How Hip Hop & Rap Has Begun to Serve as a Platform to Discuss Social Issues

The media has always been a platform for people to discuss the social issues of America, along with their opinions regarding such issues. Recently, there has been a significant increase in media attention regarding such issues as a result of the controversial 2016 election and an increase in acts of racism, most notably acts of police brutality and hate crimes against African Americans. While discussion of such issues plays a large role in the television, news, and social media, music has increasingly been a platform to speak against such issues this year. With rap, a genre that stems from African American culture, being one of the most popular and influential genres, well-known rappers have used their influence to speak up about today’s social issues more.

One of the most well-known examples of using rap to discuss such issues is the controversial song “No Favors” by Big Sean and Eminem. This is one of the hit songs on Big Sean’s new album, I Decided. This song gained extra momentum by bringing in Eminem to sing a verse. Big Sean’s verse in this song describes how he was able to become one of America’s most successful rappers despite his disadvantaged background growing up as an African American in a poverty-stricken city. However, what strikes this song as controversial is Eminem’s verse. Here, he makes a clear political statement by making a heated diss at Donald Trump, along with Ann Coulter, one of his most active and well-known supporters. Due to this political statement, this song definitely had mixed reactions. but due to the influence of Big Sean and Eminem, who can both easily be seen as some of America’s most well-known rappers, this song definitely catalyzed increase awareness of today’s political culture to America’s younger population.

Another example of this phenomenon is the hit song “DNA” by Kendrick Lamar. As Kendrick Lamar is unarguably one of rap’s biggest names, with DAMN. being one of 2017’s top selling albums, this is one of the most popular instances as to how social issues are incorporated into rap music. As Lamar’s music is listened to so universally, and can be heard on a near-daily basis on the radio, his music serves as an ideal platform to raise awareness on social issues. Thus, Lamar uses his hit song “DNA” to discuss the challenges he faced in growing up in a poverty-stricken, violence-heavy neighborhood as an African American man, along with current issues tied to his identity such as the recent exploitation of African-American culture.

Additionally, up and coming rapper 21 Savage is using his newfound popularity to spark a discussion on systematic racism on his debut album Issa. In “Nothin’ New,” 21 Savage discusses his frustration regarding institutionalized racism that African Americans experience, and how Americans have grown so desensitized to it. He details on the desensitization of hate crimes against African Americans, along with the disadvantageous position African Americans are in America today.

As in previous years rap culture has often revolved around topics such as sex, crime, and partying, such a shift to raise awareness on today’s social and political culture was extremely refreshing for me to see. While listening to a rap song may not fully inform someone on institutionalized racism and hate crimes, when such issues are discussed in popular music, it does have the potential to raise awareness and spark discussions.