This year, 50 years of hip-hop or rap music is being celebrated. While recently country music has been in the news (particularly Try that in a small town and Rich men north of Richmond – see my blog post) due to controversial positions on social and political issues, hip hop has since the beginning integrated into its lyrics themes of social inequality and discrimination against African Americans. “Gansta rap” of the 1990’s dealt largely with violence and drug use, while also being accused of promoting misogyny and gun use.
Although identified with the US and inner-city Black communities, hip hop has in its 50 years spread across the world, used often as a tool for social change. A recent piece in the public radio show, Here and now, discussed a number of examples, as shown below. It would be easy to find examples from other cultures. The story points out that “the genre has been the voice of various generations demanding social change and even revolution: Rappers in Tibet are using hip-hop to preserve the traditional language. And in Tunisia, hip-hop even helped launch the Arab Spring.”
While the musical style of hip hop remains anchored in its North American roots, the language and culture of rappers adapts to the local conditions. This is imperative if the music is intended to carry a social message and effect societal change.
l général, “the voice of Tunisia”
Dekyi Tsering ལམ Road “yang sal དབྱངས་གསལ། ”
Sonita Alizadeh “Daughters For Sale”