Hip Hop – History and Politics
Written by Ricardo Waddell Lewis on 11/02/2019
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Hip Hop - History and Politics
When someone mentions politics, most people normally think of a politician shouting rhetoric from a podium about a divisive topic. People think of democrats and republicans and their different views on issues. However, politics are not something that only politicians can weigh in on. While most mainstream music steers clear of any controversial issues, many artists aren’t afraid to voice their opinion. One such assemblage are rappers that identify with the genre of political hip hop. Below, we’ll explore political rap more in depth by digging into some definitions, examining a bit of the history, and going over some example artists and songs that fit into this genre.
Let’s first break down the actual words of this genre. Politics are defined as “activities that relate to influencing the actions and policies of a government or getting and keeping power in a government.” Based on this definition, political hip hop, or more specifically, political rap, would be defined as rap music which focuses on the actions and policies of the government. Wikia states that political rap “refers to artists who have strong and overt political affiliations and agendas”, and states that several sub-genres would include socialist hip hop, anarchism, conservatism, and marxism, among others.
Political rap formed in the 1980’s when a number of rappers were “looking to move on from the block-party atmosphere of old school rap and eager to vent their frustrations…” Several hip hop groups emerged which fused their talented rhymes with strong political philosophies.
Groups such as Public Enemy and Boogie Down Productions produced songs which addressed governmental corruption, the culture of White America, violence, and myriad of other socio-political issues. Interestingly, points out, the mainstream success of political rap “proved remarkably short-lived” as “the commercial explosion of a new hip-hop sound — gangsta rap or G-funk — made record labels less adventurous about non-establishment messages.”