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Hip-Hop Politics: Project Overview


N.W.A., Tupac, Nas, and Kendrick Lamar.

N.W.A., Tupac, Nas, and Kendrick Lamar.

We have created this blog to explore, study, and offer our interpretation of the politics of hip-hop. Our presentation includes our unique spin on hip-hop – as a musical genre that is enmeshed with a political narrative. We view hip-hop as an artistic medium for marginalized groups, expressing their alienation from society, the pain they experience, and their resentment of and anger with the status quo as they experience it. Hip-hop grew out of individual experiences and collective narratives of dejected populations in a depressed neighborhoods in urban America. It has been predominantly informed by and infused with the narrative of the African American experience – a narrative reflecting inequity, injustice, violence, anger and despair. While hip-hop has evolved over time, these themes and reference points have largely remained constant.

Since hip-hop’s founding, the tension between commercial rap and conscious rap has been a central struggle. From its origins in the Bronx, NY, hip-hop has grown into the defining artistic medium for marginalized groups to express their political values and ideologies that transcend race, class, and nationality. However, as with any modern art form, the expansion and mainstream success of hip-hop has raised concerns: has the narrative of the oppressed become commercialized and redundant? We have hope that the roots of hip-hop remain grounded in its masters, both old and new, as well as rising artists such as Kendrick Lamar and Common and will continue to remain true to its origins and its objectives.

Hip-hop as a musical form began with scratching records and rapping over samples. Today, its themes include references that hearken back to its beginnings as a form of violent resentment to political inequities and injustices, to pleas to assume responsibility and act to change the status quo. ‘Hip-Hop Music: Politicizing the African American Narrative’ traces the development of the politics of hip-hop as expressed by artists since the beginning of the genre. As a genre, hip-hop has grown in its influence: it remains a key voice in opposing oppression within the African American community while reaching far beyond that community to demand accountability among those with power and authority.