Where did Political Rap Go?
IMAGE: RAYMOND BOYD/MICHAEL OCHS ARCHIVES/GETTY IMAGES
When rappers started they were perceived as ‘Public Enemy Number One’ by many because they “fought the power” and expressed themselves in a way that many were uncomfortable with. However, they understood the best way for their struggle to be heard was through politically conscious rap. N.W.A, Public Enemy Number One and Ice- T made it a movement that is still popular today.
Chuck D once said that rap was the “Black CNN” because they presented what was happening in the inner-city in a way that mainstream news could not project. Through N.W.A’s infamous ‘Fuck Tha Police’ they used violent and aggressive imagery which brought forward a harsh reality about police brutality and racial profiling. This song drew plenty of criticism, specifically from the FBI and LAPD, who felt it oppressed and unfairly portrayed law enforcement. However, it spoke to the black community, where continuous unjust police harassment and clashes were normalized. This song is still as controversial today; when Tiki Tanne performed this song in 2011, he was arrested for “disorderly behaviour likely to cause violence to start or continue” which was reminiscent of what NWA was charged with after performing this song in Detroit in 1989. Perhaps because these issues are still prevalent today thus invoking the same reaction they did in the 80s.
Many rappers contend that rappers are being unfairly singled out because their music reflects deep problems in society that “white politicians neither understand the music nor desire to hear what's going on in the devastated communities that gave birth to the art form” (Chuck Phillips). This seems to be truthful as in the 2016 elections, politicians often promised change, such as promising Flint clean water or better public schools for inner city children. Subsequently, it has become apparent that these were empty promises as to this day nothing has been achieved.
However, with the introduction of rappers such as Lil Pump, G-Eazy and Post Malone, who prefer to talk about the “good life”, “making money” and “break-ups”, the significant art form that is gangsta rap seems distorted. Rap was revolutionary, now it is synthetic. Rap has lost its hurt and purpose. This is regrettable as the black community still struggles with the same issues that rappers previously tried to combat through their artistry. With the shooting of Tamir Rice, the firing of Colin Knaperick and rise of white supremacy, especially in the USA, the black community could use the power of rap behind them. Rappers were rebels without a pause and now they’re rebels without a cause.