When it comes to speaking of the injustice, prejudice, and corruption that exists within our society, there’s no other genre that paints a more vivid picture than Hip-Hop.
Hip-Hop and politics are deeply intertwined with one another. The culture of Hip-Hop derived from a state of oppression and was utilized as an outlet to the madness that occurred in many urban cities all across America. When it comes to speaking of the injustice, prejudice, and corruption that exists within our society, there’s no other genre that paints a more vivid picture than Hip-Hop. From a personal standpoint, there’s nothing more liberating to me than hearing someone speak truth, especially when it pertains to the world around them and how they’re affected by it. Expressing that grief opens up the conversation, which is imperative because until we unite as a people to address the issues, nothing is going to change.
Hip-Hop has produced countless politically driven songs that will forever resonate in our hearts. Music is a reflection of the times and many artists in Hip-Hop culture have used their platform to convey their innermost thoughts and concerns during America’s most tumultuous years. Those graphic portrayals of society’s ills molded my perception of the judicial system, war, politics, racism and many other things. Looking back, there are numerous records that held so much significance and impacted me in ways I’d never imagine. So, I decided to compile a list of my favorite politically driven records.
Ice Cube feat. Chuck D – “Endangered Species”
When it comes to kicking the truth, Ice Cube and Chuck D are two of the best at it. “Endangered Species” is one of the rawest, brutally honest songs I’ve ever heard, yet it’s so insightful. In this song, Ice Cube provided an in-depth account of his life as a young African-American male and sadly many of the issues he experienced still exist in today’s society. Racism hasn’t gone anywhere and police continue to murder innocent African-Americans in cold blood with zero consequences for their actions.
“I’m a ni**a, gotta live by the trigga
How the fuck do you figure?
That I can say peace and the gunshots will cease?!
Every cop killer goes ignored
They just send another ni**a to the morgue!
A point scored- they could give a fuck about us
They rather catch us with guns and white powder!” – Ice Cube
Immortal Technique – “Rich Man’s World (1%)”
What makes this song so great to me is because Immortal Technique wrote his lyrics from the perspective of a man who is part of the affluent 1% of the population and the “benefits” of having such wealth. While I’m unable to attest to everything that was said in this song (I’m not a part of the 1%), I doubt none of it. This song embodies so much thought that one would have to actually listen to the entire song to fully grasp its meaning and understand the significance behind it, but, the hook itself should be enough to give you an idea of the direction he went with the song.
“You know my CEO, corporate steeze, please
Overthrow governments overseas in a breeze
Politicians in my pockets for a few hundred G’s
So if I’m ever in court, my assets will never freeze” – Immortal Technique
Dead Prez – “Police State”
Dead Prez are revolutionaries in the world of Hip-Hop. Their music is filled with knowledge, morale, and consciousness. “Police State” is a triumphant rebellion against the systematic oppression of African-Americans created by the US government as a means to exploit and confine them.
“The average Black male
Live a third of his life in a jail cell
Cause the world is controlled by the white male
And the people don’t never get justice
& the women don’t never get respected,
And the problems don’t never get solved,
& the jobs don’ never pay enough.
So the rent always be late
Can you relate?
We living in a police state” – Dead Prez
Macklemore & Ryan Lewis feat. Jamila Woods – “White Privilege II”
On the follow up to the original “White Privilege,” Macklemore gets much more in-depth regarding racial tension and political issues by as exploring them from various perspectives. He also goes into detail about his personal feelings about his participation in the Ferguson protests as well as how his music is perceived by black culture and whether or not he is disregarding the art-form by making songs that cater to the mainstream.
What makes this song standout so much to be is the fact that it takes a strong individual to display vulnerability in their music, especially pertaining to such sensitive subject matter. After releasing a platinum album independently, Macklemore could’ve easily played it safe by following the same formula of “The Heist” and potentially cashing in on it, but he opted to do something follow his heart. Macklemore opted to utilize his platform to expound on the many issues that plague the black community, which speaks volumes about his character.
Lil Wayne feat. Robin Thicke – “Tie My Hands”
“Tie My Hands” is one of my all-time favorite records from Lil Wayne, he poured his heart into it. The aftermath of Hurricane Katrina on Wayne’s hometown of New Orleans had a profound impact on him and George Bush’s efforts at the time were of little help, so it was only right that he gave his perspective on the matter.
“My whole city underwater, some people still floating
And they wonder why black people still voting
Cause your president still choking
Take away the football team, the basketball team
And all we got is me to represent New Orleans, shit
No governor, no help from the mayor
Just a steady beating heart and a wish and a prayer, let’s pray” – Lil Wayne
Plies – “100 Years”
When it pertains to providing detailed accounts on the judicial system and how it affects African-American males, not too many can convey that message as well as Plies. Plies’s strengths as an artist are his honest and the sincerity he exudes it best when speaking on the harsh realities African-Americans face on a day-to-day and “100 Years” is a perfect example of that. Every day in America, an undisclosed number of African-American men are being victimized by a corrupt system of justice and until we as a people voice our struggles and take action, nothing is going to change.
“How in the fuck can fo’ birds get you a life sentence?
But give a cracker seven years for money launderin’ millions
Shoot a ni**a in the leg they sentence you like you killed ’em
Cracker catch you wit’ that iron and throw you under the buildin’
You a nigga that mean you guilty ’til proven innocent
Money talk and bullshit walk a thousand miles” – Plies
YG – “Police Get Away Wit Murder”
There was no way possible this song wasn’t going to end up on the list. The message conveyed in “Police Get Away wit Murder” is self-explanatory and we’re all a living witnesses to this issue in particular. Rest In Peace to Sean Bell, Mike Brown, Eric Garner, Alton Sterling, Philando Castle, Tyler Woods, David Joseph, Kimani Gray, Laquan McDonald, Freddie Gray and the many others who were murdered by law enforcement but have yet to receive any justice.
“The truth motherfucker, hear the truth motherfucker
I’ve really got a story, this ain’t a spoof motherfucker
We’ll put our hands up and they’ll still shoot motherfucker
And post on trial for one to two motherfucker
They give us years for guns and we can buy em off the shelf
But you’ll get life in the coffin if you don’t protect yourself” – YG
Goodie Mob feat. Andre 3000 – “Thought Process”
In this record, Goodie Mob openly discussed racism and discrimination towards the African-American community. They spoke on everything from police brutality, to residing in low-income housing and having to live with the horrors of blacks being at odds and killing one another just for a means of survival.
“I live for today, motherfuck another hour, it might be sour
Never know my day so I’m prayin’ in the shower
Look up and thank the Lord for forgiveness, a witness to bad
I’m lookin’ for good in the Southwest, God bless my neighborhood
It’s people killin’ in the street to eat
Survivin’ the day is the only goal that I set
Just to make it home, I’m not alone
Someone’s out to get me when I haven’t done shit wrong” – Cee-Lo & Khujo of Goodie Mob
Lupe Fiasco feat. Skylar Grey – “Words I Never Said”
Arguably one of Lupe’s most controversial tracks, “Words I Never Said” contain references to political and socioeconomic matters, such as the 9/11 attacks, the occupation of Gaza and government fiscal policy, religion, education, and our president Barack Obama.
“I really think the War on Terror is a bunch of bullshit
Just a poor excuse for you to use up all your bullets
How much money does it take to really make a full clip?
9/11, building 7, did they really pull it?
Uh, And a bunch of other cover-ups
Your child’s future was the first to go with budget cuts
If you think that hurts, then wait, here comes the uppercut
The school was garbage in the first place, that’s on the up and up” – Lupe Fiasco
Pharoahe Monch – “Stand Your Ground”
After George Zimmerman was acquitted in the death of Trayvon Martin, New York emcee Pharoahe Monch released a track entitled “Stand Your Ground.” The song title is a direct reference to the controversial Florida law that George Zimmerman used in his defense. But, Pharoahe Monch flipped the phrase to re-modify it as a rally cry against the decision of the jury and to unify the people into taking serious action.
“I am just one man but I know my power
It’s the final call, we’re in the final hour
And we must not divide as we march toward our future
Who are they to decide when they conspire to shoot ya” – Pharoahe Monch
As I previously stated, music is a reflection of the times, so it’s impossible for me to share every single politically charged Hip-Hop record that had impact in my life, time wouldn’t allow it. The song selection was based upon my perception of things that are going on around me as well as what is happening in America. We need more records that give truth and provide insight to what’s really going on in the world.
In today’s society there are so many of us being raised throughout life without proper guidance. This also occurred in previous generations, but the difference was that a lot of the music was very rich and filled with knowledge so those without guidance were able to learn from it, formulate their own thoughts and educate themselves. Music is a universal language with the power to change lives and if utilized correct, it can be very efficient in spreading the message and potentially unite the people for a greater cause.