The Voice of Hip Hop
Updated: Mar 6
By Ashley Racers
When we think of politics and world events in music, we are immediately drawn to hip hop. For years, rappers such as Jay-Z, Kendrick Lamar and Eminem have been using music to voice their opinions and beliefs regarding politics and other world events. Artists such as these have used their power and fame to address problems regarding human rights, racial profiling, and other important issues.
Political rap, also known as conscious rap, is a subgenre of hip hop which focuses on towards creating awareness and sharing knowledge. Other subgenres such as gangsta rap and underground rap are tied closely to conscious rap because of the common goal of spreading awareness.
Kendrick Lamar’s ‘The Blacker the Berry’ from his 2015 album, To Pimp a Butterfly is the perfect example of political statements in rap. Kendrick raps about his fear as a coloured adult in America. He expresses his pain and frustration at the racially related incidents that have occurred in the US in recent years. This song is only one example of the hundreds of important issues expressed through hip hop.
Eminem’s 2017 BET Hip Hop Award Cypher freestyle is another, more direct display of opinions on politics being addressed through music. In the freestyle, Eminem targets current American president Donald Trump by commenting on the president’s standing on issues ranging from white supremacist rallies to NFL players protesting police brutality. He ends the freestyle by sending a message to his fans, saying that those who support Trump should choose between the president and himself.
Hip hop has a wide and diverse audience, meaning that what a rapper says in a song is heard around the world. This really shows how influential music is, especially considering the songs and artists mentioned above. Some of the biggest rappers the world has ever seen use their fame to reach people everywhere, conveying the importance of politics and world events to their younger generation of listeners.
You would have a hard time finding a teenager that hasn’t heard of or listened to Tupac, N.W.A, Biggie and Kanye West - all influential rappers of our time that have reached out to younger generations by rapping about politics and other important issues. It’s a fact that hip hop has assisted in making people everywhere more conscious and aware of world events and politics that affect not only themselves, but the people, communities and countries around them.
However, whilst hip hop has and always will continue to talk about crucial issues such as racism, politics and world events, one cannot ignore the misogyny and sexism that is so often present in the lyrics of most hip hop songs. Since the 80’s, hip hop has portrayed women in an extremely negative light as nothing more than sexual objects, gold diggers and only there for a man’s pleasure. Contemporary artists continue to reinforce this message with women in lyrics often being referred to as “hoes,” “whores” or “bitches.” They casually insinuate violence against women, often taking it to the extreme. This extremely sexist and degrading language has become so commonplace, listeners and fans of hip hop are too desensitised to it, to even care. But it must change, to reflect our changing world and to respect half of humanity. Hip Hop, much like the rest of the music industry needs to have a wake up call in regards to how they talk about women. As more and more women however have become involved in the predominantly male industry, change is occurring. Hip hop can no longer be a reflection of the misogyny present in our world today. For hip hop to truly call out issues present in our society, the degrading language of women has to go. The industry is slowly changing and when we look towards the future, the way hip hop as a whole portrays women will change.
So, when we look over the influences of hip hop, it becomes obvious the effect it’s had doesn’t stop at putting in earphones and enjoying the music. Whilst hip hop might have misogynistic undertones, change is occurring. As time goes on and more issues arise, whether environmental, political or otherwise, awareness is becoming significantly more important than it used to be. It's known that hip hop will continue to educate and advance the knowledge of people of all ages, locations and social status.
* The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the official position of the Woke magazine.