Hip-hop has been at the front of cultural relevance for years. Artists have always used music to spread messages but in the era of information overload, who are the leaders letting us know what's important?
Where are the hip-hop heavyweights using their influence and skill to make people question the world around them?
From Soul II Soul getting us together, all rocking Africa pendants under the banner of the funky dredd, to Public Enemy giving us the optimism of unity, to Dead Prez cramming political issues into Let's Get Free and Lauryn Hill speaking about the injustices of the industry, there has always been a high level of consciousness in hip-hop.
At its root, rap is a method of communication. Whether its message is destructive or uplifting is down to the author and artists should have an awareness of the power of their voice.
As Tupac said,
"Listen to the words people say in their lyrics and tell me if that’s real to you. Listen to what they’re saying, don’t just bob your head to the beat. Listen to the lyrics and hold us accountable for it."
http://www.russellbrand.com/It's about what you do with your voice when you have one.
In mainstream culture today, Russell Brand is making a choice to use his voice and influence to educate people. What if all celebrities and people with a voice stood up for what's really important?
Hip-hop has the same responsibility but ultimately it is up to the artist to dictate what route they want to take. People should know that their lyrics influence people, and that they're making a decision to use that influence for good or not.
That’s not to say that there aren’t role models in hip-hop today. Anyone can be a role model and all for different reasons. 50 Cent is a role model, Akala is a role model. You can be a role model by incentivising people to do better for themselves or incentivising people to do better for others. You can decide what kind of a role model you want to be.
Many people suggest that conscious music is suppressed. The majority of the biggest artists of today aren’t talking about political issues and that comes down to who controls the industry and who sets the trends.
We’ve all read the myth of the supposed conspiracy between the industrial prison complex and hip hop to use music as a method to help fill prisons. Regardless of whether this is true or not, it underlines the fact that there are people who benefit from advocating the kind of music that incites people to participate in petty crime. Many would argue that this style of hip hop holds back perceptions of black people.
There are of course conscious artists today who are not only using their voices but using their actions to push forward social issues. Talib Kweli went to Ferguson to join the protests and is continuously vocal on everyday racism across his social media platforms. And Nas, one of the most prolific artists of today, must be commended for coming out with albums like Untitled and being consistant in using his voice to educate.
There are many artists who are very quiet. What they have to understand is by not saying something, they are saying something. Either they are ignorant of the issues, happy with the status quo or they don't care.
With the media dumbing people down, overloading them with information and telling them what to like, there is a need for Black leaders more than ever and yet Louis Farrakhan is still banned from the country. Lauryn Hill has also been temporarily banned and she is one of the voices people need to hear. It's easy to feel that strong voices are being targeted.
We’re entering an interesting time of collective awakening and now, it is more important than ever for there to be a coherent message. Massive change needs to happen; for jobs, equality, climate, injustices in the developing world, now is the time for people to come together.
And now is the time for hip-hop to stand up. The establishment have control over the mainstream media and rappers have the unique opportunity with the power of their voices and their channels to reach out to people.
In the age of the Internet, you are never far away from hip-hop and it has the power to provoke thought and thought is enough to inspire revolution.
Dead Prez - They Schools (2003) from Kasur ApKts on Vimeo.