Rappers often utilize their craft to address social issues. Donald Glover (also known as Childish Gambino)’s “This Is America” inspired numerous think pieces and discussions surrounding mass incarceration, immigration policy and gun violence.
Brooklyn’s Wu-Tang Clan rocked hip hop music to its foundation with this street classic from producer RZA’s beat featuring James Brown samples blended with a funky melodic loop.
2. Paid in Full
Although 1988 is often thought to be the pinnacle of rap’s golden age, 1987 saw an equally important year with great beat symphonies from Just Ice (with “Going Way Back”) and Public Enemy (with “Public Enemy No. 1”). Eric B. and Rakim’s debut masterpiece Paid in Full was undoubtedly its star turn, perfectly depicting how wealth can change your perspective without sensationalizing anything about life or possessions.
Paid in Full is a cautionary tale about the devastating consequences of drug addiction, depicting Azie “AZ” Faison, Rich Porter and Alpo Martinez from real life Harlem drug dealers Azie “AZ”, Rich Porter and Alpo Martinez as fictional characters. Though an initial box office failure, its director Charles Stone III went on to direct such popular films as Drumline and Mr. 3000 after making Paid in Full as well as its unforgettable soundtrack including contributions from A Tribe Called Quest, Living Colour and Vernon Reid himself!
Paid in Full features an outstanding performance from Cam’ron, fresh off signing with Dash’s Roc-A-Fella Records and in the middle of his Diplomats mixtape series release. While other films attempt to depict drug dealing lifestyle, few get it quite right as Paid in Full does.
Pay in Full was an instant hit among hip hop fans but also raised some controversy due to its authenticity. Many real-life participants accused Dame Dash of altering its script and watering down its message for marketability purposes. Still, Paid in Full should be seen by anyone looking to understand the impact of drugs as well as succumbing to temptations associated with hustler lifestyle.
4. The Inner City Anthem
This track serves as a gangsta anthem and addresses the harsh reality of urban life while emphasizing perseverance and the value of hip hop music in inspiring and uplift people.
The 1980s were an especially trying period for lower-income Americans, who found a voice through hip hop. Public Enemy used their platform to critique Reagan Administration economic policies and police violence in inner city communities – as well as address other social issues impacting them directly.
SOB X RBE of Vallejo emerged as one of the Bay Area’s premier young street-rap acts during the early 2000s, thanks to their viral YouTube video “Get Your Walk On,” featuring dances that invoked both Crip and Bloods signifiers. Their second single “Fat Cats, Bigga Fish” featured boastful vocals from Slimmy B and an infectious funk melody by producer Maczmuzik – giving SOB X RBE instant fame and widespread appeal.
This song tells the story of a broken hustler who walks into a cocktail party full of rich people with plans of picking their pockets – only to overhear their discussions of donations to organizations like Jesse Jackson’s Urban League and change his mind quickly – this anthem perfectly depicts hip hop culture’s dedication to social-political activism.
Octave One and British singer Ann Saunderson’s iconic 1980s dance music collaboration was not only memorable, but it also carried an important message: liberation and self-expression were at the core of its lyrics – which remain applicable today as Janelle Monae’s performance at 2015 MTV Video Music Awards paid a moving tribute to African American activists who have passed while also emphasizing their work’s continuing relevance.