The Evolution of Hip-Hop Messages

The 80s changed things.

People stated talking about their skills and how awesome they were.  Pumping themselves up was like a mantra for 80s music.  As battling became mor prevalent, so did the notion of promoting yourself and denigrating the other person.  Seven the tracks that were played on the radio followed a similar vibe.  Think of L.L. Cool J.’s “I’m Bad”, Boogie Down Productions’ “The Bridge is Over”, and almost anything that Big Daddy Kane made.  Sometimes the entire cut was about how good the rapper thought they were.  There would be battle songs released where beefs would play out over the airwaves.  Roxanne Shante and the Real Roxanne’s back and forth was nothing more than a personal pump up for both of them with a little bit of a dis to some random guys dispersed here and there.

Some artists used their platform to discuss political topics and urge enlightenment.  KRS-1 interspersed denigrating lyrics to other crews in with uplifting, Afro-centric messages.  Queen Latifah, dressed in African inspired garb often gave an inspiring message.  Other acts, most notably Public Enemy, infused social activism with music, speaking about the frustrations of the African American community and putting it on vinyl for the world to hear.  Almost everyone can recite a lyric from one of P.E.’s songs.  “Now, I dialed 911 a long time ago…”

Public Enemy in 1987

Public Enemy in 1987. Left to right: Professor Griff, Chuck D, Terminator X and Flavor Flav.
Photo Credit: David Corio/Redferns


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