Hip Hop: A Place for Social Commentary?

The genre of Hip Hop takes a lot of blame for promoting violence, sex and drugs but never gets the respect for the good things the music does for society. The popularity of Hip Hop has provided its artists with a large platform for which they can voice their opinions on issues that is going on in society. And so far in Hip Hop’s short history a majority of the bigger well none artists have taken advantage of the large platform and voiced their opinions on several different topics.For example, Kanye West, (when he’s not having rants and crashing award shows) uses his platform to address issues that’s going on in the world. A great example of Kanye West social commentary is displayed in the music video for his 2005 hit “Diamonds From Sierra Leone” (which can be seen below) 

The issues of “blood diamonds” and how African mine workers work hard just so the rest of the world can enjoy the diamonds is being brought up in this music video. For example at the 1:50 mark A man proposes to his girlfriend and soon after he puts the the ring on her finger the woman’s hand start to bleed while an African girl is in the background. That scene is so powerful because when we get these items like diamonds we are happy and excited but if we ever know where these items come from and the struggles that these items cause to people we wouldn’t really want to purchase them as much. If you listen to the song Kanye doesn’t really address the issue but he does so in the music and the song title and I think that is a more effective way to do it. The visual forces you to see whats going on in Sierra Leone instead of just rapping about it and hoping the audience gets what he is saying. In Kanye’s defense he does have a remix to the song where he does talk about the issue Sierra Leone but it wasn’t a single so there was no visual to it. The remix can be heard here : 

In the remix Kanye addresses the situation in Sierra Leone more in his raps with lines like :The diamonds, the chains, the bracelets, the charmses/I thought my Jesus Piece was so harmless’/til I seen a picture of a shorty armless. In that line you can see how we are unaware of the some of the happenings in our pursuit to acquire diamonds and other luxury possessions.

The answer to the question if Hip Hop is a place for social commentary would be a yes. While some may argue that Kanye is the only rapper mainstream” to discuss issues in society they would be wrong as artist such as Tupac who wrote songs that include “Brenda’s got a baby” ( a song about teenage pregnancy), “Keep your head up”, (a song about different issues like rape and poverty).  Both videos can be seen below.

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