Rap with consciousness: The best 7 songs to tackle serious issues.

In recent years many argue that mainstream rap and hip hop has declined in both meaning and message, people feel that rap music is all about drugs, money, cars and women. While this may be the case for a lot of tracks, rapping is another form of vocals just like singing. If you can sing about a wide variety of topics, why can’t you rap about them as well? There are some incredible pieces of rap out there that tackle huge issues and go against the grain for what the stereotype of hip-hop is. Here are 7 Rap songs that portray a strong message.

DISCLAIMER: These songs contain strong language from the start. Some scenes in the music videos may be disturbing for some.

Joyner Lucas: Frozen

Tackles dangerous driving

If you know anything about Joyner it’s that he is very good at rapping from other people’s points of view. In this song, Frozen, Joyner raps from the perspective of 3 victims of car accidents, one from texting and driving, one from drink driving and one from speeding. He then goes on to explain from the character’s point of view all the things that they will never do again because of one small mistake. Until this song, road safety had never been approached in this format before, Joyner’s intelligent lyricism mixed with Jade Novah’s vocals make this a song to remember.

Token: Exception

Tackles bullying

Token is a great story telling rapper where he will speak about events as they happen in chronological order. This track follows the story of a boy named Andy, a boy in Token’s class,  who is constantly bullied at school and is driven to take drastic measures. While the song does portray a strong sense of pain from Andy’s side, the real message here is not to turn a blind eye to bullying, Token had many opportunities to confront the bullies and potentially end Andy’s suffering but didn’t. Like Frozen, this song has a very poignant music video which helps really bring it to life.

Logic: 1-800-273-8255

Tackles suicide

This is just one of many songs that Logic has created that tackles difficult issues but 1-800 is the most hard hitting and most popular. The song, which is named after the US national suicide hotline, gives us the cold truth about suicide whilst also showing those affected by suicidal thoughts that they are not alone and that they have somewhere to go and someone to speak to. Logic’s first verse is from the perspective of someone in that state of mind. The second is from the perspective of the operator on the other side of the phone, saying “I want you to be alive” After Logic’s performance of this song at the Grammys calls to the hotline tripled.

Macklemore & Ryan Lewis: Same Love ft. Mary Lambert

Tackles Homophobia

Macklemore made his mainstream break with his album “The Heist” co produced with Ryan Lewis and this is the album from which Same Love came from. Macklemore’s music is known for having a positive message throughout his music but this is one of his songs where it’s not afraid to slap you in the face with facts. The lyrics here are deep and specific to a point where everyone can understand exactly what he is talking about which when you are trying to tackle a subject as big as this, it needs to be. Like many of the songs off of The Heist this one also has an amazing trumpet solo by Owuor Arunga.

Joyner Lucas: I’m not racist

Tackles racism

Joyner Lucas hits up our list again but with something completely different this time. Racism is spoken about a lot in rap but it is very rare to see it done in this style. The song portrays a white man explaining his views to a black man and vice versa. The whole point of the song is to show the extremes, both sides have valid points but also hold ones with no merit whatsoever. The idea with this track is that you should agree and disagree with both sides and that there is always 2 perspectives to each story. While simple, the music video is highly effective and so is the beat, the drums kick in at the highest points of tension giving a level of life to the track also.

J-Jon: C.O.P (Criminals of Permission)

Tackles police corruption and brutality

While police brutality and corruption may not be as bad in the UK, this track goes to show just how bad it can become in the US. J-Jon is an underground rapper and this song was written earlier on in his career, but that still doesn’t mean it lacks substance. The track goes on to explain how police can be taken over by the power they are given in their role, this is summed up in one line which is “start defending the law and stop defending your ego”. The raw rage and emotion that J-Jon delivers the lyrics in shows not only how passionate he is about this issue, but also adds to just how serious this is. Considering J-Jon was only 17 when he created this, it’s highly impressive.

Hopsin: Ill Mind 6

Tackles Drug Addiction

Hopsin is a rapper who can deliver a wide range of music and still keep his core skill intact. This is the 6th edition to his “Ill Mind” series which started off as freestyles but later grew into a way to talk about deep and personal topics. What makes this song so powerful is the fact that Hopsin is talking from personal experience, he has seen what drug addiction can do to a person and therefore wants to let the rest of the world know what it is like. The tone that he uses through the song is very clever as well, the second verse holds a very angry voice while the final verse holds a sad and grieving tone. If you enjoy this you should definitely check out his other Ill Minds, 7 is another very good song with a message, it goes through his conflict with religion.

Honourable Mentions

Like Toy Soldiers: Eminem – Tackles shooting and violence in Hip Hop

Take it Back: Logic – Tackles not being accepted

Story of OJ: Jay-Z – Tackles the rapper stereotype and promotes investment

 

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