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Opinion: The Effectiveness of Political Hip-Hop Today [RHHH Article]
The Effectiveness of Political Hip-Hop Today
Written by Billy Ferguson
-- Ever since Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five dropped “The Message” in 1982, conscious lyrics have been a key part of Hip-Hop. Various groups and artists have tried to educate the masses on political issues and ideas through music. While this form of Hip-Hop was huge in the past, with groups like Public Enemy changing the way that people saw the world around them, one has to wonder if political Hip-Hop today still has the same effect on listeners. Hearing “Fight The Power” had the black youth of 1990 willing to get up and rally in the streets right then and there. The evolution of political Hip-Hop has changed the effect that it has, moving it from a way of rallying the people together, to a way of opening the listener to new ideas, without calling for a direct plan of action.
To examine political Hip-Hop today, we can look at 3 examples of protest music in 2011 – one in the mainstream, one in the underground, and one in the international scene. Earlier this year, we saw Lupe Fiasco reach millions of ears with his single “Words I Never Said.” In the song, he protested against corrupt wars, politicians, consumerism, and peoples’ fear of taking a stand. The song was acclaimed by both ‘real’ Hip-Hop heads, and casual listeners, but what effect did it really have? Well, it did inspire a large number of people to open their eyes (if only for a moment) to see our world as it is. We have to respect and acknowledge this fact.
In the underground, we just recently saw the release of Immortal Techniques new album, “The Martyr.” In this album he takes a stand against the problems with capitalism, and government corruption. The album provides the listener with relevant information on why the world is as it is right now. For example, “Rich Man’s World (1%)” shows why capitalism has resulted in government corruption and the #Occupy movement, and “The Martyr” (the song) deals with issues such as the assassination of revolutionaries who tried to better the lives of the people. While all the songs on the album are biased to represent Immortal Technique’s opinion, they do give the listener the spark needed to research the topics presented further, so that he/she can make his/her own judgement.
Lastly, in the international scene, British rapper Lowkey released his new album, “Soundtrack To The Struggle.” On this LP, Lowkey touches on a wide variety of political topics, including the ‘waste’ of government money on weaponry, the bias in media regarding who ‘terrorists’ are, Obama’s failure as a president, the injustices committed against Palestine, and more. Lowkey’s ideas are not presented with as much opinion as Immortal Technique (who happens to be featured on the LP), and he does the same job of opening the listener’s eyes to topics that should be researched more by the listener on his/her own time.
What we are seeing is the common occurrence of MCs attempting to educate their listener. The problem we face today is that fans listen to political Hip-Hop, hear these new ideas, and put all their trust in their beloved MC, forgetting that they are almost always only hearing one side of the story. And so political Hip-Hop becomes not so much a form of true education, but a form of expressing one’s opinion on political matters. The blame lies not in the artists, but on the group of fans who believe everything that they hear. Of course, it is not all fans who commit this act of ignorance, but looking around, it is evident that the majority are like this. The conclusion we must draw is that political Hip-Hop today is effective as a means of expressing points of view, but cannot be taken as seriously as research and true education.