For a long time, songs have been used to communicate emotions. Hip Hop and rap culture are progressively gaining popularity in India. Several musicians have used their talent and rap songs to address societal concerns, which has received positive feedback from audiences.
Hip Hop, a prominent style of music that sprung from oppression, is gaining popularity worldwide. The freedom to express oneself without regard for rank or tradition has helped to popularise this genre.
Through powerful lyrics, non-commercial Hip Hop throughout the world takes a serious stance on social and political concerns. Hip Hop musicians are tackling problems that are more current and much more relatable for the listeners.
From ‘Nazarbhattu Freestyle’ by Seedhe Maut to ‘High for Hours’ by J. Cole, here is a look at rap songs that attempted to bring light on societal concerns.
‘Azadi’ by Divine
“Haan bahut baithe chup chaap (We’ve remained silent for far too long)
Kya ghante ka insaaf (To hell with your justice)
Desh kaise hoga saaf (How’ll this country be cleaned?)
Inki neeyat mein hai daag (There intentions are not honest)”
‘Gully Boy,’ starring Ranveer Singh and Alia Bhatt, contains a number of chart-topping tracks. ‘Azaadi’ is one of them, and it shows the corrupt political and commercial systems, seeking liberation from them.
Divine and Dub Sharma perform the song. The song was written, performed, and sung by the pair. Azaadi has received over 50 million views on YouTube.
‘White America’ by Eminem
“All I hear is, lyrics, lyrics, constant controversy
Sponsors working round the clock to try to stop my concerts early
Surely hip-hop was never a problem in Harlem, only in Boston
After it bothered the fathers of daughters starting to blossom”
Eminem Aka Marshall Mathers is known for rapping what he feels, and a lot of times this lands him in controversy. This issue is addressed by Eminem in his song ‘White America’, the lyrics in this song clearly talk about white supremacy and there are references about the problems of race and caste. The song concludes with him ranting about the government attempting to control his music, implying that people attempting to censor him are from ‘White America.’
‘Nazarbhattu Freestyle’ by Seedhe Maut
“Aur samvidhaan badalna chahne waale (Those who want to change constitution)
Bole khudko deshbhakt (Calling themselves nationalist)
Inki ego trip me bahara mera desh rakt (Because of their ego trip, my country is bleeding)”
Recently, Delhi-based hip hop duo Seedhe Maut released their album ‘न’, ‘Nazarbhattu Freestyle’ is a part of this album. The song talks about the problems like black money, poverty, and how the middle-class man is suffering, while the corrupt ones are enjoying. With hard-hitting lyrics ‘Nazarbhattu Freestyle’ is a song that fits perfectly with current times, and definitely deserves a listen.
‘Good Kid’ by Kendrick Lamar
“You had finally made decision to hold me against my will
It was like a head on collision that folded me standing still
I can never pick out the difference and grade a cop on the bill
Every time you clock in the morning, I feel you just want to kill”
Rapper Kendrick Lamar narrates the harmful impacts of gang culture, police brutality, and violence on his community in the song Good Kid. He emphasises the police’s unjust behaviours, systematically targeting minorities and exacerbating the historical rift between groups. The themes of corruption and unfairness are explored further in the next track ‘M.A.A.D City’ on the same album, as Kendrick gains self-awareness of the doomed streets and lives around him.
Changes by 2Pac
“And still I see no changes, can’t a brother get a little peace?
There’s war in the streets and war in the Middle East
Instead of war on poverty, they got a war on drugs
So the police can bother me”
In the hit song ‘Changes,’ late American rapper Tupac Shakur talks about the daily life of a poor African-American, he expresses the idea in his song that changes must be made in society in order to put an end to racism and poverty that African-Americans were facing. Shakur also highlights the idea of unity to tackle problems in this song.
‘Mantoiyat’ by Raftaar
“Lal batti waali gaadi (Car with red light)
Glass inke hath mein hai (Glass in hands)
Rajneeti mein hain chor (Thief in politics)
Police inke saath mein (Police is with them)”
The song is from the 2018 film ‘Manto,’ which stars Nawazuddin Siddiqui. It exposes numerous subjects from Manto’s thinking, such as hypocrisy, corrupt political culture, and more. Raftaar wrote, composed, and performed the song. The video also features Siddiqui depicting the ideologies of Saadat Hasan Manto. ‘Mantoiyat’ has had over 45 million views on YouTube, with over 1 million likes.
‘High for Hours’ by J. Cole
“American hypocrisy, oh let me count the ways
They came here seeking freedom and they end up owning slaves
Justified it using Christianity would say
Religion don’t mean shit, it’s too much ego in the way”
American rapper J Cole’s song ‘High For Hours’ was released on Martin Luther King Day in 2017, and in it, the rapper comments on social and political challenges in American culture.
Cole focuses on the hypocrisy of American beliefs, since the country regularly preaches about being the ‘land of the free,’ then participated in the slave trade, robbing people of their freedom in other countries while citing the Christian bible to excuse their acts. In this song, Cole also discusses human nature and how it has played an important role throughout history.
‘Kaisa Mera Desh’ by KR$NA
“Ye bhrashtra mantri gandagi failate hain (these corrupt politicians spread hate)
Sharam ke mare hamare sar jhukvate hain (Have to bow our heads because of shame)
Pure saal rulate hain (Make us cry whole year)
Aur agli baar chunaav mein vapas aate hain (Then come back in next elections)”
Kr$na, as young Prozpekt, released ‘Kaisa Mera Desh’ during the Commonwealth Games in India. It is said to as a “anti-corruption anthem,” and its purpose is to show the political naivety of government officials. The artist expresses his dissatisfaction with how the lower class is suffering from financial problems while the government offers no assistance.