Coming straight from the underground
August 23, 2015 7:28 PM   Subscribe

What hip hop artists are making music about current US racial/political issues?

I just went to see Straight Outta Compton this weekend and couldn't help but notice the similarity between the police brutality incidents it depicted and events that made news even as the movie was being filmed. It made me really curious: who are the spiritual successors of N.W.A.? What song is today's "Fuck tha Police?" Are there artists that are the voice of #BlackLivesMatter, artists talking about the mass incarceration epidemic, the growing income gap?

I'm specifically looking for recommendations for
1. hip-hop artists,
2. from the US,
3. who identify as black,
4. commenting on current events from the past year or so,
5. that concern race in particular, especially recent incidents of police brutality. (e.g. the killings of Michael Brown and Eric Garner.)

I'd be equally interested in learning about mainstream artists or underground artists. Assume I have a very limited knowledge of current popular music so even if there's something really obvious that fits this request, I want to know about it.
posted by capricorn to Media & Arts (19 answers total) 20 users marked this as a favorite
Killer Mike of Run The Jewels has been in TV and written about race relations and police brutality, specifically the Michael Brown killing in Missouri.
posted by dortmunder at 7:34 PM on August 23, 2015 [5 favorites]

I should probably clarify I mean I'm looking for music itself that comments on these issues. Does Run the Jewels' music make that type of commentary, or is it just his writing outside of their musical production?
posted by capricorn at 7:37 PM on August 23, 2015

Janelle Monáe has "Hell You Talmbout". The track features chants of "Say his/her name" along with the names of recent victims of police brutality.
posted by Hermione Granger at 7:38 PM on August 23, 2015 [9 favorites]

Tef Poe is a St. Louis-based rapper. He wrote War Cry based on the events in Ferguson.
posted by brentajones at 7:38 PM on August 23, 2015 [2 favorites]

Kendrick Lamar's most recent album is very much about Black Lives Matter
posted by So You're Saying These Are Pants? at 7:55 PM on August 23, 2015 [8 favorites]

Check out Jasiri X.
posted by Otter_Handler at 8:00 PM on August 23, 2015

Common, especially in Keys to the Kingdom, which came out a couple of months before Ferguson and is about systemic racism in Chicago. Third verse addresses police violence specifically.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 8:17 PM on August 23, 2015

The Coup from Oakland. It's pretty much all they do.
posted by bitdamaged at 8:52 PM on August 23, 2015 [1 favorite]

This falls afoul of your 'in the last year' requirement, but otherwise:

Lil Boosie

Dead Prez

Police brutality against POCs (even on camera) isn't a new phenomenon. See: Rodney King, etc.
posted by Noisy Pink Bubbles at 9:00 PM on August 23, 2015

Kanye West
posted by hal_c_on at 9:49 PM on August 23, 2015

I'll expand on the Kendrick Lamar recommendation. He released an album in March of this year called To Pimp a Butterfly which deals a lot with recent events. He also hails from Compton, and works closely with Dr. Dre so there's a lot of NWA heritage in his work.

The video for one single Alright deals with the issue, and the track was chanted by a group during a police brutality protest recently.

Another single off of the same album deals with the subject more directly in The Blacker the Berry.

Dr. Dre also released an album earlier this month and has a track on it called "Animals" that deals with media coverage of events like Ferguson. It doesn't have an official video yet but also might be worth checking out.

Vince Staples also had a track last year called Hands Up that deals with police brutality. I haven't had time to check out his new release this year (it's been a crazy good year for hip-hop) , but I'm guessing he probably has a couple of tracks that deal with current events there too.
posted by C^3 at 11:23 PM on August 23, 2015 [2 favorites]

To answer the question above: yes, both Run the Jewels and Killer Mike's solo work deal with police brutality, the prison industrial complex, and the black condition in America.
posted by The Michael The at 11:26 PM on August 23, 2015

These 6 rappers are the defining voices of #BlackLivesMatter (includes tracks for each)
posted by naju at 11:28 PM on August 23, 2015 [1 favorite]

for a specific Killer Mike track,. check out Don't Die. sounds like it time traveled right from an old Ice Cube session.
posted by mannequito at 1:00 AM on August 24, 2015

Ab Soul, particularly in the song Terrorist Threats.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 2:53 AM on August 24, 2015

Kanye West

Any Kanye West tracks in particular?
posted by capricorn at 7:16 AM on August 24, 2015

Kanye's "New Slaves" talks about mass incarceration and the private prison system.
posted by naju at 8:05 AM on August 24, 2015

He's underground, and disclaimer I do know him, but Son of Nun seems like he'd be right up your alley - has a lot of stuff on racism and how it impacts current stuff. Here's this one
posted by corb at 10:28 AM on August 24, 2015

As an aside, the video for Run The Jewels song "Early" is pretty amazing.
posted by stagewhisper at 3:03 PM on August 24, 2015 [1 favorite]

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