When we think about the Civil Rights movement, it was known that music and musicians were deeply involved in the fight for justice. Artists like Harry Belefonte, Nina Simone, and Stevie Wonder easily blurred the lines between musician and activist. But when we think about the Hip-Hop Generation (incorporating both Generation X and the Millenials), it doesn’t always seem like there are artist out on the front line creating this #BlackProtestMusic. This list though compiles some of the greatest songs hip-hop has had to offer to the cause of the struggle. Look below for the Soundtrack of a Movement
J. Cole – “Be Free”
The man from North Carolina came out with this song shortly after Mike Brown was murdered. In it captures the anguish of being tired of seeing the senseless murder of Black life.
The Game featuring Other Artists – “Don’t Shoot”
Similarly, this song was written obviously in response to Brown’s death. Less about the lyrical power of the song, this song is celebrated for the fact that it is an unheard of collaboration between so many artists.
Lauryn Hill – “Black Rage”
Lauryn Hill has maintained a pretty low profile since the debut of The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, but the song “Black Rage”, set to the tune of “My Favorite Things” explores some of the hurtfulness of the Black experience.
Lupe Fiasco – “Hurt Me Soul”
On the note of pain, Lupe Fiasco expounds upon so many points that link together why people feel downtrodden. By naming the issues, Fiasco can call out and start to heal the wounds
Janelle Monae – “Cold War”
Less traditionally hip-hop, this song has such an ominous,clairvoyant sense to it. Made by the eclectic Monae, it’s not the most accessible song on first listen, with it’s themes of dystopia. And yet, Monae manages to be haunting and powerful with this
2Pac – “Changes”
Brother Pac is the truest of OGs when it comes to bringing music that is intentional about raising up social justice issues. Debuting posthumously, this is easily identified as one of Pac’s most broadly sweeping songs about the need for social reform.
Queen Latifah – “U.N.I.T.Y.”
A definite oldie but goodie, the Queen makes this song about saluting and empowering Black women. As one of the greatest female MCs to ever do it, this song still stands out decades later as one that is to be revered and respected.
Immortal Technique – “Dance With the Devil”
No song by the Peruvian rapper does not in some way encompass the truth and pains of living the life of a person of color in these United States. Dance with the Devil though is one of the songs that best capture how a person grows up and becomes the “menace” that we see them as.
Kendrick Lamar – “Sing About Me/Dying of Thirst”
The anchor point of his debut album, good Kid, mAAd City, this song is 12 plus minute combination of two songs that at once goes into the despair of losing life but also the joy of redemption.
Nas – “Black Zombies”
Nas is a veteran that we must love and respect. A song that calls out Black folks, this song tries to shock Black people out of our lack of consciousness and tries to help us to do more and be better.
The Roots – “How I Got Over”
The well loved band talks about hard living in forgotten streets of America. In this song the spirit of resilience is well captured and documented. We look at how even from birth, Black American’s have to learn this simple survival mentality. With the upbeat 70s sound, this song channels the past while still speaking to today’s issues.
Kanye West and Gil Scott-Heron – “Who Will Survive in America”
This song is technically Gil Scott-Heron’s famous poem. However, it entered the mind and soul of Millenials as the outro to Kanye’s masterpiece My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. Hauntingly, Scott-Heron asks who will survive, a question to which we still do not have an aswer.
2Pac – “Keep Ya Head Up”
As the greatest lyricist of a generation (if not all time) , Pac has to be on the list twice. This song is all about the perseverance needed for when we are people so broke down.
Kendrick Lamar – “i”
Kendrick is on the move to help Black folks and the downtrodden across the world to do something we don’t do: love ourselves. The most powerful tool is to begin to see that we are worthy of that much- of love.
Check out the Spotify playlist below: