Hip Hop & Politics: A Dwindling Relationship

Emmitt Till in 1955 and Jordan Davis in 2013. With the recent Jordan Davis mistrial and the uproar after the Trayvon Martin case Hip Hop has made their political voice heard but only in whispers. Since “The Message” by Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, “Fight the Power” by Public Enemy, and “Mr. Wendell” by Arrested Development Hip Hop Culture and Rap music has always voiced its opinion about politics in a more grandiose manner. Songs such as “Changes” by Tupac Shakur have been some of Rap’s biggest hits. Songs of that caliber resonated with Rap listeners of all backgrounds making them instant classics. The power of Rap’s political voice is unmatched by any other musical genre. Whenever a Rapper releases a song charged with political agenda it influences the masses to go out and be active in the political process. NWA expressing their views on police brutality in the classic “F**k the Police” like many Rap songs was misconstrued and became the scapegoat to attack Hip Hop Culture and its people.

Although Rappers have maintained their political voice with more recent hits such as “Why” by Jadakiss, “My President Is Black” by Young Jeezy, and “Reagan” by Killer Mike a lot of those songs fall short because the corporate heads at radio and tv stations don’t want us to hear those types of messages in the music because that could cause us to start realizing that we are all being marginalized (Yeezy) and start fighting back. So they make sure politically charged Rap won’t reach the masses as did their predecessors. Even with technology giving us the ability to obtain music through multiple platforms political rap songs definitely aren’t getting the push or the marketing a song about the usual sex, money, and drugs would get. The deaths of Jordan Davis and Trayvon Martin have inspired some Rappers expressing themselves through song as did Pharaoh Monch. “Stand Your Ground” named for the law which allowed Martin’s killer to be acquitted of murder is on YouTube but how many have heard it? Making a song is a great way to bring awareness to politics but is that enough?

Is it enough to make a song siting political discord if it won’t get played or doesn’t inspire people to take an active role in politics? Rap music could inspire a political awareness for the moment but where is the activity? We don’t need to experience more killing of our young black males just to keep us ‘inspired’ to do something. Our community is always concerned about politics and social issues but only for that moment in time when the issue is given a media spotlight. As we all know crimes happen on a daily basis and the news is not going to report everything. Rappers need to make political songs on a more consistent basis in order to keep our community abreast about all that is going on. A listener may not turn on the news everyday but they’ll turn on the radio throughout the day. During the Harlem Renaissance writers expressed their views in their writing. Tupac Shakur was our voice and he is gone! Who will step up?! It doesn’t have to be one person it NEEDS to be many!

These Rappers should be using their political voice on every mixtape, LP, EP, album, and leak. Become active and inspire our youth to stand up and advocate for themselves. Even though the Trayvon Martin and Jordan Davis’ deaths occurred in Florida there are fifteen other states that have laws similar to “Stand Your Ground”. These are the new Jim Crow laws people! Just because you don’t hear the phrase Jim Crow doesn’t mean there aren’t laws designed to minimize minorities. Rappers using their political voice to educate our youth on politics could reduce detention and incarceration rates significantly. If they knew better think how many would do better. I wonder how many drug dealers started locking their glove box and trunk after listening to Jay Z’s “99 Problems”? Politicians know that Hip Hop could be used to inspire us! Remember they are trying to marginalize all of us because they are afraid of the consequences that could result from us becoming politically involved.

I’m not inferring any violent acts but they will lose their power which leads to financial losses as we gain power. They are keeping us sedated using media and oversaturating it with ‘crap rap’. A lot of the radio rappers are just trying to make legal money to provide for their family but they are leaving the youth and our community behind. We are the casualties! You want to put Malcolm X for your cover art? That’s fine if your music is aligned with his legacy and what he stood for. Are you telling people to register to vote? Some of us argue that their single vote does not count and I do understand given the Electoral College voting process but if thousands of people think that way then thousands of votes are wasted. We voted Barack Obama in office so why can’t we continue that political activism. People died for the right to vote imagine if we couldn’t do so today. However, if you are active in the voting process than those elected officials have no choice but to vote for the people or fear no re-election. These rappers need to be reminding people about special elections in their local community and keeping people aware of the recent nationwide changes to voter ID laws. What about city council and school board elections? The school system is a different monster. Some of you rappers are lazy and you have no excuse for kickin’ us that bullshit all the time.

Young Jeezy was able to get his voting rights restored why can’t Rappers host a voter restoration workshop? You know how many felons would come out?!!!!!! Rappers need to take a more active role in keeping the community involved in politics. If we were active in politics ‘Stand Your Ground’ could’ve have been opposed and struck down years ago. Individually we are weak but together we are strong.


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