Don't Rhyme for the Sake of Riddling
“Hip Hop Is The Most Important Youth Culture On The Planet” proclaimed TIME Magazine at the start of the new millennium. Hip Hop is indisputably the defining art form of current youth culture, rising up over decades from crowds on street corners of Inner City Bronx, New York, to megastar rappers filling stadiums worldwide.
It began in the 70’s, with early exponents showcasing an alternative skill of communicating and articulating through rhyme and music, before really taking off in the 80s and 90s, with what’s now known as the Golden Age. Since the start Hip Hop has been about more that just music and entertainment. It is a culture or lifestyle that provides a platform, giving power and a voice to the people, along with role models and inspiration to those rarely postively portrayed by the media and establishment. It is a way of a culture to come together and empower themselves in spite of the system trying to take that voice from them. Hip Hop shows they not only have a voice, they have power.
From day one, even in its origins in jazz and funk, Hip Hop has been infused with political punch. From Public Enemy Fighting the Power, and the Wu-Tang crying Tearz about inner city violence to the Geto Boys Feeling Good to be Gangsta, black consciousness has never been far from the fore. Even white artists have got in on the act, with Eminem calling out White America and Macklemore and Ryan Lewis checking their white privilege.
For starters, here’s 5 US political hip hop tracks you should check out:
- Public Enemy – Fight The Power
- N.W.A. – Fuck Tha Police
- Ras Kass - Nature Of The Threat
- Immortal Technique – Impeach The President
- Hasan Salaam – Ms. America
And for those of you on the other side of the pond, here’s 5 politically loaded tracks from the murky world of UK hip hop:
- Lowkey – ObamaNation
- Melanin 9 - Organized Democracy
- Logic – Spectator
- Scorzayzee - Great Britain
- Phili n Dotz – Fuck The Government
We made a playlist, so you didn't have to
Da Game is to Be Sold, Not To be Told
But where Hip Hop was once defined by its opposition to the establishment, with many radio stations even refusing to play it, the ever-crafty corporate machine has co-opted it, remoulded it and gave it that Mass Appeal Gang Starr’s Guru always warned against. Instead of love for the game and respect for its roots, what’s hip hop all about now? Dolla dolla bills, y’all. Money, drugs, guns and bitches have always been part of hip-hop (look no further than Cormega’s track ‘Money, Drugs, Guns and Bitches’ for evidence), but a quick glance at some of today’s acts suggests it’s more like ‘Money, money, money and, er, money.’ Take the current hip hop "superstars" such as Lil Uzi Vert and Lil Yachty who all brought about mumble core as the false face of the current fad in the genre.
Visually there’s not a huge amount to distinguish the two ballers shown above (although let’s be clear, the moody black and white arthouse portrait of Drake should be setting off alarm bells). But in terms of substance, lyrical content and core beliefs these two couldn’t be further apart (unless one of them was like, Justin Bieber). No disrespect to Drake, but he’s more of a product than an artist, shaped to appeal to all while challenging none - whereas the harsh socio-political commentary of O’Shea Jackson Sr. (better known to the world as Ice Cube), and his genre-defining contribution to gangsta rap, speaks for itself. The sad truth is, the industry is looking for the next Drake, not the next N.W.A (or the next The Next Episode, for that matter).
So Where's All The Mad Rappers At?
But that’s not to say all is lost. Just this year in the UK there has been South London Rapper, Stormzy come up by storm completely independently and take the Number 1 spot with his debut album, Gang Signs and Prayers. Stormzy made history in 2015 when his freestyle ‘WickedSkengMan Part 4’ was the first ever freestyle to break the UK charts. He then went on to beat the X Factor Christmas song with Shut Up, his biggest track to date. He has gained widespread critical acclaim for his music not only from Grime/Hip Hop fans but also reaching mainstream fans thanks to his down to earth personality and relatable and honest content such as hanging out in the park with friends, mental illness and the troubles with his father on the track Lay Me Bare.
While Stormzy is the rapper in the spotlight of the mainstream right now there is still some incredible talent keeping the political movement alight. Some of these artists including Ras Kass, Hasan Salaam, Logic, Amy True, Phili n Dotz, Genesis Elijah and many more you will be able to find on Wistla, promoting their upcoming shows, as well as projects where they are using hip hop to educate and drive social change.
Here’s a closer look at three of them:
Many of you may know the Logic operating out of the US, but the Artist/Activist who has been at the forefront of this generation’s new wave of political Hip Hop in the UK is also called Logic, and right now he’s owning it. Along with fellow activist rapper Lowkey, Logic’s a founding member of The Peoples Army, a group of artists aiming to create positive social change through the educational messages in their music. Logic’s loyalty to his core values has had a lasting impact on the millennial generation and he’s still considered one of the most respected UK rappers on the scene. Wistla is excited to be part of Logic’s upcoming tour for the launch of his new album.
2. Amy True
Amy True is one of the most respected Hip Hop artists in the UK, having already been a part of Peoples Army, Caxton Press and is close to releasing her debut solo album, 11. Amy has teamed up with one of the UK’s most sought-after producers, Chemo aka Telemachus, along with the extreme talents of Shabaka Hutchings & Joe Armon-Jones on the album. Global Faction, the UK’s no.1 educational Hip-Hop platform, will also support Amy on her journey as well.
We at Wistla are massive fans of Amy, and will also be supporting her touring around the UK and pushing her upcoming performances for every city she stops by.
3. Genesis Elijah
Genesis Elijah is a veteran of the UK Hip Hop Scene. He was inspired at the age of 10 by the likes of Ice Cube, Dr Dre and Snoop Dogg, being drawn to their realness and energy. He said they “didn’t give a fuck, they were adults but not like the adults I was used to being around”. After initially being influenced by their aggression, Genesis gradually developed to focus his attention on social issues, self belief and growth. As well as being one of Wistla’s favourite artists, he has also had his music pushed by the legendary Ricky Gervais and featured in Magners adverts. He’s famed for being one of the hardest workers in the game and constantly gigging all over the place - Wistla will be fully behind him, promoting his shows and being there ourselves (because they are not to be missed). Watch this space.
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