Hip Hop: A Vehicle for Positive Change (plus ticket giveaway!)

We recently posted an editorial criticizing the negative cultural effects of gangsta rap’s bravado and glamorization of thug life (“The Game’s Game Is Lame”).  There are, however, always two sides of the coin.  With that in mind, we wanted to draw some attention to the ways rap and hip hop are acting as a positive force in society.  Additionally, we’re giving reader a chance to win tickets to see a high-quality hip hop performance from Del The Funky Homosapien!




CNN recently ran a great piece featuring Common.  The Chicagoan rapper spoke about how recent political changes are bound to affect the genre in an exciting way in the coming years.



“I think hip-hop artists will have no choice but to talk about different things and more positive things, and try to bring a brighter side to that because, even before Barack, I think people had been tired of hearing the same thing.” — Common


Students in New York have been taking an intellectual approach to their interpretation of hip hop and rap.  Read an interview with these forward-thinking scholars here.

Danny Tejada and Mike Thomas, co-founders

Danny Tejada and Mike Thomas, co-founders of Skidmore College's Hip Hip Alliance

“I was disappointed in what I was hearing, in terms of images and music, the hyper-masculinity and homophobia. It was degrading. It was becoming less complex…It kind of made the people around me simple as well. As a teenager, you’re going through a lot, but if hip-hop is your main source of information and it’s dumbing down and you don’t have a great education to begin with, it’s destructive.” — Mike Thomas, co-founder of Skidmore College’s Hip Hop Alliance


Darryl “DMC” McDaniels’ new “Kings of Rap” reality show will draw attention to artists who create music with a positive message.

Darryl "DMC" McDaniels

Darryl "DMC" McDaniels

“The spirit of hip hop was always about changing the world or yourself, not with a gun or with denigrating or offensive words, but by being effective with your mind. This is a time when everyone is talking about change, and we as a country have the opportunity to make a difference.” –Darryl “DMC” McDaniels




Hip hop lyrics are so often blamed for corrupting young, impressionable minds.  Certainly, there is a lot of negativity out there.  However, in many cases this is a matter of simply reporting truth in art rather than sensationalism.  It’s a measure of true talent when an artist can give insight to their experiences with an intelligent, witty, or inventive approach.  Here are a few lines to consider.  What hip hop lyrics do you identify with?


“The Florida-based political rap duo Dead Prez consists of Stic.man and M-1, a pair of rappers inspired by revolutionaries from Malcolm X to Public Enemy. They immersed themselves in political and social studies as they forged their own style of hip-hop.” –John Bush, allmusic.com

Dead Prez

Dead Prez

“My mind is the place where I make my plans

The world is the place where I take my stand

The beauty of life is mine today

They cannot take my mind away…”

–Dead Prez, “Psychology”


“The Stop the Violence Movement was formed by rapper KRS-One in 1988/1989 in response to violence in the hip hop and black communities.  During a concert by Boogie Down Productions and Public Enemy a young fan was killed in a fight. Coming soon after the shooting death of his friend and fellow BDP member Scott La Rock, KRS-One was galvanized into action and formed the Stop the Violence Movement. Comprised of some of the biggest stars in contemporary East Coast hip hop, the movement released a single, ‘Self Destruction’, in 1989, with all proceeds going to the National Urban League.”

–excerpt from the band’s Wikipedia entry

KRS-One, of Stop The Violence Movement

KRS-One, of Stop The Violence Movement

“The only thing left is the memories of our belated

and I hate it, when

Someone dies and gets all hurt up

For a silly gold chain by a chump; WORD UP

It doesn’t make you a big man, and

To want to go out and dis your brother man, and

You don’t know that’s part of the plan

Why? Cause rap music is in full demand…”

–Stop The Violence Movement, “Self Destruction”


“In the span of a few years, from 2001 to 2004, Kanye West went from hip-hop beatmaker to worldwide hitmaker, as his stellar production work for Jay-Z earned him a major-label recording contract as a solo artist. Soon his beats were accompanied by his own witty raps on a number of critically and commercially successful releases. West’s flamboyant personality also made a mark. He showcased a dapper fashion sense that set him apart from most of his rap peers, and his confidence often came across as boastful or even egotistic, albeit amusingly.”

–Jason Birchmeier, allmusic.com

Kanye West

Kanye West

“I ain’t no Kennedy

But I’m hood rich

So I say my way to thank you to the ghetto

And everybody else, thank you very little

I took the road less traveled, the unbeaten path

I’ve been beatin’, but never brokin’ through the darkest past

It’s sort of like when King spoke and said we free at last

Ain’t nothin’ free from that point, though…”

–Kanye West, “My Way”


“Lead Fugees rapper and sometime guitarist Wyclef Jean was the first member of his group to embark on a solo career, and he proved even more ambitious and eclectic on his own. As the Fugees hung in limbo, Wyclef also became hip-hop’s unofficial multicultural conscience; a seemingly omnipresent activist, he assembled or participated in numerous high-profile charity benefit shows for a variety of causes, including aid for his native Haiti. The utopian one-world sensibility that fueled Wyclef’s political consciousness also informed his recordings, which fused hip-hop with as many different styles of music as he could get his hands on (though, given his Caribbean roots, reggae was a particular favorite).”

–Steve Huey, allmusic.com

Wyclef Jean

Wyclef Jean

“Instead of spendin’ billions on the war,

I could use that money so I can feed the poor.

Cause I know some so poor, when it rains that’s when they shower

Screamin’ ‘Fight the power!’

That’s when the vulture devours…”

–Wyclef Jean, “If I Was President”


Want to see some great hip hop right here in Madison?  Check out The Stones Throw Tour featuring Peanut Butter Wolf on Wednesday night at the High Noon Saloon!  Tickets are available here.

And if you happen to like your hip hop with a side of tasty FREE TICKETS, you’ve come to the right place! We’re giving our readers a chance to win a pair of tickets to Del The Funky Homosapien’s May 9th show at the High Noon Saloon!  If you want ’em, you have to tell us who you think the world’s funkiest homosapien truly is, and what they do to make the world a better place. Leave your comment by 6:00 pm on Thursday, the 30th–we’ll announce a winner right here on the blog!


There are so many ways that rap and hip hop have served as a vehicle for positivity in communities around the world.  How has the genre affected you?  What artists and topics are especially important to you?  Leave your thoughts below!

5 Responses

  1. Nice post!

  2. Kudos on the article. I think that one of the primary things that listeners(consumers) have to begin to understand is that there is a difference between hip hop and rap. In my opinion, rap is the physical act of presenting idea through song. With that being said, big business has made it a point to capitalize on worldly music, aka ghetto fabulous cuts, songs that don’t require much and a “flavor of the month” notion. Within the last 10 years what we’ve seen is a heavy saturation of bravado rap due to the idea of a lifestyles of the rich and famous world. What happened was the bigger and better lifestyle trickled down from the burbs to the hood and most big music corporations looked strictly at the economic payday of pushing mindless material. This is in part because of the results of the “got to have it now” ideology that Regeanomics created on the 80’s. The sad part of this is that often times youth got caught up in the hype and big business took no responsibility in being a vehicle for positive influence. However, there has always been a force that has been a tool to reach the people and is of the people, hip hop. Hip hop is a discipline deep rooted in love. When kats like Afrika Bab\mbata and Kool Herc and Grandmaster Flash coined the idea of hip hop, it was out of love and the desire to change through one of the strongest forms of influence, music. As our country has changed over the last 20 years, so has the music, but, there are artist in the industry that believe that the change is bigger than gain($).. Now with that being said, it is the responsibility of those in positions of power(the artists, business people, media, law, etc.) to understand that this phenomena has more to offer than just club banging singles. It is truly a movement for change. As our country is in one of the toughest economic crisis in history, a change is needed. It can be heard in the voices of hip hop. Those voices aren’t basing their material in materialism. They’re the everyday people that that want to fight for what’s right in their own ways, Lord knows as an artist that what I try to do. Its kind of like the entering of the new presidency, most people were so sick of the former president that they looked beyond the externals to dig into the internals in order to do whats best. Same thing with this music thing, look beyond the simple stuff and you’ll see that this is the primary language of our New America, its time to embrace it so we can properly embrace the belief that a new nation is on the way…..peace!

  3. You know, my first instinct was to choose someone very visible who is doing a lot to improve the world, and then craft my answer so as to portray what they do is “funky” somehow.

    Well, I then thought, “Why?” Why not choose someone who is undeniably funky? After all, making the world a better place doesn’t have to mean helping people feed their families or saving nature; it doesn’t have to mean curing diseases or ending wars.

    Yeah, so other people can choose to believe that the likes of Bono or Madonna, with all their political causes and whatnot, fight to make the world a better place and bring attention to various wrongs while somehow fitting the concept of “funky.” Maybe even sax-playing Bill Clinton…

    Not me. Besides that I don’t believe those people are not that funky, I don’t believe that was the question posed…

    The funkiest homosapien on the planet to me is Lee “Scratch” Perry. I’ll let readers use Google, YouTube, etc. to learn who this great man was and is. After brief research, it should be readily apparent that this man is funky beyond belief; I don’t need to prove that to anyone.

    But, how does Lee make the world a better place? Making the world a better place can mean a lot of things, something as simple as making other people smile and be happy. In Lee’s case, just by still tirelessly touring and making music at the age of 73 (!), he is a testament to the concepts of never giving up and always living life to its fullest. In essence, is there any goals more noble?

    And oh man….is he FUNKY!

    Check it. Dude is freakin’ 73.

  4. “Besides that I don’t believe those people are not that funky, I don’t believe that was the question posed…”

    Please delete “not” in the above sentence that I wrote. And yeah, there’s another mistake near the end. I’m sure you’ll still know what I meant. ^.^

  5. It’s so great to read your thoughts on this! We really appreciate the thoughtful, intelligent comments about an area of music that is often misunderstood.

    Just a note: the contest to win Del The Funky Homosapien tickets is now closed.

    Thanks everybody!

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