Indiana Daily Student

Black Voices: Conscious hip-hop provide a space for Black people to express trauma

<p>J. Cole performs July 15, 2015, at Pemberton Music Festival in Pemberton, British Columbia, Canada. </p>

J. Cole performs July 15, 2015, at Pemberton Music Festival in Pemberton, British Columbia, Canada.

In the world of hip-hop today, many artists make their mark with their words. Their words can empower, encourage and bring attention to issues around the world. It is important to educate yourself and conscious rap can guide you along in understanding and discussing important social and political issues. 

The idea of conscious rap extends from a subgenre of hip-hop that focuses on creating awareness and imparting knowledge, according to LiveAbout, a blog dedicated to entertainment news. 

“Conscious centered raps have become popular again,” said Fernando Orejuela, senior lecturer in Folklore and Ethnomusicology at IU. “And given the current state of the U.S., we are embracing it and I think that will continue.” 

In 2018 CNN Politics recognized J. Cole as a prominent conscious rapper who is “making America ‘woke’ again.”

Forbes listed Cole, amongst other rappers, as one of the most anticipated releases of 2021. Cole teased his album in 2020 with the release of two songs “The Climb Back” and “Lion King on Ice.” Justrandomthings, a blog for music lyrics and their meanings, mentioned how Cole used these songs to talk about his traumatizing childhood and how he used those experiences to create music, making him one of the best in the game. Both songs charted the Hot 100 and made fans excited for the album.

Cole’s projects to keep an eye out for include “The off Season,” “It’s a Boy” and “The Fall Off.” With the current political climate surrounding the Black community, we can expect Cole to address important topics such as police brutality.

In 2020, Cole released “Snow on Tha Bluff,” a politically charged song expressing his thoughts on protests and activism after the death of George Floyd

Artists such as Lil Baby, DaBaby, Roddy Ricch, YG and T-Pain made songs focused on the tragic murders of Black individuals as well. 

This past summer, Lil Baby’s song “The Bigger Picture” centered on police brutality and the numerous protests that broke out around the world. Billboard, a music chart newsletter, stated the key lyrics from Lil Baby’s song are: "I find it crazy the police'll shoot you and know that you dead/ But still tell you to freeze/ F---ed up, I seen what I seen/ I guess that mean hold him down if he say he can't breathe.” 

DaBaby’s “Rockstar Black Lives Matter Remix” with Roddy Ricch emphasized how police officers misuse their job titles to antagonize Black individuals. Some important lyrics listed by Billboard are: "Cops wanna pull me over, embarrass me/Abusin' power, you never knew me thought I was arrogant/ As a juvenile, police pulled they guns like they scared of me."

Through these songs, the audience can feel the trauma Black people have to live with on a daily basis: the trauma of being targeted because of your skin color or having to limit showing strong emotion because it is viewed as anger. These songs can play the role of coping mechanisms for Black people — conscious rap is an expression of oneself more than it is a song.



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