Hip-Hop and Politics

In the 1980s, the African American community was still experiencing social and economic problems, even though twenty years earlier, the Civil Rights Act was passed and the Jim Crowe Laws were abolished. Especially in the urban center of America, African Americans experienced plagues of poverty, police brutality, crime, and even experienced poor living conditions. This was a result of a lack of attention and commitment by the government to black communities, even though the Kerner Report stated that compassionate, massive, and sustained commitment to racial equality and social justice was needed to quench the fires that burned in the cities and to appease those responsible for the uprisings of the 1960’s[1]. The government throughout the nineteen-sixties and nineteen-seventies ignored these suggestions and created a lots of anti-government and anti-White ideas amongst African Americans. With White oppression weighing down on many young Black African Americans and police brutality common in urban centers, a new group of young black men and women rose up with music as their medium of communication[2].

This new genre of music, called hip-hop, incorporated beats from the late-seventies funk era with a spoken word movement that reflected old African folk ideas. In this new music, political and social ideas were the subjects of the songs and were used and also provided a strong base for what the hip hop movement was and became as the eighties went on. Like the Black arts movement before it, hip-hop took the political issues of the time and openly protested through the use of poetry set to music. Issues such as police brutality, poverty, and crime were topics rapped about most frequently. However as hip-hop evolved and progressed more artists talked about the fame and materialism that accompanied hip hop and the lifestyle of being famous. Two of the most famous group for political rap are N.W.A and Public Enemy. Both of these groups took the ideas of Malcolm X and the Black nationalism movement and infused these ideas into their music. Public Enemy’s “Fight the Power” is very cliché, but great example of political rap of this time. In the intro part of the song, Malcom X’s voice can be heard giving a speech on black nationalism and unity. Then Chuck D begins to preach the ideas of standing up for black rights and stopping the progress of white oppression.

One of the main reasons why this new movement came about also is that this generation of rappers and musicians were the first generation of the post-Jim Crowe Law period. This, of course, meant that this generation never felt the limited freedom of Jim Crowe and so when they all realize that something wasn’t right and the government was not protecting them, they rose up and spoke out[3].

[1] New Frontiers: Politics and Social Change in the 1960s.” W.W Norton Document Overview. W.W. Norton. 14 Feb. 2010 http://www.wwnorton.com/college/history/archive/resoun

[2] Luisa, Tucker Maria. “Where Politics and Hip Hope Collide.” Alternet. 20 Feb. 2010.

[3] ibidVersion:1.0 StartHTML:0000000183 EndHTML:0000009665 StartFragment:0000002915 EndFragment:0000009629 SourceURL:file://localhost/Users/calebbowers1/Documents/hip%20hop%20blog.doc


The Sassy Librarian said...

I love your writing style, Caleb - it's so you! And the footnotes are sheer librarian perfection. Think about having some links to online sources as well (remember your reader might want instant gratification). Great job!

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