The Immediate Reaction: When Hip-Hop Speaks


By: Daniel Hodgman

Hip-hop has always been a way of expression. It’s always been an outlet, and it’s always been a conglomerate of messages through many art forms. The forces behind hip-hop have demonstrated, time after time, that one of the most effective ways of pushing for civil justice and equality is through art. But what about now, during a day and age where you can inform people what you’re thinking with the click of a button? Does the sudden rise in technological advancement hinder hip-hop’s ability to clearly portray its message? Or is this new-age technology just another outlet for hip-hop?

If you’re looking at the basis of it all, the advancement in technology has now made it possible for hip-hop to react and respond without delay. No longer needing to wait for a song, album or mural to see what hip-hop thinks, these days we can find out within seconds of the actual event unfolding. With big events like the Trayvon Martin story and George Zimmerman acquittal, hip-hop had an immediate reaction. And although this is a new system as far as hip-hop’s communication to the world, it in no way hinders the fact that hip-hop’s roots of song and dance are still as strong as it’s ever been. In retrospect, hip-hop has just added another canvas to its art studio.

One of the biggest examples of the exploding social media trend has been the recent event surrounding Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman. Elsewhere, hip-hop artist Yasiin Bey explored the force-feeding in Guantanamo through a video that went viral earlier this year. And Questlove of The Roots wrote an open letter entitled Trayvon Martin and I Ain’t Shit, a reaction to the Zimmerman acquittal.

These recent examples of MCs speaking out are not only a direct result of the advancement in technology, but also a result of hip-hop acceptance through the years. Since hip-hop started, it has steadily grown both geographically and influentially, propelling hip-hop into significant limelight.

So what does this all mean? Why is it important that figures in hip-hop are now taking to social media to bring attention to events and causes? For one, it exemplifies hip-hop at its core, but at an even bigger level. The messages, the passion, the story, the meaning, the sincerity, the intent, are all there, and can be spread to hundreds of thousands within hours. Secondly, social media and the advancement of technology have given hip-hop another voice and another weapon; fighting for a cause or spreading awareness isn’t just limited to a song or speech anymore, and with access to the Internet anyone can get what they have to say out there. In all, technology has helped spread awareness to causes at an extreme level; consequently, this has put hip-hop on a pedestal it has never seen before. With this, hip-hop’s acceptance as a culture and movement has also grown monumentally since its birth, thus giving artists more opportunities to speak and to share vital information within communities around the world.

“May God be with the family of Trayvon Martin” –Wyclef Jean

“A tear has not (fallen) from my eyes in so long I thought it was something wrong with me until now…. I’m shocked, not even Manslaughter…” –DJ KaySlay

“George Zimmerman admittedly killed Trayvon Martin, but has been found not guilty of murder. I told you all a week ago that Zimmerman would be the new OJ. And now he is. As much as people told me this case wasn’t about race, I see the opinions being sent to me sharply divided along racial lines. Very sad. I for one always thought that pushing race too far in this case might have a negative effect. The prosectors fumbled ust like with OJ.” –Immortal Technique

“The Trayvon Martin verdict doesn’t surprise me. Sanford, FL never wanted Zimmerman arrested. Now he’s free to kill another child.” –Ice Cube

“This is not “only” about race. This is about laws that allow racist acts to go unpunished. We must change laws that promote injustice.” –Russell Simmons

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