10 Rap Artists Who Embody The Spirit Of Black Liberation

 10 Rap Artists Who Embody The Spirit Of Black Liberation

Hip-Hop is a culture that benefits the masses but was born out of the struggle. Many of its forefathers were not only attempting to entertain with their talents but were looking to express thoughts on the circumstances affecting them and their communities. These plights and our determination to right those wrongs have been an overarching theme for some of the greatest music we’ve ever heard and lit a fire within us, one bar at a time.

The liberation movement preceded Hip-Hop but has informed and influenced the culture in its entirety, with a countless number of artists promoting pride, self-love, and determination in their music. Encouraging us to fight back against the powers that be and align our actions with our words, these figures have played an integral role in Black history and the progression of our people in their own right.

Here are 10 rap artists whose music and actions have aligned with the Black liberation movement throughout their careers and Hip-Hop history.

2PAC

2Pac’s musical catalog is littered with nods to the Black liberation movement, as he was all about the progression of Black people, first and foremost. The son of a Black Panther, 2pac was raised to have an awareness of the struggles pertaining to his people, which he conveyed through his music and in interviews and asserted himself as a revolutionary and vanguard. While his life was cut short, Pac’s legacy is that of a man that was devoted to the cause of his people, an aspect of his life that will never be forgotten.

NAS

With a prose and penmanship that’s been compared to that of Langston Hughes’, Nas has walked in the footsteps of his esteemed predecessors and carried on the progressive, yet unapologetically Black vibes that belied their own art. Many took his dialogue about moving to Africa in the 1998 film Belly as pure fiction, however Nas has always shown a deep love for his roots, history, and people. Examining our plights on albums like 2001’s Stillmatic, 2008’s Untitled effort, and songs like “If I Ruled the World (Imagine That),” the Queensbridge griot has long embedded nods to revolution and historical Black figures within his lyrics, a trend he’s continued as he embarks on the next chapter of his music career.

DEAD PREZ

M-1 and stic.man, the emcees that comprise rap duo Dead Prez, came in the door waving a red, black, and green flag with their albums Let’s Get Free (2000) and Revolutionary But Gangsta (2004), bodies of work that introduced their militant brand of Hip-Hop to the world. Promoting Pan-Africanism while bucking against oppressive forces on and off wax, Dead Prez have been torchbearers for the Black pride movement within the culture and are the epitome of reality rap.

KRS – ONE

Touting himself as Criminal Minded on his and Boogie Down Productions debut album, the tragic death of DJ Scott La Rock inspired KRS-One to alter his tune. He rebranded himself as The Teacha, kicked knowledge, and shed a light on the ills plaguing the Black community. After taking inspiration from Malcolm X for the artwork and title of his 1988 sophomore album, By All Means Necessary, KRS-One took his focus from criminal to sociopolitical, contributed to the betterment of his people, and spread his stylized brand of Edutainment throughout his career.

PUBLIC ENEMY

Chuck D and Public Enemy were “Fighting The Power” long before the group helped coined the phrase in pop culture with their classic 1989 hit single. Formed during Chuck D’s tenure at Adelphi University, the Hip-Hop group helped introduce an air of militancy to the culture and genre through their imagery and music. The albums It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back (1988)—which was widely considered their magnum opus—and Fear of a Black Planet (1990) positioned Public Enemy as rebels with a cause. They decried the adoration of racist American heroes and demanded the respect of the establishment and the powers that be. Never one to bite his tongue, even in his latter years, Chuck D and Public are responsible for helping create the soundtrack that propelled the popularity of nationalism and knowledge of self to a whole generation of fans.

ICE CUBE

Debuting alongside N.W.A. during the late ’80s, Ice Cube placed a microscope on the nihilism and corruption affecting the Black community on the Hip-Hop group’s 1988 seminal release, Straight Outta Compton. Cube eventually branched off as a solo act and kicked it to the man on his subsequent releases. His 1990 effort, AmeriKKKa’s Most Wanted, was the tip of the iceberg, but Cube went full throttle against the system on 1991’s Death Certificate and 1992’s The Predator, both of which channeled the burning rage amidst the 1992 L.A. Riots. That fire still lives within Cube, who inserted himself in the 2020 Presidential Election and demanded assurances to benefit the Black community. He promotes independence and ownership among Black creatives and entrepreneurs.

J.COLE

One artist that has continued to be present and on the frontlines for his people when it’s needed the most is J. Cole, who has shown a track record of being cognizant to the issues that are affecting our communities. While his lyrical content has always been astute, Cole’s voice has loudened in terms of his desire for himself and his people to simply “Be Free,” as evidenced by his dedicatory cut to Michael Brown, who died in a racially motivated incident in 2014. Cole, who went to Brown’s hometown of Ferguson, St. Louis, has stood alongside Colin Kaepernick in his own protest against police brutality and racial injustice and is in line with the fight for liberation and freedom.

KILLER MIKE

Since making his grand entrance on the Outkast single, “The Whole World,” Killer Mike has spilled his consciousness on wax while immersing himself in the sociopolitical world. With his Pledge Allegiance to the Grind series, R.A.P. Music, and his work alongside El-P as Run The Jewels, Killer Mike has evolved from being a voice in the Black liberation movement, but an active player, lending his influence to the political and educational sectors.

QUEEN LATIFAH

Queen Latifah has been a proponent for the Black women empowerment since crashing on the scene during the late ’80s when she pushed the line for equality and racial pride in her music. The New Jersey native brought the wrath of her madness to the world via albums like 1989’s All Hail the Queen and 1991’s Nature of a Sista’ and spoke on issues pertaining to systematic racism and the betterment of the Black familial and economic structure. Hits like 1989’s “Ladies First” and 1993’s “U.N.I.T.Y.” exemplify the role Latifah played in inspiring us in our continued fight for liberation and prosperity.

BOOTS RILEY

Boots Riley is not only of the movement but was born into it. The Chicago born and Oakland raised member of the rap group The Coup is the son of social justice workers. As an artist, he infused the tenants of racial pride into his music. After releasing six studio albums with The Coup, the last being 2012’s Sorry To Bother You, the multifaceted creative made his feature-film directorial debut after writing 2018’s Sorry to Bother You. The Black comedy movie was a big hit and earned Riley an unprecedented amount of visibility in the mainstream. Yet, that hasn’t kept him from involving himself in sociopolitical efforts and initiatives as he remains fully in tune.

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