From Civil Rights to Hip Hop: Toward a Nexus of Ideas

By Alridge, Derrick P. | The Journal of African American History, Summer 2005 | Go to article overview

From Civil Rights to Hip Hop: Toward a Nexus of Ideas


Alridge, Derrick P., The Journal of African American History


   The most radical ideas often grow out of a concrete intellectual
   engagement with the problems of aggrieved populations confronting
   systems of oppression. (1)

The preceding quotation from historian Robin D. G. Kelley captures the manner through which socially and politically conscious (SPC) Hip Hop emerged from the social, economic, and political experiences of black youth from the mid- to late 1970s. (2) Hip Hop pioneers such as Kool Herc, Afrika Bambaataa, and Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, among others articulated the post--civil rights generation's ideas and response to poverty, drugs, police brutality, and other racial and class inequities of postindustrial U.S. society. (3) In many ways, early hip hoppers were not only the progenitors of a new form of black social critique, they also represented the voice of a new generation that would carry on and expand upon the ideas and ideology of the civil rights generation. (4)

Since the early years of Hip Hop, SPC hip hoppers have continued to espouse many of the ideas and ideology of the Civil Rights Movement (CRM) and Black Freedom Struggle (BFS), but in a language that resonates with many black youth of the postindustrial and post--civil rights integrationist era. (5) For instance, on Michael Franti's 2001 compact disk (CD) Stay Human, Franti uses rap and reggae-style lyrics to critique U.S. capitalism, imperialism, racism, and globalization and to offer analyses of discrimination, prejudice, and oppression similar to those of activists and theorists of the CRM and BFS. In his song "Oh My God," Franti lays out what he believes are the hypocrisies of U.S. democracy by pointing out its discriminatory practices against the poor and people of color, its use of the death penalty, its indiscriminate bombing of other countries, and its counterintelligence activities that subvert the rights of U.S. citizens. He states:

    Oh my, Oh my God,
    out here mama they got us livin' suicide,
    singin' oh my, oh my God
    out here mama they got us livin' suicide....

    Listen to my stethoscope on a rope,
    internal lullabies, human cries,
    thumps and silence, the language of violence,
    algorithmic, cataclysmic, seismic, biorhythmic,
    you can make a life longer, but you can't save it,
    you can make a clone and then you try to enslave it?
    Stealin' DNA from the unborn
    and then you comin' after us
    'cause we sampled a James Brown horn?
    Scientists whose God is progress,
    a four headed sheep is their latest project,
    the CIA runnin' like that Jones from Indiana,
    but they still won't talk about that Jones in Guyana,
    this ain't no cartoon, no one slips on bananas,
    do you really think that that car killed Diana,
    hell I shot Ronald Reagan, I shot JFK,
    I slept with Marilyn, she sung me "Happy Birthday." (6)

The lyrics in "Oh My God" and other songs on Stay Human are potent, analytical, and reminiscent of the critiques and ideas of such black leaders as W. E. B. Du Bois, Marcus Garvey, Ida B. Wells-Barnett, Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, Jr., Kwame Toure, Angela Davis, and the Black Panthers. Franti's ideas as expressed in "Oh My God" and Stay Human regarding U.S. imperialism, racism, discrimination, and the usurpation of individual rights are similar to those expressed in Du Bois's essay, "The Freedom to Learn"; King's book, Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community; Gil Scott-Heron's song, "The Revolution Will Not Be Televised"; and Angela Davis's numerous writings on the prison-industrial complex. Other socio-political rappers and hip hoppers, such as Public Enemy, Sister Souljah, KRS-One, MeShell Ndegeocello, Goodie Mob, The Coup, Blackalicious, Jurassic 5, Kanye West, dead prez, Mr. Lif, Mos Def, Immortal Technique, Hieroglyphic, and Ms. Dynamite are among the many artists of the SPC genre of Hip Hop who offer cogent analyses and commentary on race, poverty, and discrimination that build on the ideas and ideology of CRM and BFS. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

From Civil Rights to Hip Hop: Toward a Nexus of Ideas
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.