This weekend one of hip-hop's hottest acts, Drake, lent his talent to protest offshore drilling. On Sunday, the 23-year-old rapper performed at the 'Stop The Offshore Drilling" rally at the 9:30 Club in Washington D.C.
In May, hip-hop veteran Talib Kweli released a single about another hot political topic. It's called 'Papers Please' -- and it voices his opposition to Arizona's new immigration law.
Hip-hop and politics have been together for a long time, and there are no signs the two will break apart soon. Although there were the naysayers who once dismissed hip-hop as a fad and predicted its untimely demise, this is an art form, a culture, and a political movement that is not going away.
Starting out as the CNN of the ghetto, and a medium to express the hopes and frustrations of a disenfranchised community, hip-hop went from knocking on the door of the mainstream to becoming the mainstream. And over the years, hip-hop evolved from hating the president--and vice versa--to dining with the president. Who would have imagined just a few years ago that the president would have hip-hop on his iPod, or even own an iPod for that matter?
Black Music Month is a perfect time to examine the politics of hip-hop--and where it's going next.
"Hip-hop had a long political engagement; hip-hop almost starts as a political movement," says journalist and cultural critic Touré. "People from the street need a voice--we have no voice. So we have to have something to say."
Touré believes that hip-hop speaks up for the underdog. "And it evolves into people like Chuck D who are like shadow-senators for a group of people who felt voiceless and could go on Nightline or could go on other shows or could speak back to Arizona when they didn't want to do the MLK holiday and be a national bullhorn saying 'this is wrong'," he said.
"Black people throughout the African Diaspora tend to be an oppressed people. We have always held our artists, musicians, and writers accountable for using their voice to uplift and educate, especially in times of turmoil," says hip hop artist Giovanni "G." Turner, who is also president and in-house counsel of RAHM Nation Recordings,LLC, and a University of Miami lecturer of English.
"We saw this most recently during the Haitian earthquake. Jay-Z, whom by no one's account, not even his own, is a 'political' rapper, but when the black community was stricken with tragedy, we all turned to him. In fact, not only was it expected he issue a statement, record a commemorative song, and donate money, I argue he would have been ostracized had he remained silent."
"Everything is political," says Russell Simmons, co-founder of Def Jam and the Hip-Hop Summit Action Network. The hip-hop community, according to Simmons, "speaks to the next America and reminds them of what's important, so that's political." Simmons also believes hip-hop is a very progressive community that believes in giving to others and uplifting people from poverty. These days, according to the hip-hop trailblazer, every hip-hop artist seems to be involved in philanthropy: "You can't name the politicians who have charities, they're on one hand, you can name them. But every rapper has a charity."
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