When, in her 2008 hit song the Healer, Erykah Badu exclaimed that “Hip Hop is bigger than the government,” Hip Hop fans the world throughout knew exactly what she meant. Hip Hop has been the voice of marginalized Black and Brown communities for decades since its formation in the 1970s; and it continues to be treated as a threat by the powers that be. We’ve compiled 10 of the best political Hip Hop records from our cousins across the pond with this revolutionary origin in mind.
It is not a definitive list and definitely not ranked in order. We have compiled our favorites, though please send in your suggestions by commenting on this piece below or tweeting @makeitplainorg. So if the sun is still out when you read this, start a playlist, light the barbeque, and listen while you learn…
The Sharecropper’s Daughter – Sa-Roc (2020)
Throughout the 15 heavy-hitting tracks of her 2020 album, Sa-Roc expertly explores the realities of millions of Black Americans using her intimate knowledge of her own family history to capture the anger, vulnerability, and strength of her community. “They tried to bury us, but they forgot that we were seeds,” she sings on track number 8, which carries the same name as the album–a poignant reminder of the resilience this album is a testament to.
“They tried to bury us, but they forgot that we were seeds”The Sharecropper’s Daughter, Sa-Roc
It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back – Public Enemy (1988)
Some groups were so influential that they changed the entire game when they were released. With a distinct unrelenting sound, political lyrics from Chuck D, and Flava Flav’s style, Hip Hop would never be the same again. KRS ONE credits this album with setting “off consciousness in rap,” and it is proof that sometimes we should believe the hype.
Return of the Boom Bap – KRS ONE (1993)
The only question was which album we would pick because there is no doubt that Knowledge Reigns Supreme Over Nearly Everyone. Classics like Sound of da Police, Black Cop, and Brown Skinned Woman make this an unforgettable political treatise. KRS showcases his unparalleled style, storytelling and drops bombs of truth over classic beats.
Me Against the World – Tupac Shakur (1995)
2pac is often seen as little more than a so-called Gangsta rapper with violent, often misogynistic lyrics and death in the middle of a gang feud. Yet Pac made the realities of the street political, embracing Thug Life to connect to the masses of Black folk cut off from society. He also did not shy away from dropping political lyrics into his tracks. This album represents the politics of Pac, and he even raps to his mama. What could be more political than that?
Black Star – Mos Def and Talib Kweli (1998)
Mos Def and Kweli united for this album, bringing together two figureheads of conscious, jazz-infused rap, and they did not disappoint. Packed with anthems and guess spots representing almost its own Hip Hop genre, this is an undisputed classic.
Things Fall Apart – The Roots (1999)
A classic that speaks politically to what was and still is. A title inspired by Chinua Achebe’s 1958 anti-colonial novel of the same name; and a black and white album cover photo of Civil Rights era police brutality. The hardest crew reminds us that they “Ain’t Sayin’ Nothin’ New” about our communities’ unrelenting issues.
Like Water for Chocolate – Common (2000)
A Song for Assata, which chronicles the journey from prisoner to political asylum in Cuba of Assata Shakur, our modern-day Maroon, would be enough for the album to make this list. Yet it is packed with conscious classics like The Sixth Sense and Geto Heaven. So the only question is why Common went from Hip Hip to Hollywood after dropping one of the most iconic political Hip Hop albums?
“I read this sister’s story, knew that it deserved a verse“A Song for Assata, Common
Let’s Get Free – Dead Prez (2000)
An album that truly is “Bigger Than Hip Hop,” this is a relentless album from start to finish. Tackling the schools, prisons, Pan-Africanism, and even relationships and healthy eating. Tied together with Chairman Omali Yeshitela of the Uhuru Movement speeches, including Wolves, it is more manifesto than a music album. A no holds barred statement of Black politics with beats that took conscious hip out of the backpack and onto the street.
Revolutionary, Vol. 1 – Immortal Technique (2001)
The difficulty here was choosing which album. This one introduced us to the Afro-Peruvian, socialist rapper whose tracks are an education in radical ways to understand the globe. We are even blessed with a track where he drops the lyricism and gives us a lecture set to music. In addition, we managed to get a message for Technique for the organization a few years ago.
Eve – Rapsody (2019)
Every song on this album is named in homage to a powerful Black woman, including ‘Nina’ Simone, ‘Afeni’ Shakur, and Hatshepsut, the second female pharaoh. It is a reminder of the importance of women and also their absence from our collective memory. This is because Hip Hop has been so male-dominated (this list is the latest example). Still, Rapsody is part of a generation of female rappers who are changing the narrative.
UK list soon come.