Of all the aspects that have made me a lifelong student and fan of hip-hop culture, one of the most potent is hip-hop’s ties to social justice and sociopolitical issues. For all the fun I have listening to Future and Young Thug, it was the powerful political musings of artists like Immortal Technique and Dead Prez that first drew me in.
Hip-hop that fosters that intellect, as well as the more intangible artistic part of our minds, brings a purpose to the music and has played a huge role in the emergence of the lifestyle, genre, and culture as a global force. In the lives of many, hip-hop can often be just as relevant and sometimes more trustworthy than the news. When shit goes down, I’m often more interested in how it’s going to manifest in lyrics from my favorite emcees than what Wolf Blitzer has to say about it.
That has definitely been the case with the recent election of Donald Trump as President of the United States. In one of the most divisive, ugly debates in our nation’s history, the hip-hop narrative has been closer to the interests of the working class than any left or right leaning media source, with a sharp emphasis on human and civil rights and little attention paid to the politicized issues that inevitably become the focal point of any partisan coverage.
While the entertainment industry has been plagued by racism and sexism since its inception, in recent memory there has been a somewhat unified lean towards social progression and the support of diversity.
That being said, hip-hop as a whole (minus a troubled Kanye West) has roundly rejected Trump’s actions and has been integral in making sure a close eye is kept on what he plans on accomplishing in the next four years. Countless artists have already released songs wittily opposing the President-elect, and incidents like the recent Hamiltongate will surely increase in frequency as time progresses.
Many of the potential outcomes a Trump presidency affords are a legitimate fear for many of the people who live in and contribute to this country, but an undoubted silver lining will be found in a new found unity—something that’s been expressed through hip-hop in the past during Reagan and Bush’s presidencies, but never to this extent. Trump’s election is the final straw on the backs of the nation’s oppressed, whom hip-hop has so faithfully represented throughout its history.
At its most potent, I’ve always likened hip-hop to a more militant expression of the counterculture music of the late 60s and early 70s, a unified response to the flagrant wrongdoings of the establishment as a whole and, specifically, Richard Nixon. With Trump not even in office yet, that same ambiance has already begun to take shape with hip-hop offering a unified indictment of the values that propped him up in the first place, and an unflinching voice opposing his most negative traits at every turn.
As the next four years (please, only four) unfold, I have a feeling we’re going to see a revival of hip-hop’s sociopolitical leanings in a way that we’ve never seen before, and while it will, unfortunately, be under circumstances of preservation rather than celebration, I truly believe hip-hop as a whole will become stronger and more diverse because of it.
By Brent Bradley. Follow him on Twitter.
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