Whether they embrace it or reject it, hip-hop listeners have long felt that the genre is obliged to say things that matter. But is that really true?
Music attorney Dina LaPolt explains how prosecutors are using rappers’ lyrics against them in criminal cases. She joins Questlove, LL Cool J and Black Thought to talk about the issue.
1. Coverage of Albums
Hip hop, a genre that began in the 1970s as DJs mixed rhythm and blues records with other styles to create new sounds, is one of the most popular music genres today. This feed features the latest news and album releases in hip hop. It is curated by The Associated Press’ entertainment journalists. Sometimes headlines that aren’t about hip hop appear here if they are relevant to the story. The AP reviews albums in a variety of genres, but its focus is on hip hop and its subgenres. The AP’s reviews include track listings and descriptions. This content is continuously updated.
2. Coverage of Artists
In the hip-hop media world, a good interviewer can make or break a breakout rapper. That’s why artists like GloRilla and SleazyWorld Go are able to build followings despite having yet to establish their bonafides via full-length projects.
The same can be said for established artists. For instance, KRS-One made waves early on by condemning violence and the hedonistic lifestyles of urban areas, while Ice-T credited his own rapping with helping him overcome his stutter.
In recent years, however, media personalities like Sway and The Breakfast Club have brought a more critical approach to the genre’s most promising artists. In turn, this has helped reposition rap as a genre that isn’t afraid to speak truth to power. This is crucial as country, rock and pop continue to close the gap on hip-hop’s streaming market share. Luminate’s mid-year report found that rap is still No. 1, but its growth is slowing.
5. Coverage of Politics
Since its beginnings, hip-hop has always been political. In 1992, Ice-T’s “Cop Killer” caused a controversy with its references to Rodney King and the LAPD beating of a black motorist, leading to the riots in South Central Los Angeles. Sister Souljah’s call for a week of white murders followed shortly thereafter, and she was accused of racism.
From the riots to the current wave of activism, hip-hop is at its most potent when confronting systemic hatred and injustices through a broad lens or as crisis response. Rappers like Kendrick Lamar are praised for using their bully pulpit to decry partisanship on his 2015 hit “To Pimp a Butterfly.” It is these kinds of political songs that remind us why hip-hop is the greatest American art form. It speaks up for the voiceless and tells the truth as seen through its MC’s perspective.
7. Coverage of Issues
Long before cellphone videos and social media demanded America witness the mundanity of police killings and the racial inequality we live with every day, hiphop was shining a light on these issues. From Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five to Kendrick Lamar and beyond, artists like these are using their lyrical platform to speak truth to power.
Female rappers are a part of this conversation, too, offering a musical megaphone for women who want to see themselves validated in a society that often considers them less than. From Syd and Noname to Kamaiyah and Mykki Blanco, these artists are addressing a new wave of intersectional feminism in their music.
Louder Than A Riot explores the intersection of hip hop and politics on a weekly basis. It’s hosted by acclaimed journalists Sidney Madden and Rodney Carmichael, along with heralded musician Shayaa Bin Abraham-Joseph.