5. Dead Prez
Dead Prez are perhaps the most politically pro-active hip-hop rap group in the game. The duo is made up of Stic.man and M-1 and hail from Florida (Phares H). They preach a revolutionary message in stark contrast to the meaningless, mundane message of modern day hip hop. Although they lay claim to wanting to physically overthrow the government, their message is largely one of mental enlightenment. Whilst much of the genre sexualise and degrade woman, they preach building an emotion connection, and marvel at a woman’s natural beauty. Whilst other rapper glamorise gun violence, Dead Prez talk about the practical use of guns to protect their community from tyrannical governments. In their song – be healthy, they talk about the importance of keeping the mind and body healthy in opposition to the promotion of the party lifestyle. They also take aim at the materialistic driven message in much of the hip hop community. As their song goes:
“true wealth comes from, good health and wise ways”
However much of the message crumbles apart in a haze of hypocrisy. Much of the lyrical content speaks about how the black race has been demonised and discriminated against. However using content analysis they do the very things they are fighting against. They use racially discrimatory words/phrases like “cracker” and ”white boy”. And in here lies the problem, their progressive outlook ends with their own race, which essentially excludes the majority of the planet. They isolate many potential supporters of their cause with undertones of black supremacy.
Most powerful song:
“I don’t want no computer chip in my arm
I don’t wanna die by a nuclear bomb
I say we all rush the pentagon, pull out guns
And grab the intercom, my first word’s will be I believe
Man made god, outta ignorance and fear
If God made man, then why the hell would he put us here?
I thought he’s supposed to be the all loving
The same God who let hitler put the jews in the oven”
- Tupac Shakur A.K.A 2PAC
Tupac came into the world as Lesane Parish Crooks. However the Black Panther influence of his mother, that would later fuel the ethos of his career would change that. He was renamed Tupac Amaru after a Peruvian revolutionary who fought back against Spanish invaders. He then took his surname from his Black Panther stepfather Matulu Shakur. (Biography.com)
With this type of upbringing and influence Tupac was always going to have powerfully political outlook. Through his music he birthed some uncomfortable yet important ideas which highlighted the plight of the ghettos of America. The son of a crack addicted mother and a dealer himself, Tupac had a unique insight to the world of poverty and crime. His song “Brenda’s Got A Baby” from his first album is a reflection of this. A harrowing story about a raped and neglected teen who dumps her unwanted child, becomes a prostitute and is then murdered:
In terms of style and flow Tupac would be cemented in at the number one position on this list. However much of his conscious efforts are outdone by his gangster rap songs and the damaging legacy this has created. Shakur was largely responsible for popularising the gangster rap genre especially in his later years working with Death Row Records and Suge Night. Much of his lyrics perpetuated racial stereotypes such as the violent misogynistic views of the black man. The fame, talent and success of Tupac has inspired many to live the “Thug Life”. Many young rappers have followed this pattern having a domino’s effect on the continuation of racial stereotypes.
English born Kingslee Daley comes from prime British grime-rap stock as the younger brother of Ms. Dynamite. And he has certainly carried on the flame of hip hop and critical thinking with a string of powerful albums. Kingslee is of mixed raced decent combining Scottish and Jamaican ethnicity and chose the name Akala as the Buddhist word – immovable (True, C). This stage name reflects a life of self-taught philosophy and history. This is further mirrored in his musical work which draws a heavy inspiration from William Shakespeare. He even featured on his very own Tedx Talk comparing hip-hop to Shakespeare:
Much of the rappers career has focused on talks such as this in political debates on a variety of social issues. For example he went head to head against Right-wing critic of Islam, Tommy Robinson live on the BBC. His music focuses on primarily British issues such as supressing the working class, wealth inequality and race relations. He also delves into issues of conformity, education and history.
He recently garnered a huge amount of acclaim with possibly the greatest conscious rap freestyle of all time:
“You go to the pub, Friday night
You will fight with a guy
Don’t know what for
But won’t fight with a guy, suit and a tie
Who sends your kids to die in a war
They don’t send the kids of the richer politicians
It’s your kids, the poor British”
- Immortal Technique
Born Felipe Andres Coronel, Immortal Technique built his reputation as an underground battle rapper. Being A Peruvian born immigrant to the USA, it is unsurprising that much of his work musically and politically focus on immigration rights (Biography.com). He also takes aim at the corporate elite and their various unethical misdeeds. He also sheds light on American and C.I.A foreign involvement and their nefarious activities.
Lyrically Immortal Technique is un-answerable. However this is part of what has held him back from commercial success. His anti-establishment anti-capitalist message does not create industry label excitement. The result is his work is not promoted and his backing production is lacking. However he has achieved cult like applause from a small contingent. People respect that Immortal Technique lives by what he teaches by involving himself heavily in activism and charity.
Most powerful song:
“All they talk about is terrorism on television
They tell you to listen, but they don’t really tell you they mission
They funded al-Qaeda, and now they blame the Muslim religion
Even though Bin Laden was a CIA tactician”
Bronx rapper Kris Parker AKA KRS-One has a long and storied career in the rap game. His group – Boogie Down Productions formed alongside DJ Scott LaRock was a precursor to gangster rap infusing a blend of dancehall, reggae and rock (RollingStone).It was during this time that DJ Scott LaRock was shot and murdered. This fuelled KRS-One’s crusade against violence and black on black crime.
His music laments about modern day rap music and how it has become what it sought to fight against. About how hip-hop was created to spread a message of positivity and enlightenment, a way of expressing black culture. However, somewhere along the line it became an enforcement of racial stereotypes such as the violent, promiscuous black man. An O.G of the genre, he tries to preach a message of love and that the gangster lifestyle is not the way for the black community to progress. Of course anti-violence is high on his agenda but he also talks about the history of America, immigration, humility and privacy.
Most Powerful Song:
Jamie Glover Writing
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