Posted by Billyjam, February 22, 2010 04:06pm | Post a Comment

The Last Poets
From its early days, hip-hop has been closely interrelated with black history and culture. Hip-hop is really a continuum of many previous black art forms. Rapping or MC'ing, for example, is merely carrying on a tradition of various oratorical forms in black history that include West African griots, talking blues, the sharp verbal flow of 1950's & 1960's hipster-jive talking radio DJs, the spoken word of artists like The Last Poets and Gil Scott Heron, and of course, the toasting style in reggae. Additionally, hip-hop music, through both its lyrical content and its endless sampling, is responsible for teaching black history in a non traditional way.

Thanks to hip-hop's ubiquitous sampling of such historical black figures as Malcolm X and Martin Luther King Jr. (especially in the 80's and 90's), many young people first learned about the philosophies of these black leaders and black history in general. One of the earliest popular hip-hop songs to sample Malcolm X was Keith La Blanc's "Malcolm X - No Sell Out" 1983 single on Tommy Boy that utilized absolutely no rapping, just samples of the black leader speaking. In later years most hip-hop artists sampled bits of Malcolm X to Malcolm Xcompliment the emcee's message. In 1988 Public Enemy's politically charged album It Takes A Nation Of Millions To Hold Us Back opened with a powerful Malcolm X sample.

Also released in 1988, BDP's By All Means Necessary album may not have sampled Malcolm X, but it sure embodied his spirit, from the LP's title, which was a play on Malcolm X's famous quote "By any means necessary," to its cover art, which showed KRS-One reenacting a famous Malcolm X pose. Meantime, on his 1990 debut album The Devil Made Me Do It (Tommy Boy), San Francisco emcee Paris (aka "the Black Panther of Rap") not only sampled Malcolm X but also included historical data about Malcolm X in the album's extensive liner notes as well as information about such other historical black political leaders as Nat Turner, public enemyMarcus Garvey, Huey Newton, Bobby Seale and the Black Panther Party.

Below are several classic era hip-hop videos that presented the black perspective, including Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five's landmark hit "The Message" on Sugarhill Records -- the extremely popular 1982 single that was the first crossover pop rap release to address, with no sugar-coating, the harsh struggles of inner city life for many black Americans. Also below are the videos for Public Enemy's 1991 confrontational single "By The Time I Get To Arizona" and Run DMC performing their uplifting pro-black history rap lesson "Proud To Be Black," which appeared on their 1986 album Raising Hell (Profile) as well as the B-side to the single "It's Tricky."

Also from 1986 is Stetsasonic's "A.F.R.I.C.A." (aka "Free South Africa"). Around that same time the omnipresent Artists United Against Apartheid movement released the single "Sun City" and along with many rock and pop artists, it also featured such rap acts as Afrika Bambaataa, Mele-Mel, The Fat Boys, Run DMC, and Kurtis Blow.

Grand Master Flash & the Furious Five "The Message" (1982)

"Malcolm X No Sell Out" Keith La Blanc (1983)

Run DMC "Proud To Be Black" (1986)

Stetsasonic "Free South Africa" (1986)

Public Enemy "By the Time I Get to Arizona" (1991)

Arrested Development "Tennessee" (1992)

Dead Prez "Hip Hop" (2000)

Shadow Tha 1st "Hip Hop Ballad (No Need For Black History)" (2008)


Relevant Tags

Black History Month (134), Malcolm X (7), Public Enemy (42), Paris (22), Krs-one (20)