Soundtracking The Movement: A Timeline Of Hip-Hop And The Black Experience


From its inception, hip-hop has always served as a narrative for the marginalized. Rappers from all over the country and time periods since the late seventies until now have inked pen to paper to detail the twisted anecdotes that are the realities of their surroundings. Sure, some can argue that amid these socially conscious tales, there is misogyny, violence and bad language.

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But if you read between the lines, you’ll see it’s a lot deeper than just rap. Take Nas for example, who decoding his tales of growing up in Queensbridge on 1994’s Illmatic, showing the masses what a typical young black male’s experiences were like in that neighborhood. It gave America a magnifying glass—especially those of privilege—to see what life in the ‘hood is really like, and why its inhabitants do the things they do.

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This is why the genre can serve as a lesson in sociology and race; as it chronicles the experiences of the black community, and other minorities living in the inner city, or simply just existing in the struggle. And with MCs like J.Cole and Kanye West, you’ll most likely get a history lesson as well—as they both target old and modern day slavery. (See: Born Sinner and Yeezus). Or perhaps you may get sound bites of issues like police corruption, like what N.W.A did seamlessly on Straight Outta Compton back in 1989 with “F**k The Police”—a song that sadly, is still relevant to this day. In honor of all the truth-tellers, VIBE has compiled a timeline of influential hip-hop jams that depict the black experience, race and society in America.

Because Black History Month is every month.