Conscious hip-hop

Political hip hop
Stylistic origins Hip hop, protest songs
Cultural origins 1980s
Derivative forms Conscious hip hop
Other topics
List of Political hip hop artists

Political hip hop (also political rap) is a sub-genre of hip hop music that developed in the 1980s. Inspired by 1970s political preachers such as The Last Poets and Gil Scott-Heron, Public Enemy were the first political hip hop group.[1] Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five released the first sociopolitical rap song in 1982, called "The Message", which inspired numerous rappers to address social and political subjects.[2]

Conscious hip hop

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Conscious hip hop or socially conscious hip-hop is a sub-genre of hip hop that focuses on social issues. Like several cases within many genres of music,[examples needed] the umbrella term was originally coined by audiences and music critics rather than the actual artists themselves. It is not necessarily overtly political, but it discusses social issues and conflicts. Themes of conscious hip hop include religion, aversion to crime & violence, culture, the economy, or simple depictions the struggles of ordinary people. Conscious hip hop aims to subtly inform the public about social issues and having them form their own opinions instead of aggressively forcing ideas and demanding actions from them. Grandmaster Flash's "The Message" was an early and hugely influential political and conscious hip hop track, decrying the poverty, violence, and dead-end lives of the black youth of the time.

The audience for artists who consistently produce conscious rap is largely underground.[3] However mainstream artists are increasingly including elements of conscious hip-hop in their songs.[4] There are hundreds of artists whose music could be described as "political": see the List of political hip hop artists page for a partial list.


Explicitly political hip hop is related to but distinct from conscious hip hop because it refers to artists who have strong and overt political affiliations and agendas, as opposed to the more generalized social commentary typical of conscious hip hop. It can also be used to include political artists of all ideological stripes, whereas the term conscious hip hop generally implies a broadly leftist affiliation[5] or outlook.

Black nationalism

Black nationalism is an ideology underlying the militant wing of the North American civil rights movement in the 1970s and early 1980s. It played a role in early political hip hop and continues to be a theme for many contemporary political hip hop artists. Prominent black nationalist artists include Tupac Shakur, Public Enemy, Tragedy Khadafi, Dead Prez, Brand Nubian, Sister Souljah and Big Daddy Kane.

Caribbean Consciousness

Caribbean consciousness is hip hop songs that highlight the themes and causes of the Caribbean (aka West Indies). From a geographic perspective, the Caribbean is in close proximity to United States (more specifically Florida, Atlanta, New Orleans, Georgia) and the symbiotic relationships developed between the two regions has existed historically.


Rappers such as KRS-One[6] and Big Boi[7] have expressed libertarian views in their lyrics and personal life. KRS-One's songs have covered such libertarian topics as individualism, while Big Boi intended the OutKast song "Bombs Over Baghdad" as a libertarian, anti-war song.[7] KRS-One has publicly supported Republican Ron Paul,[6] and Big Boi supported Libertarian Party candidate Gary Johnson in the 2012 election.[7] Rapper GoRemy has expressed libertarian views in videos hosted by the libertarian magazine Reason,[8][9] as has songwriter Dorian Electra.[10] Houston rapper Neema V expresses libertarian, pro-capitalism views in his lyrics.[11]


Marxism has been an element of social movements worldwide and is seen in Hip Hop. Two overtly Marxist groups in the English language have been Marxman and The Coup. Immortal Technique, Dead Prez and Paris are other examples of Marxist-influenced hip-hop.


Anarchism is relevant in hip hop culture. Like Marxist hip hop, class struggle and anti-imperialism are major themes in anarchist hip hop music along with anti-parliamentarianism and a strong emphasis on intersectionality and the connections between different movements. The need for community-level grassroots organization and opposition to political hierarchy and illegitimate authority are also common themes. Unlike Marxist acts, several of which have been signed to major labels, anarchist artists have generally followed a DIY ethos which has led them to remain independent such as Sole (artist). However, Lupe Fiasco has also identified as an anarchist publicly.

Prominent anarchist hip hop artists include: Emcee Lynx, Comrade Malone,[12] Direct Raption[13] and Ko49.[14]


Many other artists object to Junkyard Empire, a band that routinely performs at some of the largest, most contentious, political rallies around the country.


Other political hip hop artists advocate a wide range of positions, and often disagree with one another. Zionist hip hop acts like Golan and Subliminal,[15] and supporters of the Palestinian cause, like Lowkey and the Iron Sheik[16] have obvious fundamental disagreements about a wide range of issues, but both use hip hop music and culture as a vehicle to express themselves and spread their ideas. As hip hop becomes increasingly widespread, artists from many different countries and backgrounds are using it to express many different positions, among them political ones. The nature of hip hop (as with much music) as an opposing force to the establishment lends itself to such a use.[17]

Latino political hip hop scene

Political rappers of Latino descent include Olmeca, Tohil, Immortal Technique, MRK, and Zack de la Rocha.

See also



  • Bogdanov, Vladimir; Woodstra, Chris; Erlewine, Stephen Thomas; Bush, John (2003). The Definitive Guide to Rap & Hip-Hop. Backbeat Books, ISBN 0-87930-759-5.
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