By Janica Maya (@janicamaya)
For decades, Hip-Hop artists have used music to speak against racism and police brutality. It transformed the genre as a social movement in this current age of battling the continuous fight of anti-Black racism. Many songs through generations and of today’s music scene reveal the long history and the realities Black people encounter because of their race.
Throughout generations, music has been used as an active form of protest against the harsh treatment by authorities and institutions. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, rappers from the States described in their music the brutal and unfair police enforcement they experienced and observed in their communities. A powerful and most famous protest song is N.W. A’s song “F—tha Police,” (1988) it looks at police brutality and racial profiling and demands better action for the Black community. The message in the song is still very much relevant today. According to the Rolling Stone the song has seen a resurgence this year with a 272% increase in on-demand streams.
Hip-Hop emerged in the Southern Bronx of New York in the 1970s in response to the daily experiences of poverty, racism, exclusion, crime and violence among minority groups. The foundation of the genre is resilience, recognition, community and social justice. The importance of Hip-Hop allowed young creatives to create music and art reflecting their realities, and this has become a source of self and community empowerment. The healing power of this music benefits mental health; coping with emotions, identity and personal growth in raising confidence and strength.
Hip-Hop music of the past is still relevant to present issues and influences current artists in using the music to fight anti-Black racism. The messages can reach a greater audience, bringing global awareness on anti-Black racism. Dr. Stephanie Shonekain, co-author of “Black Lives Matter and Music: Protest, Intervention, Reflection”, says: “These 2020 songs are a continuation of Black artists raising awareness and capturing the horrors of the circumstances. What is new is that perhaps now they will be heard by more people because of a global reaction against the George Floyd murder.”
Since the mass protest on anti-Black racism, there has been a wave of Black Lives Matter music. With a particular song, Kendrick Lamar’s Grammy award-winning song “Alright” expresses the suffering of the Black community but also an assurance that better times will come. Protestors embrace the lyrics “We gon' be alright” as a chant on the hope of improving things.
Hip-Hop music has not only transformed itself as a culture of artistic expression on facing life and the world, but a social movement confronting racism and discrimination. Music speaks volumes to all people to create a positive change for a better community.