I Rap Therefore I Am
April 22, 2011 2:04 AM   Subscribe

I know this is kind of vague, but I'm looking for examples of rappers, or even just individual rap songs, that have a "philosophical" message. I don't mean that they encourage people to get off drugs, or do something with their lives, or anything like that (though I'd like those examples, too) -- but that they espouse a specific philosophy of life or worldview. I'd love some mainstream examples -- I'm not just looking for "issue" rappers who have made philosophy their thing (though I like these, too!) Thanks!!
posted by caoimhe to Religion & Philosophy (41 answers total) 27 users marked this as a favorite
Where I'm From - Digable Planets. Great message of knowing and acknowledging your background, understanding and helping others understand where you are literally and figuratively from, and having pride in your roots.
posted by illenion at 2:38 AM on April 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

Blackalicious. The whole "Blazing Arrow" album is very, um, thought-positive.
posted by Mister Moofoo at 2:56 AM on April 22, 2011

Gimmie the Loot- Biggie Smalls
Tupac - Changes
Kinda Like a Big Deal- Clipse

I'll be back to post more.
posted by Rubbstone at 2:57 AM on April 22, 2011

Baba Brinkman espouses rationalist philosophy (he would count as an "issue" rapper).
posted by aeschenkarnos at 3:47 AM on April 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Wow -- thanks! Keep 'em coming! :)
posted by caoimhe at 3:56 AM on April 22, 2011

Perhaps the album To the East, Blackwards by X-Clan? Afrocentrism with a mystic/pharaohic tip. Vanglorious.
posted by Thorzdad at 4:16 AM on April 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

I know you're wanting to avoid "better yourself/stay in school/etc.," but KRS-One has been preaching that "lifestyle" since day one.
posted by kuanes at 4:28 AM on April 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

It's in a different vein than the other suggestions, and I'm not sure if it's what you're looking for, but... It seems to me that Fatlip's What's Up, Fatlip expresses a very distinct worldview, although I'm not sure I could define it. Existentialist depression, maybe?
posted by yankeefog at 5:11 AM on April 22, 2011

Brother Ali is really more hip hop than rap, but he comes from the perspective of a legally blind albino, which is a bit atypical.
posted by craven_morhead at 5:45 AM on April 22, 2011 [2 favorites]

I Can by Nas. The first time I saw the music video, I honestly thought it was a PSA of some kind.
posted by lovelygirl at 5:50 AM on April 22, 2011 [2 favorites]

Aesop rock and Jurassic 5.
posted by TheBones at 5:54 AM on April 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

The Ruby Kid raps about marxism.
posted by teraspawn at 6:00 AM on April 22, 2011

How can no one have mentioned KRS-One?
Seriously as Bradley said:
"Cause I know, oh yes I know because of KRS-One"
posted by handbanana at 6:15 AM on April 22, 2011

Might be off track, but maybe PM Dawn and then The Flotbots?
posted by rich at 6:30 AM on April 22, 2011

posted by kris.reiss at 7:34 AM on April 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

K'naan - Take a Minute
posted by googlebombed at 7:42 AM on April 22, 2011

Guru (Gang Starr) - RIP. Also a five-percenter. From kris.reiss' link Jay Electronica's "Exhibit C" is particularly amazing.
posted by kcm at 7:57 AM on April 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

Is paranoia and hatred of the government a philosophy? If so, see Immortal Technique - The 4th Branch.
posted by agentofselection at 8:06 AM on April 22, 2011

Saul Williams - Black Stacey, Talk to Strangers, List of Demands, etc.
posted by angels in the architecture at 8:08 AM on April 22, 2011

re: KRS-One - check out, specifically "My Philosophy"
posted by ManInSuit at 8:27 AM on April 22, 2011

Seriously, I will second and third and fiftieth it - Saul Williams. He's actually one of the originators of the slam poetry movement, and is spectacular. His interim on Blackalicious' 'Release' (off Blazing Arrow, natch) is phenomenal - starts right at the 1 minute mark. And here is a spoken word performance of his piece '1987' (hard to find the album version with musical backing, for some reason), narrating the evolution from short-sighted material concerns to a greater spiritual understanding of humanity and history.

Seriously, Saul Williams.
posted by FatherDagon at 8:30 AM on April 22, 2011

Jedi Mind Tricks, in addition to being lyrically violent and homophobic (although perhaps less so over time), preach messages mystic and Islamic. Some pretty interesting mix of references to matters occult, religious, and science-fiction. Definitely paranoid, anti-government, anti-Christian... I would say that a specific worldview is contained within the JMT milieu. Sick, sick beats, too.

Seconding 'Blazing Arrow,' and the "Five-Percenter" link is certainly informative on the subject.
posted by J0 at 8:34 AM on April 22, 2011

Aesop Rock - No Regrets

The lyrics are here.
posted by aganders3 at 8:55 AM on April 22, 2011

oh but....

De La Soul! "If money makes a man strange, we gots to rearrange, so what makes the world go round?"

From "Itzsoweezee" - the remix is gorgeous and dreamy philosopoetic.
posted by sestaaak at 8:59 AM on April 22, 2011 [3 favorites]

Genius/GZA - B.I.B.L.E.
posted by box at 9:08 AM on April 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

Kanye West, "Everything I Am"
Prefuse 73 feat. Diverse, "Plastic"
Blackalicious, "Make You Feel That Way"

Also check out Lupe Fiasco, Blue Scholars, and A Tribe Called Quest.
posted by milk white peacock at 9:10 AM on April 22, 2011

The Roots album, HOW I GOT OVER, is pretty thought positive as well
posted by Dauus at 9:32 AM on April 22, 2011

Black Star
posted by null14 at 9:56 AM on April 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

A Good Name - Shad, an affirmational embracement of his first name as he considers its cultural origins and his last name from the good works of his immediate ancestors.
posted by SollosQ at 10:00 AM on April 22, 2011

"Life is a blast when you know what you're doin..."At the Helm by the Hieroglyphics

Also, Talib Kweli, and nthing Jurassic 5.
posted by iamkimiam at 10:27 AM on April 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

posted by p3on at 10:31 AM on April 22, 2011

Try Ozomatli. Even if they turn out not to be what you're looking for, they're still an incredible band. They're not always pure rap, though - they mix it up from song to song.
posted by MexicanYenta at 10:42 AM on April 22, 2011

Dead Prez Police State
posted by muta at 10:51 AM on April 22, 2011

Gil Scott Heron Message to the Messengers ?
posted by a person of few words at 10:57 AM on April 22, 2011

nthing Aesop Rock and Black Star.
posted by phrygius at 12:39 PM on April 22, 2011

Life's a Bitch by Nas
posted by joeyjoejoejr at 4:35 PM on April 22, 2011

Euphrates are more political than philosophical, but might be along the lines you're thinking of. Also, Michael Franti & Spearhead; and nthing Blue Scholars.
posted by equivocator at 6:39 PM on April 22, 2011

Oh, and Aceyalone's The Book of Human Language.
posted by equivocator at 6:43 PM on April 22, 2011

Common Market
posted by lunchbox at 8:50 AM on April 23, 2011

If I Ruled The World by Nas.
posted by agentjones at 11:36 AM on April 23, 2011

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