The Ideas of the Panthers Live on in Hip-Hop (Part Three)


Note: this is part three of a four part series. You can read part one here and part two here

By: Kelvin Criss

“They schools can’t teach us shit” (Dead Prez, “They Schools”)

In addition to the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense protecting their community, they also had a strong focus on educating their community. Many hip-hop artists educate their communities as well. They teach us about what the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense was able to accomplish when the people worked as one.

“I tried to pay attention but they classes wasn’t interestin’ / They seemed to only glorify the Europeans / Claimin’ Africans were only three fifth’s a human being / Until we have some shit where we control the fuckin’ school system / Where we reflect how we gon solve our own problems / Them niggas ain’t gon’ relate to school, shit that just how it is / Know what I’m sayin’? And I love education, know what I’m sayin’? / But if education ain’t elevatin’ me, then you know what I’m sayin’ it ain’t” (“They Schools”)

Dead Prez’s song entitled “They Schools” is about the racism found in many school districts. It describes the dire lack of relevant information taught in many schools. One lyric discussing the necessity of education that relates to the community is, “Until we have some shit where we control the fuckin’ school system, where we reflect how we gon solve our own problems? Them niggas ain’t gon’ relate to school.” This quote explains the frustration of much of the youth in urban areas. The lack of relevant information in their schools makes it hard for many students to want to learn. Immortal Technique has similar ideas, which he expresses in “Revolutionary.”

“They’re preparing your children for the prison environment / When you don’t amount to shit prison becomes retirement / But I refuse to be took in to central booking in chains / Cause sleeping on the floor in cages starts to fuck with your brain / The system ain’t reformatory, it’s only purgatory” (“Revolutionary”)

These lyrics express the distaste for the education system as well as the “reformatory” system. The Black Panther Party for Self-Defense understood this, and thus created their own classes to help educate the community on relevant matters such as their history, their rights, their social status and how they can change those things.

Some hip-hop artists promote illegal downloading and bootlegging of their albums to counterattack not only the record companies, but also to spread the message. In Immortal Technique’s “Harlem Renaissance” he says, “Bootleg my own album, to reach customers.” This shows that he does this because he does not care about the money or the fame. He simply wants his message to be circulated; he wants the people to be educated. The Political hip-hop artists stress education of the community just as the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense stressed it. However, the problem is that most of the news that is broadcasted is extremely biased. This makes it hard for the community, especially those who believe what they hear, to learn what is really going on. For this reason Immortal Technique’s “Leaving The Past” addresses this issue. He says, “I never seen so much racism in all of my life, every program and newscast, all of them white. It’s like Apartheid with ten percent ruling the rest.” This is a warning not to trust all of what you hear. And that the listener needs to dissect the news he or she hears on the television, radio and the Internet.

Many artists such as Public Enemy have used their lyrics to work almost as news. Sometimes specific, but often broad topics are expressed in their lyrics. For instance, Public Enemy’s “Raw Shit” depicts the exploitation by big business.

“In between the government and the public that’s trained / Where white companies profit off black death / And house nigga rap thugs sell murder to kids / Where the media maintains all thought control / And fake news propaganda serve to rot the soul / We all unified to fight, keep the message and awake black / Open up your eyes, see the enemy and shake that / Bullshit lyin, free your mind, we combine” (“Raw Shit”)

This song not only explains what companies do to the people, it also addresses the problem of “fake news propaganda” and what it does to the people. Dead Prez’s “Propaganda” addresses the same ideas when they say, “filling our head with lies got us hypnotized.” The chorus of this goes, “The views that you see in the news is propaganda.” The goal of these types of songs is to educate the community, for no weapon is stronger than knowledge.

Educating the community was always one of the top priorities of the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense, as well as some of those who are involved in hip-hop. This is because without an educated community, little can be done. An uneducated community can be violent, however they will not know what to do with the power they posses. They will be a mob rather than a political power.

Works Cited

Dead Prez. Let’s Get Free. Rec. 1998-2000. Loud Records, 2000. CD.

Dead Prez. RBG: Revolutionary but Gangsta. Rec. Feb.-Mar. 2004. Sean Cane, Stic, 2004. CD.

Immortal Technique. Revolutionary Vol 1. Rec. 2000-2001. Viper Records, 2001. CD.

Public Enemy. Rebirth of a Nation. Rec. 7 Mar. 2006. Pari, 2006. CD.

Tupac Shakur. 2Pacalypse Now. Rec. June-September 1991. Atron Gregory, 1991. CD.

Tupac Shakur. Strictly 4 My N.I.G.G.A.Z. Rec. January-March 1993. Atron Gregory,1993. CD.

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One thought on “The Ideas of the Panthers Live on in Hip-Hop (Part Three)

  1. […] Note: this is the final installment to Kelvin Criss’ four part series on the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense and its relation to hip-hop. You can read part one here, part two here and part three here.  […]

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