Jake Bugg at Brighton Dome
Arts
32 views
32 views

Jake Bugg at Brighton Dome

Matthew Nicholls - April 19, 2018
116 Views

‘Stay Woke and Vote: Hip-Hop artists in political life

Obama famously remarked in 2008: “the thing about hip-hop today is it’s smart, it’s insightful. The way they can communicate a complex message in a very short space is remarkable”. Just a few years later, the president went on to declare Kendrick Lamar’s “How Much A Dollar Cost” his favourite track of 2015. Lamar’s powerful lyricism, and the credit Obama lends to it, show that Hip-Hop is fast-becoming more prominent in the political sphere than ever before. It has the power to shape the collective American psyche and the way we relate to political issues in the USA.

The track is a narrative of a spiritual encounter with a homeless crack addict and the ultimate realisation that the figurative value of a dollar has meaning beyond a literal sense. It critiques the notion that something as cheap as money is being prioritised above many other issues such as drug addiction and homelessness that are affecting modern- day America. Lamar is not the only rapper seeking to exact socio-political change through the medium of Hip-Hop with many members of the community also contributing to the cause.

Hip-Hop is more than just a musical genre; it comes with a unique set of ideals

Hip-Hop is more than just a musical genre; it comes with a unique set of ideals which are perpetuated through raps and other forms of lyricism.

The idea of being “woke” is synonymous with the Hip-Hop and Rap scene and is generally termed as being aware of the issues going on in a specific community. These issues can and do impact the discourse and events surrounding the African-American community. One example is the #blacklivesmatter movement that erupted after the death of an unarmed black teenager, Trayvon Martin, in 2013.

In the spirit of staying “woke”, Chance The Rapper hosted a rooftop concert and invited a number of other artists to perform in collaboration with his not-for-profit, SocialWorks, which focuses on youth empowerment. Chance introduced himself as a Chicago native and announced the purpose of the concert as making sure the audience “stay woke and vote”. Following the concert, Chance marched alongside thousands of concert-goers to the polls and ensured as many members of the Chicago youth population as possible voted. Chance’s endeavours proved to be extremely fruitful in terms of boosting turnout rates for early voters, with ABC7 reporting that one volunteer remarked on how it was the highest early voter turnout he had ever seen.

In the track “Paranoia”, Chance discusses the issue of gun crime in Chicago and suggests “somebody get Katie Couric in here (Chicago)” to help deal with the high mortality rates caused by guns. Chance recently took to social media to let his fans know that he will be in Chicago over the next couple of months hoping to exact change in the area and, in his recent interview with Couric, discussed ways to potentially reduce gun violence, including a temporary budget, in Chicago through the introduction of after-school programs. Chance also has concrete plans to meet with the Governor of Illinois to discuss education funding in Chicago, with the aim that children will find something they care about earlier in life and avoid getting involved with street crime.

Chance has also openly criticised President Trump for his comments regarding “calling in the feds” to address gun crime in Chicago, venting that he is tired of Chicago being treated “like a third world country”. Due to Chance’s passion and drive to be vocal on current affairs both in his music and in the political sphere, we can expect Chance to be one of the most prominent rappers at the forefront of exacting social change for African-Americans in US politics and encouraging fans to follow suit.

Indeed, more politically active Hip-Hop artists such as J.Cole and Kendrick Lamar as well as Chance The Rapper, have already allowed much of their influence to rub off on their fans. J.Cole, who famously attended the Million Man March in 2015 for racial equality, captured the hearts of his fans as well as garnering mainstream media attention. Lamar had his track “Alright” used as a chant throughout the march, showing that the political lyrics used in Hip-Hop are actively transferred into ways to illustrate certain political issues and movements, mobilising its listeners at the same time.

Kanye West also has a significant relationship with Chicago and has a lot to say about the racial politics not just within the city, but across the United States as a whole. In his 2011 collaboration Watch The Throne with Jay-Z, the pair rap about Chicago being the “murder capital” and suggest that the high mortality rates in Chicago are caused by “black on black murder” through gun crime.

West and Jay-Z even quote statistics that compare the mortality rates of Chicago’s gun crime problem with the Iraq war, with the death toll being significantly higher in Chicago than overseas, suggesting that US politics is deeply flawed when intervention is more needed at home than overseas.

Kanye’s 2013 album Yeezus also appears to have reached new heights regarding political commentary, particularly when addressing the deeply ingrained race problem that continues to exist to varying extents throughout the USA. Kanye famously samples Billie Holliday’s “Strange Fruit”, a famously political song that addresses the horrors of lynching in the post-reconstruction era, for his track entitled “Blood On The Leaves”.

On this same album, Kanye also discusses that little has changed regarding the way African-Americans are viewed and treated, and rather that it has simply evolved through the idea that all African-Americans suffer racial discrimination at the hands of stereotyping regardless of status, in his track “New Slaves”. Kanye has also been known to be politically vocal outside of his music too, when he famously derailed a live recording created for the purpose of raising funds for victims of Hurricane Katrina.

Many have noticed that the worst affected areas of New Orleans, where the hurricane hit the hardest, were predominantly African-American in demographic, and that President Bush’s allegedly slow response caused Kanye to draw attention to the issue through making the famous statement: “George Bush doesn’t care about black people”.

Kanye, alongside other celebrities such as Justin Bieber and Drake have recently made a point of abstaining from the Grammys this year in support of Frank Ocean, who declined to attend the ceremony on grounds of it typically favouring white nominees, whilst arguably overlooking contributions from black artists. In addition to Frank Ocean’s absence, Kanye West offered his own reasons for abstaining from the Grammys in solidarity with Ocean. Kanye claims that despite winning 21 Grammys over the span of his career, he has never won a single Grammy when he was nominated alongside a white artist, suggesting that white artists are favoured and praised more than their black counterparts.

Naturally, these statements offer a wider comment on the endemic and covert racism that allegedly still exists in the USA today and Frank Ocean’s abstention from the awards ceremony this year and the reasoning he offers for it has been drawing mainstream media attention to an issue so indicative of the general situation in American politics at the moment.

While Hip-Hop was borne out of protestation and rebellion, young Hip-Hop artists today are using their platform to constructively change politics

Hip-Hop is affecting the way we think about American politics on every level, from carefully crafted lyrics within music, to the 44th president stressing the importance of the genre. Rappers are utilising their ever-growing fanbase to mobilise their followers and encourage them to engage in political activism. They are using their fame to get their political message across not only in their music, but also through creating non-profits and setting up meetings with key politicians and journalists.

Many rappers today have a clear vision for the future of America and it appears to be one of less violence and more equality. Whilst Hip-Hop was borne out of a degree of protestation and rebellion to begin with, young Hip-Hop artists today are using their platform and the genre in conjunction with politics as a means to change the world through education and entertainment, and they are more active and determined than ever before.

Mobilising typically apathetic youth voters is a huge task. But it’s one that rappers appear to be tackling with natural ease, and therefore the future of American politics has a very good chance of being influenced by some of the most successful and politically aware Hip-Hop artists of our generation.

Photo – Flickr: The Come Up Show

Get the best viral stories straight into your inbox!

Don't worry, we don't spam
Jake Bugg at Brighton Dome
Arts
32 views
32 views

Jake Bugg at Brighton Dome

Matthew Nicholls - April 19, 2018
Should Instrumental Skill Still Matter?
Arts
36 views
36 views

Should Instrumental Skill Still Matter?

Rob Smith - April 19, 2018
Sussex student takes show to Brighton Fringe
Arts
50 views
50 views

Sussex student takes show to Brighton Fringe

Georgia Grace - April 18, 2018
What’s wrong with the literary canon?
Arts
44 views
44 views

What’s wrong with the literary canon?

Shiri Reuben - April 18, 2018

Leave a Reply

Join the Badger Team

Apply today!

Latest Posts

Jake Bugg at Brighton Dome
Arts
32 views
Arts
32 views

Jake Bugg at Brighton Dome

Matthew Nicholls - April 19, 2018

Following the release of his Fourth Studio album ‘Hearts that Strain’ in September 2017, Jake Bugg decided he wanted an intimate tour, and that is exactly what…

Should Instrumental Skill Still Matter?
Arts
36 views
Arts
36 views

Should Instrumental Skill Still Matter?

Rob Smith - April 19, 2018

I am not advocating that all music, no matter how little talent is required, is by default innovative. I will eagerly admit that much of the bland,…

Sussex student takes show to Brighton Fringe
Arts
50 views
Arts
50 views

Sussex student takes show to Brighton Fringe

Georgia Grace - April 18, 2018

  Final year English and Drama student Sophie Pester will be taking her original stage show A Glass Half Empty to Brighton Fringe next month. First performed…

What’s wrong with the literary canon?
Arts
44 views
Arts
44 views

What’s wrong with the literary canon?

Shiri Reuben - April 18, 2018

This elusive and slightly archaic category, 'the literary canon' seeps into what we know and what we think we know about 'good' and 'bad' literature. On a simple…

For students, where does work end and rest begin?
Features
59 views
Features
59 views

For students, where does work end and rest begin?

Lucy Pegg - April 17, 2018

Print Production Editor Lucy Pegg examines the difficult balance between work and rest for students. In an environment that blurs the line between productivity and recreation, can…

Cambridge Analytica: did Facebook share your personal data?
Science
50 views
Science
50 views

Cambridge Analytica: did Facebook share your personal data?

Luke Richards - April 14, 2018

The last couple of weeks have been tough for Facebook, as it reels from the public scrutiny it has received over its lackadaisical protection of personal data.…

Brighton Fringe comic Joseph Morpurgo on satire, Frankenstein and his fictitious nine-hour, one-man show
Arts
81 views
Arts
81 views

Brighton Fringe comic Joseph Morpurgo on satire, Frankenstein and his fictitious nine-hour, one-man show

Georgia Grace - April 13, 2018

At The Badger we sat down with multi-talented comic, three-time Chortle Award winner and Edinburgh Fringe favourite Joseph Morpurgo to discuss his show Hammerhead. Following a three-week…

Amritsar: 99 years later and still no apology
Comment
91 views
Comment
91 views

Amritsar: 99 years later and still no apology

William Singh - April 12, 2018

99 years ago on Friday, one British general marched his soldiers into an enclosed garden in the vicinity of the holy Golden Temple and sealed off the…

Talking disability, identity and inclusion through dance – Candoco preview
Arts
89 views
Arts
89 views

Talking disability, identity and inclusion through dance – Candoco preview

Georgia Grace - April 12, 2018

Candoco are a company of disabled and non-disabled dancers who, for the past 25 years, have challenged ideas about what dance can be and who gets to…

Voodoo preview
Arts
52 views
Arts
52 views

Voodoo preview

Ricardo Reverón Blanco - April 12, 2018

“[A] science fiction that addresses the desire, confusion and responsibility felt as individuals, who are also symbols of many long-persecuted people.” (Quoted from Alexandrina Hemsley and Jamila…

Interview with Chris Watson: Take a trip to No Man’s Land this spring
Lifestyle
135 views
Lifestyle
135 views

Interview with Chris Watson: Take a trip to No Man’s Land this spring

Louisa Streeting - April 6, 2018

Sound recordist, Chris Watson, spoke to The Badger about his new installation piece featured in the Attenborough Centre for the Creative Arts until 13 April 2018. From…

“A moving symbol of cooperation and humanity” – COAL review
Arts
174 views
Arts
174 views

“A moving symbol of cooperation and humanity” – COAL review

William Singh - March 31, 2018

“This is not a show. It’s something else”, we’re told. Gary Clarke’s dance performance of the life and decline of Britain’s mining communities is certainly something else.…

Brighton’s craft beer festival returns in April for third year
Lifestyle
171 views
Lifestyle
171 views

Brighton’s craft beer festival returns in April for third year

Louisa Streeting - March 28, 2018

Brighton will become the hub of craft beer in more than a dozen pubs from April 27-29. The Brighton Tap Takeover returns for a third year bringing…

Young blood promotes brain regeneration
Science
117 views
Science
117 views

Young blood promotes brain regeneration

Nikolaos Manesis - March 28, 2018

On the "growing old is natural" vs "it should be medically reversed" debate, vampires have crossed the picket line from the get-go and scientists have just proven…

The educational psychology of children with autism
Science
143 views
Science
143 views

The educational psychology of children with autism

Nikolaos Manesis - March 28, 2018

The scientific field of educational psychology studies the relationship between learning processes and the individual differences in cognitive development, motivation and intelligence. The majority of children are…

Stand Up & Slam review
Arts
135 views
Arts
135 views

Stand Up & Slam review

Alex Leissle - March 28, 2018

Sometimes the best experiences are those you initially question. Stand Up & Slam is one such idea, for it is a resounding triumph of an evening. Hosted…

Organisms, self-understanding and sacrifice in Rambert’s production at Theatre Royal Brighton
Arts
157 views
Arts
157 views

Organisms, self-understanding and sacrifice in Rambert’s production at Theatre Royal Brighton

Ricardo Reverón Blanco - March 24, 2018

Goat.-Rambert-Dancers-FrontCentre-Daniel-Davidson.-©-Hugo-Glendinning Rambert delivered a series of fluid performances where human bodies became elegant oscillations, much like the metallic wall used on stage to divide the dancers in…

SMuTS presents ‘Jekyll & Hyde’ review
Arts
224 views
Arts
224 views

SMuTS presents ‘Jekyll & Hyde’ review

Georgia Grace - March 23, 2018

Excitement and anticipation were running high Wednesday evening at the Attenborough Centre for the Creative Arts (ACCA) for the opening night of Sussex Musical Theatre Society’s (SMuTS’s)…

SU Election coverage – Dead Slate: all women elected for third consecutive year at Sussex
Campus News
173 views
Campus News
173 views

SU Election coverage – Dead Slate: all women elected for third consecutive year at Sussex

Jordan Wright - March 23, 2018

The results are in for this year's Students' Union election, which saw 30 candidates running to be the full-time elected representatives of the student body at Sussex.…

Academic Armchair: ‘Cinderella, you shall go to the ball”: a conversation with Ketan Jha
Features
156 views
Features
156 views

Academic Armchair: ‘Cinderella, you shall go to the ball”: a conversation with Ketan Jha

Devin Thomas - March 23, 2018

In this week’s edition of the Academic Armchair the Features team sat down with Ketan Jha, an associate tutor of Sussex Law School. Alongside his work in…