Today in the shower I was just thinking about how the first time I had heard the name “PolPot” was when I started listening to the Dead Kennedys in college.
Raised on mostly funk and soul, hip hop was the first music I actively sought out. My older cousin listened to NWA and Ice T, which was the closest I came to hearing explicit political content in hip hop.
…and JunkYard Band, a local DC gogo act, had “The Word”, which was amazing. Produced by Rick Ruben, and put out by Def Jam, “The Word” called out Reagan’s shenanigans directly, and you cold dance to it, but I wouldn’t call it hip hop. PE would be an exception, but I didn’t REALLY, really get into PE until I discovered punk.
There were Pseudo-political acts… using politics as fashion or branding, relaying clever bromides and preaching veganism and such while gnawing on chicken wings and heineken back stage. Many acts which I liked but from whom I learned nothing. Others illustrated or embodied the symptoms of socioeconomic injustice.
Punk acts that packaged explicit political messages in excellent music like DK and Crass were pretty radical to me. I’ve always wondered why this happens so rarely in Hip-Hop, a medium where language is the crux of the expression and often the audience is subject to the shortcomings of ethically bankrupt capitalism.
“California Über Alles” by Dead Kennedys