Are Today’s Hip-Hop Artists Still Pushing for Social Change? Lindsay Guion Weighs In

Lindsay Guion
May 30, 2019 · 3 min read

Most individuals are aware that music, just like poetry and visual arts, has been utilized by artists throughout human history to advocate for social change, educate the public on important social issues and communicate the pain and jubilation of the fight for these types of changes.

From songs about freedom sung by slaves in the American South to those written by Bob Dylan and other freethinkers during the U.S. Civil Rights Movement, artists have sought to share the voice of those without one and to push our leaders and our communities towards social awareness and positive action. Prominent New York City record and film producer as well as Founder, Chairman, and CEO of GUION PARTNERS INC, Lindsay Guion discusses the current state of hip-hop.

Hip-Hop as a Political Tool

The hip-hop genre has been political since it began, created as a powerful messenger, delivering to mainstream audiences information on sensitive topics like racism, segregation, women’s and reproductive rights, the effect of being ‘black in America’ and violence (both at home and abroad).

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“But we Americans gettin’/sick and tired of this political gong show/So we’re sendin’ our message over to Iran: let our people go/Now we been pushed around a lot but we’re not afraid of war/And Iran, your little cat and mouse game has really become a bore.” — Rappers Convention, Harlem World Crew’s

Lindsay Guion claims that we are living in another time of rapid social change and increased social awareness by individuals and elected officials. Are our musicians and artists keeping up with these social changes, by utilizing new communication channels that allow individuals and leaders to communicate one and one, through social media and other digital platforms? Or have they been pushed to the shadows as other social leaders step up, for example the students affected by gun violence in schools that are now successful organizing national change through social media campaigns and in-person events across the country.

Here are a few modern examples of music artists, especially within the hip-hop genre, who are carrying on the tradition of pushing social awareness and activism through music.

  • Kendrick Lamar has used his music to raise social awareness within his community and to help those on the outside better understand the forces that created the environment that he grew up in. In ‘To Pimp a Butterfly’ he shows that growing up in low income communities instills people with habits that tend to have a negative impact on their ability to sustain success. (Source).
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  • Music artists have increased political activism recently, sharing thoughts on social media and campaigning in person for candidates. For example, artists T.I. and Killer Mike campaigned extensively for Stacey Abrams’ Governor’s race in Georgia in 2018. Many artists also support more generally the “get out the vote” campaign started by MTV in its infancy which has gained additional momentum in recent years, with the goal of connecting youth with politics and promoting social action.
  • Kanye West, Common and John Legend’s label the GOOD Music crew has helped break down barriers, infusing commercial and conscious hip-hop and highlighting modern racism in the U.S., for example Kanye tackled racism in ‘Never Let Me Down’ by sharing the story of his grandfather’s experience sitting at a lunch counter in his youth (Source).

The Future of Hip-Hop

Lindsay Guion claims that the hip-hop genre continues to unite political issues with art, bridging the gap between both older and younger generations. Although the genre has changed significantly in the last decade, hip-hop continues to push boundaries.

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