There’s something unique and special about the art of poetry and it’s ability to open your mind. In the modern age, rap music has become arguably the most popular form of poetry around the world. While rappers write and speak about a variety of topics, the verses that tend to make you think the most are the ones that examine the social conditions around us. To help you open your mind and reflect on society, we share with you our latest playlist: 10 Socially Conscious Hip Hop Songs that Make You Think Deep.
1) Colby and Awu – “Paradigm”
In our song “Paradigm”, we call on listeners to “open up their mind” and see the world differently. Rather than looking at things as “black and white”, our aim is to help everyone see the commonalities we have as human beings. We hope you enjoy our contribution to this list!
2) Common and John Legend – “Glory”
American hip hop recording artist Common teams up with singer/songwriter John Legend to produce an epically conscious song with Glory. The theme song for the 2014 film Selma, Glory highlights the struggles of the African-American community for justice in the United States. Weaving in historical events with present day issues, this song is guaranteed to hit you in the soul.
3) Lecrae – “Welcome to America”
Welcome to America, off of American hip hop artist, songwriter, and record producer Lecrae’s album Anomaly, examines several social, spiritual, and political issues relating to the United States. Lecrae, known for having a socially conscious message, takes a critical look at consumerism, militarism, secularism, and immigration, through the lens of three different characters connected to the United States of America.
4) Akon – “No Labels”
American R&B and hip hop recording artist, songwriter, and record producer, Akon, provides a simple, uplifting message with his song No Labels. Pointing out the seemingly gridlock divide between democrats and republicans in the United States, Akon dreams of a world with No Labels, were politicians would simply do “what’s right for America.”
5) Queen Latifah – “U.N.I.T.Y.”
American singer, songwriter, rapper, and record producer, Queen Latifah is speaking out for the ladies with her socially conscious hit U.N.I.T.Y. Angered by the harsh language often directed at women, Queen Latifah condemns the use of terms like “bitch” and “ho”, to refer to women, and encourages the women of the world to stand up for their dignity.
6) Ludacris ft. Mary J. Blige – “Runaway Love”
American rapper, Ludacris, partners with American singer/songwriter and record producer, Mary J. Blige in a soul-stirring hip hop song that features the story of three early-adolescent girls growing up facing difficult circumstances. Runaway Love draws attention to the abuse, neglect, and sexual exploitation that many young girls face in society, often in their own homes.
7) Michael Franti & Spearhead – “We Don’t Stop”
Renowned for their blend of socially conscious hip hop, rock, funk, and reggae, Michael Franti and Spearhead’s “We Don’t Stop” takes a critical look at the forces of violence and militarism affecting American culture. Pointing out the various wars the United States has embarked on, such as the “war on terror” and “war on drugs”, Franti and Spearhead make the case that there is a war on virtually everything -“they got a war for me, they got a war for you.”
8) Macklemore & Ryan Lewis ft. Mary Lambert – “Same Love”
American hip hop duo based out of Seattle, Washington, Macklemore and Ryan Lewis’s Grammy Award nominee “Same Love” explores a topic that has been on the conscious of many Americans over the past few years. Unofficially adopted as an anthem by supporters of legalizing same-sex marriage, “Same Love” shows the versatility of socially conscious hip hop, offering insight into the hotly debated topic of gay rights.
9) KRS-One – “Sound of da Police”
American rapper and producer KRS-One is a staple in the genre of socially conscious hip hop. In his track “Sound of da Police”, KRS-One explores police brutality, specifically directed to urban black youth, and draws connections between police brutality and the horrors of slavery, juxtaposing police officers and slave plantation overseers.
10) Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five – “The Message”
Old school American hip hop group Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five’s “The Message” is known by many as one of the first socially conscious hip hop songs that hit the mainstream. Rapping about the reality they saw on the streets of New York, Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five touch upon many important social issues, from poverty, violence, drug use, and apathy. With all these struggles in an urban environment, Grandmaster Flash sums it up in the hook, “it’s like a jungle sometimes, it makes me wonder how I keep from goin’ under.”
We hope our socially conscious hip hop playlist has got you thinking more deeply about the world around you and that you’ll add some of these tracks to your music library!
To listen to some more awesome hip hop tracks, check out our playlist of Spiritual Rap: 10 Hip Hop Songs that Explore Religion, God, and Spirituality