Weed and Hip Hop Culture Part 2 – Conscious Rappers
The term ‘conscious rappers’ will get used often – sometimes in a correct way, sometimes not. You can decide if it’s a term that people overuse. In this article, we discuss what conscious hip hop is, as well as mention some of our favorites that meet the definition or have at some point in the past.
What is Conscious Hip Hop?
Socially conscious hip hop is also sometimes referred to as political hip hop, which is a subgenre of the style that has a message it wants to convey. It was initially a call for social or political action through the music. The best conscious hip hop gives a voice to people who are excluded from mainstream society and experience socio-economic injustices. The essence of conscious hip hop is for the listener to hear the message, and then form their own opinions from there. If the listener decides to change their opinion or take some action, great. If not, at least you heard the message.
Conscious Hip Hop Origins
Younger cats these days might not realize that hip hop actually started off as a vessel for the underprivileged and to give a voice to the voiceless. We discussed hip hop’s origins in part one of this series, so be sure to read that right here if you haven’t already. Some people think that conscious hip hop got its start circa the early 90s, but it actually started way before that. Rappers like Public Enemy and Grandmaster Flash and his crew were highly influenced by 1970s political preachers such as The Last Poets and musician Gil Scott-Heron. Public Enemy might be the most prominent and well-known conscious rappers, but Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five did it in 1982. They were one of the first to do it – basically before anyone else. The track was groundbreaking for its time and had a lot to say.
‘A child is born with no state of mind
Blind to the ways of mankind
God is smilin’ on you but he’s frownin’ too
Because only God knows what you’ll go through
You’ll grow in the ghetto livin’ second-rate
And your eyes will sing a song called deep hate
The places you play and where you stay
Looks like one great big alleyway’
What kind of mainstream rappers are writing lyrics like that nowadays?
Some hip hop fans might even be too young to remember that P. Diddy (then known as Puff Daddy) and Mase “covered” the Message. Kind of more like they bit the chorus, but let’s not go there.
Other Important Artists in Conscious Hip Hop
Some of the other artists that are important when it comes to conscious hip hop include KRS-One (Knowledge Reigns Supreme Over Everyone), A Tribe Called Quest, Common, The Roots, Nas, Wyclef, and many others I am sure I’m missing. While weed definitely plays a part when it comes to conscious hip hop, not all conscious rappers feel the need to mention the herb – especially the old school ones.
It’s not all about the men doing conscious hip-hop either. Lauren Hill did it years ago. Noname says she’s tired of being compared to Lauren Hill or being called the anti-Cardi B and Nikki Minaj. And who can blame her? No one wants to be typecast. But that’s exactly the kind of sound hip hop is starved for nowadays, in my opinion.
Mainstream Conscious Hip Hop
We’ll dip into indie hip-hop in our next installment in this series, right now we are mainly focusing on rappers who were in the mainstream’s eye. 2Pac had a lot of his own conscious messages to say himself, especially early on in his career. His classic track Keep Ya Head Up is a perfect example of that. Pac didn’t exactly live what he said on that track later in his life, but that level of attention and success could go to any young man’s head. There were some heads that argued Pac was more of a performer and a poet than an MC, but we won’t get into that here.
Consciousness is Often Best Experienced on Weed
What other ways to experience some of the best hip hop than with a phattie? What are some of your favorite conscious rappers? We want to hear what you think! Drop us a line!
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Shout out to Mali Maeder for the dope free image.