The More You Know: Media and Power

Case Studies from UW Bothell Media & Communication Studies

Back to the Future

Politics have always been the forefront of how hip hop is presented to the public. Hip hop and the culture’s experience of rap music comes with price of weighing the discrepancies of how we not only view rap music, but how it is accepted within our societal lifestyle. And as much as we have become accustomed to and have adapted subconsciously to the world of rap music, there lies the evolution of the vibe and customs of how rap music relates to our personal eardrums. We can compare the 80’s rap music to what we hear today. But how does it necessarily differ? What political disparities are significant throughout the eras of the 80’s, 90’s and today can we evaluate and dissect into a common knowledge? The lifestyle of the early days of rap music began as a culture aimed at having fun, the 90’s exposed the gangster rap culture, and the millennial era of today’s rap culture sticks to catchy beats and club vibes. The political avenues of how rap has been represented has definitely evolved over time. But, there are certain elements of rap that have remained the same. No matter who is representing our government has always been a center piece for material. But, the culture of lifestyle has changed over the last few decades, and rap music and its style of approach has adjusted to the times. The similarities have remained on the same political page, and the approach to get the message across has prevailed on an identical passage of reference. News being promoted and executed through media by rappers have kept the identity of relating to certain classes and having particular points of message exhorted to pertain to particular class structure. Rappers have adapted their styles to fit with categorical angles of approach and to adapt to culture for equilibrium.

ice-cubeIn the 80’s we had such artists as KRS One (police interference), Public Enemy (Ronald Reagan) and Grandmaster Flash (the inner-city life) directing lyrics towards political figures. Public enemy had set the template for the jumpstart to socially conscious music and lyrics with the song “Rebel Without a Pause,” which was aimed at former President Reagan. NWA was also beginning to blossom into a political stance with police brutality and with the wake of the Rodney King beating, was developing a platform to speak upon the issues of street inequality and unfair practices of corporal punishment. Ice Cube once called himself a “journalist” as he was the first eye in the streets. Racism had carried over from generations asymmetrical applications of societal protection, and it was only from the voice of rap artists such as Tupac, Ice Cube and some other not so well known rap groups such as Dead Presidents to be able to get the recognition of what was happening in the streets and get the voice of the politically underprivileged put on a mainstream platform. The 90’s developed a bigger recognition of street life, and rap music in the 90’s painted a very depictive picture and detailed story of what was really happening through mediums of rap music. Even the youth are able to develop a platform through rap music to be heard. Storytelling was the root of rap music, and through the ages it has become a developed form of artwork. As Tricia Rose states in her articl Black Noise and in her interview with Ceasefire, she talks about how rap in the 90’s had the power of storytelling and how it paved the way for future hip hop storytellers.

awards-grammysIn the 2000’s rap emcees such as Immortal Technique and Rage Against the Machine keep the political freshness about such targets such as the government. Even the historic framework of A Tribe a Called Quest keep the vocal point targeted towards government differences, which seem to never age. It becomes evident that with the political evolution of social differences, politics in rap music fit with the existent issues of present dilemmas. Ranging from the “Black Lives Matter” movement to the present day Presidential election outcomes, rappers fit their message to become accustom to the present-day issues and speak their voice regardless of the popularity of their outlet. The medium remains the same. Rap music is a way to get the voice out there. And with music as their vocal sword, they can preach opinions and catch the audience’s attention regardless of access to mainstream media. Where there is a will there is a way, and where there is an issue there is a voice. Emcees from various groups have put the opinion out there, and with the strength of opinion through the representation of music, it will forever exist. Representation can come in many different forms. However, representing something is depicting something. These rappers have all done so in different styles throughout the eras. They have all painted and symbolized something relevant to the meaning that fits with the current political issues through marketing political messages.




Works Cited:

Berry, Venise, and Tricia Rose. “Black Noise: Rap Music and Black Culture in Contemporary America.” American Music 14.2 (1996): 231. Web. 7 Mar. 2017

Desta, Yohana. “A Tribe Called Quest Saw Donald Trump Coming.” Vanity Fair. Vanity Fair. 10 Nov. 2016. Web. 06 Mar. 2017.

John, Richard R., and James W, Carey. “Communication as Culture: Essays on Media and Society.” Technology and Culture 33.1 (1992): 200. Web. 07 Mar. 2017.

Kelly, Lauren Leigh. “Hip Hop Literature: The Politics, Poetics, and Power of Hip-Hop in the English Classroom.” The English Journal 102.5 (2013): 51-56. JSTOR. Web. 08 Mar. 2017

Peezydakid. “12 Notable Rap Lyrics Aimed at Politicians.” The Boombox. N.P., 02 Nov. 2015. Web. 08 Mar. 2017.

“Study on the Cultural Representation Theory and Signifying Practices of Stuart Hall.” World Literature Studies. 04.02 (2016): 15-17. Web. 08 Mar. 2017.


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