage equality and gay rights.
The audience for artists who consistently produce conscious rap is largely underground. However mainstream artists are increasingly including elements of conscious hip-hop in their songs. There are hundreds of artists whose music could be described as "political": see the List of Political hip hop artists page for a partial list.
Political hip hop ideologies
Explicitly political hip hop is related to but distinct from conscious hip hop because it refers to artists who have strong and overt political affiliations and agendas, as opposed to the more generalized social commentary typical of conscious hip hop. It can also be used to include political artists of all ideological stripes, whereas the term conscious hip hop generally implies a broadly leftist affiliation or outlook.
Black nationalism is an ideology underlying the militant wing of the North American civil rights movement in the 1970s and early 1980s. It played a role in early political hip hop and continues to be a theme for many contemporary political hip hop artists. Prominent black nationalist artists include Public Enemy, X Clan, MC Ren, Ice Cube, Da Lench Mob, Tragedy Khadafi, Dead Prez, Brand Nubian, Sister Souljah, Paris and Big Daddy Kane.
||The neutrality of this article is disputed. (December 2012)|
Caribbean consciousness is hip hop songs that highlight the themes and causes of the Caribbean (aka West Indies). From a geographic perspective, the Caribbean is in close proximity to United States (more specifically Florida, Atlanta, New Orleans, Georgia) and the symbiotic relationships developed between the two regions has existed historically.
Rappers such as KRS-One and Big Boi have expressed libertarian views in their lyrics and personal life. KRS-One's songs have covered such libertarian topics as individualism, while Big Boi intended the OutKast song "Bombs Over Baghdad" as a libertarian, anti-war song. KRS-One has publicly supported Republican Ron Paul, and Big Boi supported Libertarian Party candidate Gary Johnson in the 2012 election. Rapper GoRemy has expressed libertarian views in videos hosted by the libertarian magazine Reason. Houston rapper Neema V expresses libertarian, pro-capitalism views in his lyrics.
Anarchism is relevant in hip hop culture. Like Marxist hip hop, class struggle and anti-imperialism are major themes in anarchist hip hop music along with anti-parliamentarianism and a strong emphasis on intersectionality and the connections between different movements. The need for community-level grassroots organization and opposition to political hierarchy and illegitimate authority are also common themes. Unlike Marxist acts, several of which have been signed to major labels, anarchist artists have generally followed a DIY ethos which has led them to remain independent such as Sole. However, Lupe Fiasco has also identified as an anarchist publicly.
Many other artists object to capitalism in general but prefer not to explicitly identify with either Marxism or Anarchism and instead advocate various other forms of socialism. Hip hop acts that describe their politics as "socialist" include Immortal Technique, Dead Prez, the Blue Scholars, and Sun Rise Above. Looptroop Rockers is an anti-authoritarian, anti-capitalist hip hop project from Sweden. Gatas Parlament is an anti-capitalist hip hop project from Norway. The members of Gatas Parlament are also members of the revolutionary socialist party Rødt, and were members of Rød Ungdom in their youth.
Other political hip hop artists advocate a wide range of positions, and often disagree with one another. Zionist hip hop acts like Golan and Subliminal, and supporters of the Palestinian cause, like Lowkey and the Iron Sheik have obvious fundamental disagreements about a wide range of issues, but both use hip hop music and culture as a vehicle to express themselves and spread their ideas. As hip hop becomes increasingly widespread, artists from many different countries and backgrounds are using it to express many different positions, among them political ones. The nature of hip hop (as with much music) as an opposing force to the establishment lends itself to such a use.
Latino political hip hop scene
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