Main Index Blog Intro
"Revolution comes when human beings
set out to destroy decadent institutions."
- H. Rap Brown, African-American activist
Hip-hop was radicalized from its roots. It gives Black people of all classes a powerful voice. Everyone else benefits by proximity, but this tradition belongs to us.
Rap is the diasporic descendant of percussive string groups and deep bass drums, call-and-response in Senegambian Hausa villages, to Shona people in southern Africa.
Poets battle hopelessness by building upon legacies like the Last
Poets, Wole Soyinka, Roxane Shante and Grandmaster Flash.
So continues a global anti-supremacist rebellion. Rap is life with artistic flair and unapologetic introspection.
Some revolutions have warriors at the frontlines. They have also been musicians and rhyme-slayers.
Social chaos made this political spoken word, and it's stayed that way. Akala is one of those MC's who channels freedom itself in his music.
The rapper collaborated with Tokio Aoyama on a graphic novel about imperialism's demise. The Ruins of Empire is an alternative-historical glimpse into past civilization.
"Guided by the wise oversights of The Genius, a divine feminine spirit or ancestor, The Knowledge Seeker is catapulted into different historical moments." (Soul Heights)
The Grenfell Tower tragedy is a terribly preventable loss of life, spawned from classist warfare.
Akala gave a heated interview June 15, 2017.
"It was an eyesore for the rich people, so they put paneling-pretty paneling on the outside so the rich people opposite wouldn't have to look at a horrendous block."
The come-up is deserved for Alsace, a veteran femcee who's been rhyming since childhood. But it hasn't been easy.
"Some artists choose to stay in the lane of the LGBT community. I refuse to stay in that lane or any lane. My music is too universal.
"I have felt that I have been unfairly charged because some artists are ‘prettier’ than I am, that people will give those artists shows or sign them before they’d look at me—and I do feel like it is because I am a lesbian." (Dallas Observer) Does that stop her from reaching the masses? Hell no.
"With everything going on in the world, it's no ignoring the pain that is being played right on the televisions and internet circuits of the world. But this pain is a reality for so many African-Americans in America." (x)
From Cryptic Conundrum
1977 is Ana Tijoux's first album, and the year that her parents (Chilean activists in the Pinochet days) emigrated to France. She found her voice there among other rappers of color who also left their homelands because of colonialism's aftermath.
'Cacerolazo' is the relentless, energetic hit for Chile's latest movement to stop Pinera, complicity and corruption in leadership (Pitchfork).
And 'Antifa Dance'? This new banger is as unfiltered as you would expect. After all, Ana is the daughter of revolution. Rap is all about political power.
Ana Tijoux: The Personal and the Political
(LA Times, 08-23-12)
Rakeeya "Angel" Haze is a barrier-breaking rapper. They identify beyond the Western gender binary as Afro-Indigenous two-spirited, and weave social justice into rap perfectly.
"If they're [people are] too afraid to break out of the boxes that society places them in, then we'll forever be stagnant." (The Guardian)
Haze's journey through religion, domestic violence, struggling artists, abuse, depression, inequality and LGBT rights has been a tough one.
Angel doesn't consider religion to be a generally positive force, if 'Resurrection'
is any autobiography. They talk about Christianity's effect on their lives
"Knowing what Christians or the world may perceive as wrong, is a part of me. I fight myself sometimes. When I was young I didn't understand what was going on.
I didn't understand that I could be attracted
to men and women at the same time. I went through a lot of shit.
It really takes a toll on you. I think religion is very toxic.
Spirituality though, I'm completely synchronized with that, and I think definitely it'll be on display a lot in my new music." (Billboard) Haze also supports upcoming artists in the rap scene who haven't made their identity public.
"I think there's room in hip-hop for tons of gay rappers. I'm sure there's already loads of them who are too scared to come out." (x)
"It's not about anything other than that we are all energies connected with a force that's greater than us. It's an energy that's omniscient, it covers the whole world." (x)
They are proof that healing is not linear, and music can be a key part of it for many.
"We’re barricading the streets
We’re stopping these buses
Here nobody passes
Even the shops are closed"
But he was arrested and called in for questioning (Freemuse). He was inciting violence, the prosecutors said, even though Azagaia spoke about state brutality itself.
"Only debts fall from the sky, but there is no heartache
The people always pay for the choices they make
The price of war and also the price of peace
The price of rice and also the price of gas" (Letras)
Mozambique's social intervention rap (CNN, 07-22-13)
They're thrash-core, a raw perspective on American crises. It's no bullshit with Body Count. Ice-T formed the band after leaving N.W.A. in 1989.
It combines brutal imagery and shock tactics. Body Count was gangsta-death rap at its grittiest. Their frontman is right on one account: "Body Count is grindhouse. We’re ultra-violent, ultra-graphic sexually, but to the point of humor."
There's not much to laugh about when you meditate on the words. Body Count can jump from trap life and booze parties to police corruption in a second.
"Cop Killer" is their biggest controversy. Even the President had words for it. Every Body Count song show America's true dark side.
In '92 Los Angeles, police had only just disbanded the anti-gang program that ironically increased community violence: CRASH.
Rodney King had been brutally attacked by several officers that year too. Although the Dead Kennedys' "Police Truck" and Black Flag's "Police Story" have similar action plans, neither were as straightforward as 'Cop Killer'.
He's threatening terror, but there come the terrorists
The news said the theory even if it's a lie
You cannot sleep on the big New Orleans bounce and radical swagger of Freedia. She's killin' it' in her city's signature style, which gets little love from most hip-hop heads. It all started as a back-up dancer for another bounce rapper and close friend, Katey Red.
Katrina hit the beloved Crescent City, and tore her house apart, but not her faith or family. And New Orleans' restoration, its rich culture and incredible people became a worldwide focal point (Fuse). You can read more in her memoir, God Save the Queen Diva.
Big Freedia is a talented musician who brought hometown sound and held it down during the worst parts.
"I said that I wanted to get bounce all around the globe, to make people aware of our culture and what we doing. I think I've done a great job thus far." (Billboard)
Their reality show won a GLAAD award for showcasing her colorful life and bringing us together. We found out today o'clock and fell in love.
Big Freedia is the first voice you hear on Beyonce's 'Formation' (though she was on tour during the video shoot). Rap would not be the same without them. The world would not be the same.
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Big Freedia Is the 21st Century's Ambassador of Freedom (10-30-18)
Brian Is Zé is a Houston rapper who holds their own on the microphone. BiZ makes one thing clear: non-binary terms and agender is important.
They were raised in a church-going family, and their mother sang for choir. Music is genetic. (Outsmart Magazine)
They're adamant that advocating for the LGBTQ community starts in open, chosen expression. Tragedies like Orlando are not hurtful reminders of how far we have yet to come, but learning experiences for all. When they're not solo performing, BiZ is part of The Queer Agenda and DJ Queermo.
"I have become more confident in presenting my gender in different ways, especially being more femme. I picked Brian Is Zé as a backronym for Biz because I think of ze/hir/hirs as the most unapologetic gender-queer pronouns." (Houston Press)
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Brother Ali is lethal on the microphone. Fiery anti-imperialist wordplay preceded Homeland Security's freeze on his bank account. He dissects capitalism, centrist politics and "high-class" society like it's easy.
"Welcome to the united Snakes/
Land of the thief, home of the slave/
Grand imperial guard where
the dollar is sacred/
Smoke and mirrors, stripes and stars
Stoner for the cross in the name of God
Bloodshed, genocide, rape and fraud
Written to the pages of the law, good lord"
'Letter to my Countrymen (feat. Cornel West)'
"This is not a practice life/
This is the big game, we got to attack it right/
Each one of us is headed for the grave
This old crooked world won't be saved by the passive type"
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Oakland has been home to revolutionaries since Native American tribes resisted colonialism in the Bay and surrounding area. The Black Panthers had their home base there. Hip-hop's link with leftism is no more clear than The Coup.
They hold their own. Boots Riley is super-sharp when it comes to America's hardball. He directed the phenomenal satire Sorry to Bother You about a Black call center employee Cassius who becomes a median between corporate oppression and material comfort in an alternate reality. Sorry has recently been considered one of last decade's top 10 class warfare films (ScreenRant). Watch this.
"The purpose of the military is to protect corporate interests. Any military for any government is gonna serve whoever runs that system. Here in the US, it's the capitalist, the ruling class and the multinational corporations. The military are the guns that allow these companies to keep making their money.
For example, the FRAPH organization and Emanuel Constant in Haiti was funded by Nestle and the Spaulding baseball company. The terrorism that the US perpetrates all over the world has to do with profits." (Davey D)
"Economics is the symphony
Of hunger and theft
Mortar shells often echo out
The cashing of checks
In Geography class, its borders,
Mountains and rivers
But they will never show the line between the takers and givers"
Boots Riley Wants You to Strike (Vulture, 07-06-18)
Riley's Rhymes and Revolutionary Philosophy (Truth-Out, 08-08-15)
Political Hip-Hop Band The Coup Refuses to Hold Back (Madison, 11-23-12)
" I don’t give a fuck! I’m fuckin' me."
The genre-less L.A. rapper Makonnen Sheran is setting trends in hip-hop left and right. He's collaborated with the most prominent names while keeping true to himself. There is some magnetism about Makonnen.
"I’m from the southside [of Atlanta], and the biggest motherfuckers in the game is fucking with me and my music!" (Fader)
"I’m always open to working with artists but I know where I’m at: I’m an urban trap artist that came out as gay. A lot of people choose not to come by my light anymore, so I just sit here with it on, waiting for the strong one to come through saying, “It doesn’t matter what they say about me under your light. I have my own light.” (Complex)
""The world is changing, right? Everybody know I'm gay and shit, so it's like, I might as well go ahead and make my little announcement to the world."
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Nothing in the World Sounds Like Makonnen (The Fader, 06-17-19)
iRAWniQ is a perfect example of how Christianity can't truly change you. Ris Anderson is an "UNAPOLOGETIC GENDERFLUID" rapper of another time (x). She wins you over one alternative song at a time.
Black Girls on Skateboards captured their feelings as an outsider to the scene. iRAWniQ went one step further with the personal exploration in Alien Pu$.
"Alien Pu$ is an intimate encounter with a woman for the first time. More of a celebration...freedom...awareness...security.
It’s not only about being one with yourself but being able to make someone else feel comfortable with themselves. I’ve had my share of chicks that I’ve made feel comfortable." (HuffPost)
She performed at Mothership Women's Festival, a gender-fluid retreat, musical concert and workshop in 2014 that hosts feminist events.
"HER/LA is a really cool little society in the feminist realm of L.A. We’re rad-ass bitches and we can make shit happen." (LA Weekly)
Motherhood is a facet of her life that's seen through rose-tinted lenses. She understands the difficulties to come in the Trump administration.
"I try to advocate and show people the importance of activism for animals and how important animals are to the community. I'm queer, openly queer, so women's rights are important. To be a gay minority woman with a kid, a single mom, I'm on the lower end of the totem pole. Revolution evolves. It's strength in numbers.
The more that people stand together and say, "Hey, I'm not going to deal with this bullshit, I'm not going to be ashamed of being a black gay woman in America".
The more that we take a stand and have conversations about it, the more it will be at the forefront." (Lenny Letter) Why is hip-hop so powerful?
"I love hip hop. It’s a culture. It’s a movement. It’s freedom and expression to say and rap about whatever we wanna say and rap about. I am an expressive, eclectic, openly gay female with bars and a conscience. I’m unafraid to express my gender and sexual identity and present day makes it so much easier to be true to one’s self." (MySpace)
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Jasiri X is a revolutionary because he asks the unflinching truth: who are the real gangstas? This Pittsburgh native is a passionate and seasoned rapper. He's been involved in activism and MC'ing since the '90's. The anti-violence organization 1Hood is one of its kind.
He also is part of the political Kill Switch with Rhymefest, and traveled through Colombia to make their album (Sankofa). Jasiri and Rhymefest reported on U.S. drug policies' cause and effect of a global drug war.
"The condition of our communities, the condition of the country, the plight of young people of color, these are the things I’m most concerned about." (The Olympian)
"Even though we’re in this very perilous time in American history, ultimately, good will win. Ultimately, righteousness will triumph. So I approach my work with that thought in mind and with a level of fearlessness and believing that if I’m striving to good things with the right motivation and the right intentions, I’ll get the right results."
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The prophetic producer, rapper and philosopher-historian KRS-One (Knowledge Reigns Supreme Over Nearly Everyone) rocked Earth with 'South Bronx', 1986. He was born Lawrence Parker.
Boogie Down Productions rose to hip-hop fame with DJ Scott La Rock, Derrick "D-Nice" Jones. The former was a social worker at their local Bronx shelter, KRS-One stayed there. Destiny was reverted when La Rock's life ended abruptly after the first vinyl. It's one of the genre's most controversial passings, and still unsolved (Time).
KRS-One kept it real from inception, with timeless realism and accurate attacks on supremacy.
of da Police'
Be a officer? You wicked overseer!
Ya hotshot, want to get props and be a savior
First show a little respect, change your behavior
Change your attitude, change your plan
There could never really be justice on stolen land
Enjoy KRS-One's classic lecture and Q&A about hip-hop's ontology from YouTube.
He's taught Black History Month master-classes at UCLA (Twitter). You wanna talk about griots? KRS-One, IS one.
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The partner-duo Krudas Cubensi Olivia Prendes and Odaymara Cuesta has made amazing art since 2001! They're queer feminist MC's, educators and organizers from Cuba.
Recently, they collaborated with
Diles, Brand Nubian, Sadat X, Simatic and more
in a tribute to late
rapper Wake Self (who appeared posthumously). Krudas Cubensi were also invited to a
January 2019 meeting with fellow
Afro-Cuban feminist Myrna Padrón and Casa Tomada Mirarte on LGBTQIA
identity on the island (IPS).
Translated: "We share with Cuban hip-hop artists from the diaspora and also with Colombian and Cuban experiences working on the transformation, queer culture in life and art," said Padrón. Keep up with them!
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Krudas Cubensi, símbolo de la comunidad cubana LGTBI, actuaron en La Habana
Rap duo Krudas Cubensi gives queer Afro-Cubans a voice (PRI, 3-22-16)
They're an underground MC who went unintentionally mainstream after 'Obama Nation' and the UK Muslim Scare. He spoke out against social engineering, evil politics and invasive bigots in power...you know which ones.
Artivist rapper Lowkey returns to the stage (Al Araby, 09-26-16)
The fierce and proudly New York rapper Rosa Isabel Rayos is one of my favorites.
Performance art blends into abstract, avant-garde hip-hop with no set lines between feminine and masculine themes. They've walked London fashion runways, and dropped a ruthless freestyle more than once.
Some idols are the bodybuilding queen Adrienne-Joi Johnson, Grace Jones, hardcore rappers and NYC's ballroom scene. Jay Boogie has no time for fake power and violence from anyone.
"Are you uncomfortable because I’m so comfortable
Or are you uncomfortable because I don’t fuck with you?"
"Men that think masculinity equals power, men that use their masculinity to intimidate or control. That shit doesn’t work. Masculinity and femininity have nothing to do with courage and strength." (Hunger)
"I consider my artistry a form of activism. It just so happens that my voice is the weapon I use to fight against whatever the battle is." (Miami New Times)
"My ambition is to be able to use my experiences to liberate other people from oppression or lack of diversity. In my scene, I’ve learned that a lot of gay men go through phases where they look at themselves and don’t love themselves because of what they see and hear other people of their kind go through." (Sleek Mag)
"I really want to bring that confrontation to the light through performance. My intentions aren't to tamper hip-hop's infrastructure but to contribute to its evolution." (x)
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Mau Power is a incredibly insightful, globally minded rapper from Thursday Island (Torres Strait, Pacific). Mau is a strong indigenous leader representing his homeland's lifestyle in all of his art. To him, fusing Island ideology with hip-hop was a natural move.
"Music governs our storytelling; our survival. Hip hop too comes from the storytelling tradition but in a new forum. I saw it as a culture of hope: hope for people who didn’t have any opportunities..." (SBS)
"The core of what hip-hop started out as was to be a vessel for 'the fifth element', which is knowledge. You transfer that over to Torres Strait culture, the similarities are there." (Green Left)
"I try to continue carrying on the legacy of what our stories are meant to do that's inspire, educate and empower our people."
"Michael Fielding's opening speech [at the London First Origins Festival], he acknowledged what Britain has done in the colonial past. 'Right now a world is lost and trying to find their way.
And they're looking to indigenous cultures - the cultural values and practices, and their knowledge - to try to find a way of peace."
Mau also is a political organizer, and has a radio broadcast speaking on current issues. He even runs hip-hop workshops for youth across Torres Strait (Green Left).
"...Through the art and language of hip-hop we can all relate."
Sounds of the Straits: Mau Power (Soundcloud, 2014)
The French-Kabyle artist (Algerian) raps with a well-informed mind. Médine's songs cover mainstream's void. He deftly breaks down topics from Gaza to Islamophobia, inequality and imperialist wars.
As a former housing project resident, Medine is vocal against France's structured poverty. He makes it a point: stand up to the status quo.
He "wrote first to keep the youth in the housing projects from losing hope and withdrawing from society." (New York Times) This is revolution's foundation: hope, self-determination and mass organization.
"After Charlie Hebdo there was this hunt to shut
people up, to stop people criticising. One of the important things to note about that day
[January 7 2015] is that there were people marching who you could describe
as terrorists, people who’ve been working to restrict Arab freedom of
expression for many years.
World leaders like Netanyahu. Journalists like Caroline Fourest who claim they’re in favour of freedom of expression." (Fact Magazine)
"The Muslim community in France isn’t in a state of victimisation, we are working to improve the situation. I think there’s a danger of seeing every Muslim on a journey to being radicalised."
Medine headlined 2015's Who Is Malcolm X? party at Le Bataclan. The nightclub had been targeted two years before in Paris' terrorist attacks.
Disiz is another French-Muslim rapper, and Who Is Malcolm X? was his brainchild to fundraise a publication on the famous revolutionary.
Giving Voice to France’s Poorest Youth, With Rhymes and Beats (New York Times, 1-20-16)
"That idea of peace and love toward humanity shouldn't be nationalistic or denominational. It should be a chief concern for all mankind."
Mos Def (Yasiin Bey) has been a frontline political artivist since they began. He collaborates with other visionaries like A Tribe Called Red, Jean Grae, Jay Electronica, Diverse and Q-Tip
Ten years ago, Def met with fellow rapper Talib Kweli and NYC Councilman Charles Barron. Their prerogative was to negotiate Assata Shakur's release. The former Black Panther is still exiled to Cuba.
"The facts surrounding her case are indisputable and well-known. People should be more aware of what's going on with her case and the true motivation behind her persecution.
It's a very dangerous time for all Americans when any voice of dissent is this hotly hunted down."
Mos Def has had the same brush with hostile authority himself, in America and South Africa. He's living beyond U.S. borders now.
"As an artist and as a human being, working in the way that I work in the world today…America’s a very challenging place for me. Given the current social, political, economic climate, it’s very difficult." (Radio)
Mos Def and Talib Fight for Exiled Political Activist Assata Shakur (MTV, 5-25-05)
"We [U.S.] will bomb anybody for pretty much anything—especially if it’s a country of color, and they’ve got natural resources." (Mercury News)
"There are far fewer voices representing a Black political agenda in rap now because record companies don’t endorse those types of messages." (San Francisco Bay View) He created his own record label, Guerrilla Funk Records "as a safe haven for artists".
"It’s a musical statement of solidarity–and a much needed united front–against oppression and institutional racism in an age almost devoid of political and social commentary in urban entertainment." (SF Bay View)
Bay Rapper Paris Maintains Firebrand Approach to Hip-Hop (Mercury News, 01-12-16)
Chuck D of Public Enemy is part of Prophets of Rage on Tom Morello's Firebrand label, with members of Cypress Hill and Rage Against the Machine. They're the radical rap-metal collective you always wanted.
"Prophets of Rage came together during the tumultous 2016 election season in the United States. I saw on CNN in the headlines: 'Donald Trump Rages Against the Machine.'
I said 'You may not have that territory. That belongs to us.' So members of RATM, Cypress Hill and Public Enemy came together to confront the injustices, and be the soundtrack for the resistance." (Channel 4)
'Money talks, God walks out the room
See now the news, a billion clicks consume
That fake ass bullshit y'all assume
Ass outta you and me, get the fuck away from me' (YouTube)
Public Enemy was originally
the Bomb Squad on Def Jam, but eventually switched DJ Shocklee and Stephney
out for Professor Griff. They also progressed from more problematic songs
(it took time): 'Sophisticated
Bitch' and 'You're
Gonna Get Yours' from Yo! Bum Rush the
Their discography evolved into a rallying call. PE rapped about class and anti-Black struggle with consistent fury.
It Takes A Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back revolutionized rap's sound in their second record. Public Enemy charged and integrated audiences.
"Make every track political,"
Stephney had demanded. "Statements, manifestos, the whole nine."
Public Enemy saw rock as its
closest ideological twin. "Rap and rock both grew out of black music and they
have the same aggressive, questioning attitude."
"Cost of the holocaust, I'm talkin' 'bout the one still goin' on
I know where I'm from, not dum-diddie-dumb
From the bass motherland,
the place of the drum!
Invaded by the wack diddie wack
Fooled the Black."
'Rebel Without a Pause', like most of Public Enemy, doesn't hide from truth. 'No matter what the name - we're all the same pieces in one big chess game'.
Public Enemy galvanized the world with an age-old objective: 'Fight the Power', featured iconically in Spike Lee's Do the Right Thing. 'By the Time I Get to Arizona', they challenged state officials' complicity in racism (inc. John McCain). (LA Times)
Chuck D is still advocating
for something better: "My ideal America is where everybody accepts each other
on equal terms, but that is a fantasy until we restructure a system
that has been designed to take advantage of people."
He spoke on the underlying threat to liberty in 2013. "I also think governments have always had a historical tendency to split people up, categorize them, and put them in compartments."
Fighting the power is still
on Public Enemy's agenda.
"Public Enemy changed everything about Black America. They made Farrakhan popular,” Def Jam founder Russell Simmons admitted. "They helped make the Million Man March...they were amazing." (All Hip-Hop)
Queen Latifah has been kicking rap's ass since her All Hail the Queen debut in 1993.
Her hit debut 'Ladies First' reintroduced Black womanism to a new hip-hop generation
Strong heroines like Winnie Mandela and Angela Davis get their props. She is forever a relevant woman.
We are the ones to give birth
To the new generation of prophets
'Cause it's ladies first!
"I'm divine and my
mind expands throughout the universe
A female rapper with the message to send
Queen Latifah is a perfect specimen" (Genius)
And who can forget the bad-ass warrior call for U.N.I.T.Y.? Latifah the leftist!
When Black Feminism Faces the Music, and the Music Is Rap(New York Times, 07-29-90)
Rainbow Noise Entertainment is Cee Smith's finished project after brushing shoulders with mainly male music labels: a lesbian-owned label. You heard that right.
Stud Phamous and Cee Smith
Phame is about recognition for her craft, and would like to be known for what she is.
"My dream is to be one of the greatest lesbian artists. Our mission involves a non-compromising approach to presenting positive images of LGBT entertainers in multiple arenas." (Vada)
Since 2010, Rainbow Noise made it their mission to highlight LGBTQ artists and performers. They've got a message for aspiring creators who don't conform.
"You don’t have to change who you are to be successful! You don’t have to compromise yourself when reaching for your goals." (x)
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Säye Skye is an Iranian rapper who is a fierce advocate for human rights and the LGBT community.
"I’m the first person who sang about LGBQT in all history of Iran. I sang...for Tehran’s lesbian population." (x) Säye found that being open about himself became dangerous at the time.
Säye unflinchingly brings trans rights, women's rights, child labor and intolerance to the forefront. Their identity and activism led to refugee status in Toronto today. Violence has followed them, unfortunately.
CONTENT WARNING: A July 2018 attack hasn't stopped Säye, and it shed light on a compassionless Canada when trans safety is threatened. They deserve a better response. (CBC)
"I live my queer life very visibly and I try to be proud of myself, and as hard as it is with all the stares and everything, I try to live a true life and maybe that's an obvious thing for people to notice that I'm queer."
"In rap music, you can talk about everything. You don’t have any limitations...I'm using my power, everything that I have, just to make a change. Even so little in this world.
My goal is to make my music appeal to the Iranian community primarily, as well as international audiences that enjoy social justice-inspired music."
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Five Minutes with Toronto Musician Säye Skye
Toronto Arts Foundation Celebrates Newcomer Artists
The hip-hop group are South African anti-capitalists from Cape Town. Anele, Khusta (now deceased), Milliha, Monde and Sipho organize for progressive power. SOS back debates and other justice initiatives.
"It’s very interesting how Cape Town hip hop stays socially conscious," Sipho says (Africa's A Country). SOS's songs speak to resurging oppression across Africa, and the world.
Soundz are a revolutionary rap coalition. The South Africa #FeesMustFall student protests? SOS dedicated a song to them. Monde: "We’re taking whatever is out there and bring it closer to those who can’t reach it."
Anele: "It demystifies big issues and brings politics back to the people."
Truly radical hip-hop. SOS supports the Farmworkers Union too.
"We’re doing what we’re doing, to make people realise they’re in chains. They are working and creating wealth for others to enjoy."
Soundz of the South created Afrikan Hip-Hop Caravan, with Uhuru Network and other African activists, to give repressed rappers a platform. An annual Hip-Hop Concert and Conference are set up in each African city hosting the caravan.
2015's centered on refugees, a global look at Black oppression: U.S. police brutality, South African and European xenophobia and more. SOS dismisses corporate funding, and fake branding.
"We don’t make songs for the radio", Anele clarified. Check them out!
South Africa's Anarchist Hip-Hop Collective
She's the rap-soulstress of The Internet and Odd Future. Syd's been turning heads in more than one way.
"Being gay is normal. These days I'm not shying away from those kinds of topics. I do want to inspire people, young girls who may want to wear boys' clothes." (Billboard)
She's an inspiration for self-taught guitar and percussion skills too. Anything that you're willing to practice, like Bob Ross said, you can do. She met Odd Future that way while spending time in a South Central home studio (The Guardian).
Syd wanted more after touring with them. She faced major depression and doubt in her self till recently. It's interesting that they are apolitical despite their queer identity, but constant pressure to resist IS difficult. Not every artist is overt about the change they want to see. Some rappers use escapism as a catalyst like Syd.
"I think the best thing we can do as young black adults with a following is just lead by example. I guess I tend to turn my head away from a lot of political talk." (The Guardian)
They were on the Queen Slim soundtrack as well. Queen Slim delved into police brutality and Black American liberation during our time.
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"I was a very early pioneer in openly masculine, gay hip-hop."
"I'm a hip-hop jock type. When I came out, a lot of them didn't have a reference to what a masculine, basketball-playing, hip-hop [guy] would be doing being gay.
"Black gay identity can be political. It can be masculine. It can be a lot of different things", like leading LGBTQIA community initatives as Teach America managing director (profile).
Tim'm West and the Masculine Mystique (The
Queer activist and rapper Tim'm West Challenges the Norm
We wouldn't leave out A Tribe Called Quest (even if the Grammys did, for reasons we all know). They are Q-Tip, Ali Shaheed Muhammad, Phife Dawg and formerly Jarobi White representin' from Queens.
The latter left to pursue their own thing after the first album, People's Instinctive Travels and the Paths of Rhythm. This audial gem featured 'Luck of Lucien' and 'I Left My Wallet in El Segundo' that foreshadowed ATCQ's more hardcore, introspective themes in later tracks.
The Low End Theory solidified A Tribe Called Quest's place as legends. We got classic after classic: 'Check the Rhime', The storytelling style in 'Excursions' alludes to Malian jelis, jazz masters and doo-woppers who kept Black history alive in their voices. This is the one which samples Umar Bin-Hassan's radical reverberation from 1970's The Last Poets, Harlem spoken wordsmiths, hip-hop's recent parents alongside Gil Scott-Heron and more (The Guardian).
"Time, time is a ship on a merciless sea
Drifting toward an abyss of nothingness
Until it can be recharted for its own destiny
Time is an inanimate object
Paying and paying and paying for no justification for belief..." (Genius)
They reunited in 2006 after a 1998 split, touring together off and on for seven years (XXL Mag). Phife Dawg passed away in 2016 from diabetic complications (Vulture) after A Tribe Called Quest's last albumWe Got It From Here, Thank You For Your Service. 'We The People' harnessed 20 years of musical knowledge and social power into one song.
"All you Black folks, you must go
All you Mexicans, you must go
And all you poor folks, you must go
Muslims and gays
Boy, we hate your ways
So all you bad folks, you must go
The fog and the smog of news media that logs
False narratives of Gods that came up against the odds" (Lyrics)
The title was chosen by Phife, and is prophetic now that he blessed the recording mission with his final days and hip-hop soul. Q-Tip has respectfully called it quits without Phife. Their legacy stands as it is.
Phife was his name but on stage, call him Dynamite (a Midnight Marauders, 'Award Tour' reference).
Tupac Shakur was an outspoken artist. He is named after 17th-century Incan revolutionary leader, Túpac Amaru II who laid groundwork for Peruvian resistance.
His mother was Afeni Shakur, famed Black Panther who loved her community and son, and beat a 1971 conspiracy trial. Assata Shakur is his aunt: another bad-ass leader from BPP, and a known political refugee.
"I have not brought violence to you. I have not brought ‘thug life’ to America. I didn’t create ‘thug life’, I diagnosed it..." (The Independent)
2Pac prophetically said before his death in 1996: "I'm not saying I’m gonna rule the world or I’m gonna change the world, but I guarantee you that I will spark the brain that will change the world." (The Independent)
Ya Head Up'
"You know, it's funny, when it rains it pours
They got money for wars but can't feed the poor..." (Genius)
Maya Angelou's Conversation with Tupac Shakur
Five Other Tupac Shakur Interviews You Should Hear (Complex, 03-18-15)
Tupac Shakur: Liberation Theologian for Our Times (Sojourners, 07-12-10)
Its momentum has fluctuated, but presence still felt across the country.
Decades-old dictatorship is threatening new generations, long after Kilifeu and Thiat first made artistic activism during student strikes...and paid the price in a state-sponsored attack. They criticized the town mayor.
Does music empower and accompany uprising? Absolutely. So the show went on.
Rap is in corporate interest to control, and politicians like Trump actively challenge MC's who rival them (Billboard). Secret Service will let you know that your impact is working. Rap returns to its original purpose because a new world's coming. How will it take shape?
Will change follow a wave of violence and suppression? Or will it mainly be nonviolent? Metal and rap are the strongest genres of revolutionary music. It is time to use them and break the chains, the best way we can.
Queer Black Artists and Their Quest for Visibility (Dig Magazine, 02-07-20)