Rap Music Education

“Freedom is never given; it is won.” — A. Philip Randolph

Happy 1st day of Black History Month!

As a Black woman, I’m constantly trying to be reflective in terms of my culture, my upbringing, and the difficult past associated with the color of my skin. I think this is something that most black people do (as they should) because it is difficult to understand the full effects of racism, oppression, and micro-aggression in this country without understanding a lot about the past and present political system in America. Unfortunately, for everyone who isn’t African American, these types of thoughts may only surface during Black History Month. I’m not saying that everyone should spend all of their time sitting around thinking about systems of racism in America, but I do want to take some time in this intelligence post to encourage a little more mindfulness and engaged thought on a day to day basis.

I live in North Carolina. I grew up in a beach town. Obviously, I am around white people a lot. I have lots of really great white friends and I cherish them dearly, but I have always noticed one odd and slightly irritating thing: most of them ironically listen to “hood” rap music in an attempt to seem cool. Now. Rap music can be super, super great. The beats are awesome, and the lyrics make you feel rebellious and rich. So I understand why my white friends blast it in the car and giggle awkwardly when they whisper the N-word. But here’s the thing — there’s lots of different types of rap music and it doesn’t always just have to be about hoes and money. Sometimes, rap is used as an important tool to relay messages of oppression in the black community.

Today, I would like to give you a little collection of five rap songs for your listening pleasure that carry a more serious message about the plight of African Americans. I think listening and really thinking about the lyrics in these songs will help people who don’t know a lot about modern/contemporary black struggles. Whether you’re white, black, or another lovely, beautiful race, I suggest listening to these songs, discussing their meanings with friends, and using them as tools to educate yourself on modern black history. It’s time to stop cracking out history books during the month of February just to re-read the story of Rosa Parks and then promptly assume that racism is over. This February, let’s listen to what black people of today are still concerned about and open up an intelligent dialogue.

“Hood Politics”-Kendrick Lamar-a song that touches on the issues of the military-industrial complex and the media’s framing of black rappers (i.e., focusing on their cars and clothes rather than discussing the perils of their youths that led them to write rap songs about the pains of the ghetto)

“New Slaves”-Kanye West-a discussion of a culture that exploits blacks whether they are rich or poor. Wealthy black people are sold a lifestyle that often leaves them bankrupt.

“January 28th”-J Cole-talks about the unrepresentative and/or detrimental media devoid of black faces that aren’t either sports stars or rap artists. This lack of professional diversity leads poor black children to believe that the aforementioned jobs are the only way out of poverty. This leads them to focus less on schoolwork and more on fitting the ghetto black rapper stereotype or playing sports.

“New National Anthem”-T.I.-this song focuses directly on recent police brutality and ends with a call to action for black people to fight their way out of poverty and then help others as soon as they succeed.

“Freedom Ain’t Free”-Lupe Fiasco-Fiasco directly addresses people who are oblivious to American racism and lets them know that they are a part of the problem. Importantly, he doesn’t just talk about the racism against blacks in this country. He also brings up the severely damaged Native American population and more.

Happy, smart listening!

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