We Gon' Be Alright: Hip Hop's Role in Resisting Trumpism
By Jaylin Paschal
Hip Hop is political. Always has been, always will be. That's what makes it more than gritty, but edgy. That's what makes it genuine. And, perhaps most of all, that's what makes it us.
It's a long history, stretching as far back as The Last Poets' controversial political work. Political rap developed from these roots, and found itself in the hands of groups like Public Enemy and NWA. Individuals in the rap game took on politics as well, either through music like Mos Def's Black On Both Sides or action like Ice Cube's involvement with the Nation of Islam. Looking back, it's easy to draw connections between political work and artistic work in Hip Hop culture.
Note: By "political rap," I am not referencing what you all tend to dub "conscious rap." I'm not talking about your "third eye" and alladat. I'm talking elections, ballots, protests, picket signs.
Stiffer stipulations attached to each sentence
Budget cutbacks but increased police presence
And even if you get out of prison still living
Join the other 5 million under state supervision
This is business: no faces, just lines and statistics
From your phone, your zip code to S-S-I digits
The system break man, child, and women into figures
2 columns for "who is" and "who ain't niggas"
"Mathematics," Mos Def
Black rage is founded on two-thirds a person
Raping and beatings and suffering that worsens
Black human packages tied up in strings
Black rage can come from all these kinds of things.
Black rage is founded on blatant denial,
sweet economics, subsistent survival,
deafening silence and social control,
black rage is found in all forms in the soul.
"Black Rage," Lauryn Hill
Today, the statement "Hip Hop is political" remains true. Regardless of what you hear about "our generation's music" being "ignorant," contemporary rap has tackled political issues head on. From Compton's K. Dot to Atlanta's T.I., politically-charged music has struck a chord on radio waves nationwide. Modern political Hip Hop has even been blessed by old heads, as Common, A Tribe Called Quest, and De La Soul have all revamped their careers with political albums this year.
And outliers exist, as they always do. Kanye West went on his weird pro-Trump rant and met with the demagogue at Trump Tower, and Lil Wayne had his anti-Black Lives Matter meltdown. But overall, Hip Hop has been a vehicle of progressive politics, especially in the face of Trumpism.
However, political Hip Hop has pivoted. As a genre and a culture, it is increasingly active in politics. Music and lyricism are centered, of course, as they've always been, but the pivot exists where specific agendas and field work are coupled with these lyrics. Rappers aren't just talking about it, they're being about it; they're initiating public, direct conversations. Between YG's Fuck Donald Trump tour, Hov's concert for Hillz, Kendrick Lamar's sneaker collection against gang violence, Joey Bada$$'s (and others') participation in marches, and Killer Mike's campaigning for Bernie Sanders--rappers have been more hands-on with politics. So on top of great music, we get a surge of activism.
So, if we have one thing to look forward to during Trump's presidency, it's good music. Hip Hop always survives the pressure, and it always thrives under Republican administration. Something about the political turmoil they wreck upon our neighborhoods brings the best out of Hip Hop--almost as if political turmoil is its natural environment. Almost as if it was born there.