Too many in the hip-hop audience accept the big lie promoted by opportunist preachers and politicians that hip-hop is only about madness and misogyny. The truth is very different. There are many, many hip-hop songs reaching millions of people which carry a message of unity, songs whose protests and promise promote a vision of a world without war, poverty, and racism. The truth here should set us free, free of false divisions between mainstream and underground, between bling bling and backpack. Let us know what we've missed.
Circulated by Rock & Rap Confidential.

 

"Hip-hop needs to find the next subject. Politics and social stuff - those are going to be the next real subjects groups get into."
-George Clinton, Detroit Free Press, summer 2007

"All of Me," 50 Cent featuring Mary J. Blige
Two heavyweights talk about politics at square one, between a man and a woman in a relationship. Fifteen rounds of intense negotiation lead to the kind of "win win" outcome music manages best.

"Bendicion Mami," Fat Joe
A tribute to his mother and, just like Tupac, it resonates beyond the individual situation because our mothers are held up as subhuman by the media and by the masters of puppets in the White House. Here it's also about unconditional love for one's family and support in the face of physical illness and the sickness of the system.

"Black and Brown," Xzibit
"80 per cent of inmates are black and Hispanic/They're trying to wipe us off of this planet/Dammit... That's why we've got to sit down/And talk about the black and the brown." A love song to brothers thrown against brothers in Los Angeles, nationwide and worldwide, with a dream of what could happen if we learned to focus on our real enemy.

"Buck the World," Young Buck
"My rent due/Baby need food and shoes/I'm flat broke/Still I refuse to lose." A song about reaching the breaking point and choosing life anyway, changing a "Fuck the World" goodbye to a "Buck the World" throwdown.

"Cold World," Xzibit
A rap that follows the money at the root of a young woman savaged by a dehumanizing job then by unemployment, of a kid locked into a losing street hustle and of an Iraqi family facing guns and bombs.

"Concrete Jungle," Jim Jones, featuring Max B, Rell, Dr. Ben Chavis and Noe
There's power to Jones's shout out to his "political soldiers" behind bars - without romanticizing the streets, he's dreaming of the world that can come out of making the culture of those streets work for us.

"Do Your Time," Ludacris with Beanie Siegel and C-Murder
A roll call of friends and loved ones locked down by a justice system "fucked up," bolstered by details of life behind bars, suggestions for how to support these brothers and sisters and contemplating what MLK would think of how far we have to go.

"Dreams," The Game
King's dreams again, asking us to contemplate what they have in common with those of Huey Newton, Easy E, Marshall Mathers, Marvin Gaye, Curtis Jackson, Aaliyah and Left Eye Lopez.

"Gangsta Rap Made Me Do It," Ice Cube
Lays waste to the logic that blames rap for everything from selling crack to college shootings, in fact arguing that gangsta's the loudest voice against everyday violence. And the reason, Cube explains, "Lyrically I'm so lethal... Just to feed all my people."

"Georgia Bush," Lil' Wayne
Sums up the first year after Katrina, calling the President out for ongoing genocide. A sample of Ray Charles's "Georgia" not only emasculates the president but restores the power of that refrain free of nostalgia.

"Get Ya Hustle On," Juvenile
Life after Katrina's a lot like life before Katrina, "your mayor ain't your friend/he's the enemy," your friends are behind bars, and there's no government for the people just a hustle to stay alive. But this song's not about defeat - "It's crunch time," Juvenile declares, "It's the movement."

"Ghetto, Arab Remix," Ali B featuring Yes-R & Akon
This call for worldwide unity features Morrocan rappers Ali-B and Yes-R joined by R&B singer Akon, who has his own roots both in St. Louis and West Africa.

"Hangin' On (My Song)," Chingo Bling
Biggie rapped about contemplating suicide, here it's the terrorism of the immigration police that puts a man in that mind state.

"Hard Out Here for a Pimp," Three 6 Mafia
Oscar or not, this song stands strong on its own, deromanticizing the hustle of "seeing people killed and seeing people deal and seeing people live in poverty with no meal."

"Hate It or Love It," The Game and 50 Cent
"The underdog's on top, and I'm going to shine, homie, until my heart stop." Summons Rakim and Marvin Gaye to remind listeners that playa hatin' avoids the hard work of dealing with the power structure.

"Hip Hop Police," Chamillionaire featuring Slick Rick
Cites Snoop Dogg's "Murder Was the Case" to suggest hip-hoppers not let themselves be turned against each other but, instead, stay focused on the real sources of injustice.

"Hope," Twista and Faith Evans
Twista wishes, "I could go deep in a zone/And lift the spirits of the world with the words within this song." He does just that and so much more, calling for his brother to get out of jail, his grandmother to get well, an end to drug dealing, war and poverty. Faith's refrains make it easy to "take this music and use it, let it take you away."

"Imagine," Snoop Dogg, Dr. Dre and D'Angelo
In this world without hip-hop, there's all the same poverty, sickness, madness and death except no music to bring people together to fight.

"Let's Get This Paper," Rich Boy
May be the angriest, hardest-hitting political statement anyone's made about the war against the poor, here at home and over in Iraq.

"Lighter's Up," Lil Kim
In English and in Spanish, Brooklyn's self-proclaimed queen of rap serves up this reggaeton-flavored rap for unity, "no matter where you from."

"Live Again," Yin Yang Twins
Dirty South bad boys contemplate the quiet agonies of women forced out of their homes and into the streets, taking off their clothes to feed their kids and hoping for a second chance at life. D-Roc bemoans the fact that the schools don't prepare these women for the world they face, and the preachers don't give them refuge, so their hopes and dreams only find voice in rap.

"Make Me Better," Fabolous and Ne-Yo
A Brooklyn rapper joins forces with a sweet voiced refrain to show just how much we need one another.

"Memphis," Eightball & MJG
A rally cry for unity among all the hoods of the Mid-South, calling upon the region's rich musical history and pointing toward a future where all the ghettos nationwide come together.

"My Hood," Young Jeezy
"Everytime I do it, I do it for my hood/And everytime I do it, I do it for your hood/and everytime I do it, I do it for they hood/It's understood..."

"100 Years," Plies
Story after story indicting a justice system out to put every young man in the hood behind bars, asking such pointed questions as "how in the fuck can four birds get you a life sentence, but give a cracker seven years for money launderin' millions?"

"Over and Over," Nelly
Even without the video of a day in the parallel lives of Tim McGraw and Nelly, these blues suggest the strong ties that bind Nelly being "country" to country music.

"Pal Norte," Calle 13
This rap about the political vision of an immigrant to El Norte ran in heavy MTV rotation after its album knocked Jennifer Lopez off the top of the Latin pop charts in 2007.

"Ridin'," Chamillionaire
A tribute to the Undeground Kings's "Ridin' Dirty," this huge hit is the catchiest, boldest protest of racial profiling yet.

"Runaway Love," Ludacris with Mary J. Blige
Just what it sounds like, a love song to children fleeing violence and a dream of a future those kids can live for.

"Slap," Ludacris
A working man's blues that runs through the details of a hard scrabble life, growls at the wealthy, tells the President to just shut up, and then stops and contemplates the abyss. "Troops gone and we still at war/Nobody even knows what for/Even more I'm scared to find what the world really has in store."

"Slippin'," Lil' Kim featuring Denaun Porter
"Fuck the law, the whole system's corrupt," Kim declares as she describes just what's universal about the dog-eat-dog situation that landed her in jail.

"Speaker," David Banner featuring Akon, Lil Wayne & Snoop Dogg
West Coast and Southern unity "busting out of your speakers," relishing a sense of power and self control that comes with others at your side.

"Stand Up," Eightball & MJG
A call to the South, East, West and Worldwide for rappers to talk straight, stay true, stand up for each other, go the distance and forget those who've got nothing better than do than hate on other artists.

"Sweetest Girl (Dollar Bill)," Wyclef Jean with Lil' Wayne and Akon
A redemption song for a high school sweetheart all but lost to that same mess that threatens to take us all down.

"The Message," Styles P
To each member of his family, to his hood, to his crew, to the poor, to the jail, to the kids, to the ladies, to the rich, to the world, the messages P leaves vary in specifics, but they're tied together by "one is all and all is one/I'm going to see us all rich before all is done."

"The Morning News," Chamillionaire
After the enormous success of his debut album, this Houston rapper opened his second album with this attack on the emptiness of television news, where Rosie debates the Donald and the latest gaffes by Paris Hilton and Michael Jackson are worth more time than the reality that your tax dollars just "pay for classes," CEO's are "slavemasters... and if you ain't upper class/then your opinion is irrelevant."

"The Way I Live," Baby Boy Da Prince
An appreciation of life in Marrero, one of the neighborhoods spared by Katrina's floodwaters but not New Orleans' neglect and devastation before or after.

"We Takin' Over," DJ Khaled (with Rick Ross, T.I., Lil' Wayne, Fat Joe and Akon)
Exactly what it sounds like, blasting off with tympani and some kind of outer space choral/keyboard part that says, think big and then think bigger. Arab-American, West African, Latino and African-American voices plan a takeover, "one city at a time... with enough work to feed the whole town." A manic Lil' Wayne vocal promises that those who polite society most fear will soon be heard.

"What's Going On," Remy Ma with Keisha Cole
A heartbroken prayer to an aborted child from a young mother, without money or even support from her family or the father of her child, waiting for an answer.

"Why We Thugs," Ice Cube
The original gangsta still standing spells out the tough questions gangsta's critics either don't think hard enough to ask or willfully dismiss. "Call me an animal up in the system/But who's the animal that built this prison?/Who's the animal that invented lower living?"


Other music articles:
Walter Becker: How To Promote Circus Money
Jello Biafra: RIAA Reminds Me Of The Mafia
CD Liner Notes Of The Distant Present
The Pirate's Dilemma
When Pigs Fly, by Rob
Demonoid Aftermath: An Open Letter To The CRIA
Die, Greedy Swine! Die! Die!, by Little Steven Van Zandt







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May 20, 2008