The Stuff of 2012: Conscious Hip Hop

In 2012 I spent a lot of time reading about, listening to and defending hip hop. I wanted to sort through the commercial rap, through the decades of bad press and get at the roots of genre: social activism. Lots of people will acknowledge the powerful statements back in the day (Fuck the Police, anyone?) but hip hop's propensity for social justice issues of systemic oppression against African Americans and police profiling and brutality is still alive and well and incorporating new struggles everyday. 2012 saw a pretty massive shift further into "Conscious Hip Hop" with major players tackling some of hip hop and R & B's biggest offences: misogyny and homophobia. Jay Z spoke out against homophobia. Kanye questioned using bitch and Lupe Fiasco attempted to get in on the anti-misogyny with his track Bitch Bad (although he still has a lot of work to do on his perceptions). Frank Ocean wrote a love song (and liner notes) to a male former lover. A$AP Rocky called out homophobia, as well, and spoke about destigmatizing "gay" in hip hop. Snoop called for an end to homophobia in rap.

Newcomer Angel Haze called out rape culture and corrected Lupe Fiasco's mistakes with Bitch Bad with some of the most visceral rhymes I've ever heard. She has positioned herself as an artist to watch with her freshly dropped mixtape Classick. Her version of Bitch Bad (in which she raps over Fiasco's instrumentals) examines the complexities of the word bitch, placing the onus on society and the patriarchy. She raps about how society is set up to make it incredibly easy for women to fall into abusive relationships, focusing on the insidious cycle of abuse. I cannot wait to hear more from her.

My favourite hip hop track of the year, though, goes to Killer Mike's Reagan off his 2012 LP R.A.P Music (one of my favourite albums of the year). In Reagan, Killer Mike drops some serious truths and does not shy away from vitriol. He calls out Reagonomics, the Prison Industrial System, the drug wars, government surveillance and profiling, drone attacks, the American government's commitment to lying, US foreign policy, the Iraq and Afghanistan wars with a special caveat for the upcoming war on Iran, and every president since Reagan (Clinton and Obama included). The track is fearless, harsh and damn catchy. Plus the video is wicked cool.

It was a good year and next year promises to be better.

You'll find the rest of our stuff of 2012 here.

 Photo: Killer Mike from Wikipedia

Alex Snider will talk about hip hop with you anytime. Her website is What Fresh Hell is This and her Twitter handle is @what_freshhell.


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