Hip-hop is a tool of denunciation, expression and promotion of social movements. It has been used as a mean to express social and political struggles as well as daily struggles for the working-class. As dance or street art, hip hop allows artists to convey messages of international solidarity and to give voice to struggles for equality and against all forms of domination and discrimination. The appearance of this musical, cultural and social movement reflects a certain democratization of music.
Hip-hop was born in the early 1970s in New York when people living in the ghettos expressed through multiple musical influences (jazz, funk, soul...) a social and political message. No need to be a musician, singer or to have instruments available. It was the use of music to talk about the reality of life in those neighborhoods: poverty, racism and police violence. A way to emancipate oneself from State violence.
The movement became global in the 1980s as a way of promoting international solidarity and the development of local scenes around the world, as well as forming bridges with other influences (such as hard rock and reggae).
From the beginning, the Afro American revindications expressed in those lyrics dealt with similar topics than those expressed by the Black Panther Party. The influence of the revolutionary Black Panthers movement on hip-hop also appear through the connection between the members, for instance 2Pac’s mother, Afeni Shakur, was a Member of the Party.
If the essence of hip hop is social and political, the system has managed to hijack some of the hip-hop culture. If the development of the record industry helped to create a market for conscious or activist rap, it also allowed the rise of watered-down rap, without any message of protest. The arrival of depoliticized rap in the music industry created major conflicts, like the well-known rivalry between East Coast and West Coast rappers. Far from being muzzled, conscious rap is still heard through groups such as Public Enemy.
Since the arrival of hip-hop in France, groups like NTM and Assassin took a conscious line. Even though the French movement also experienced the phenomenon of being hijacked for commercial purposes, independent labels and productions emerged. Through them, we encounter the essence of conscious social and political messages against racism, police violence, violent neighborhoods... but also solidarity with political prisoners, such as Leonard Peltier and Mumia Abu-Jamal. Even though Assassin has disappeared from the landscape, other groups and collectives continue this independent hip-hop counter-culture between protest against the system, solidarity, convergence and memory of struggles.
The importance of hip-hop as popular music continues to grow, among other things as a reaction to the capitalist system. Today the hip-hop culture is often used to claim the right to self-determination of oppressed peoples.
For example, for indigenous peoples it’s about reaffirming themselves as contributors to society with their own cultural identity linked to the protection of the environment. In Palestine, it’s a tool for condemning the occupation by Israel, and to promote freedom. In Africa, hip-hop is booming and mingling in different cultures. In Senegal, it can be considered an independent watchdog whose influence has enabled to impact the prevailing political order. In Latin America hip-hop movements are part of many social movements implementing autonomous organization of popular areas and expressing social concerns on feminism, anti-fascism and freedom.
Hip-hop is the way for working class and youth to express their anger and opposition. It is essential to analyze hip-hop and its culture through a social prism, since it carried a large number of popular struggles throughout the world. Let’s discover together the sound of the revolution ...