As soon as I woke up on the morning of April 7th I made sure the first thing I pressed play on was the new Joey Bada$$ album “All- Amerikkkan Badass”. The social political undertones were screaming from this album from the artwork to the first single. It felt like an Ab-Soul type of rebellion which is interesting because although Joey and Ab-Soul may speak to the same generation they are of two different generations. With that said it is very interesting to hear how the under 25 years old emcee group feels about the world and political landscape of 2017. A common theme in current Hip-Hop records seems to be the phrase “F**k Donald Trump”. Hip-Hop has been rebel music for the youth for a long time and I can’t remember in the genre’s history a sitting President being so disliked by the Hip-Hop generation. It was no joy ride for President George Bush Jr. but you didn’t hear the phrase “F**K George Bush” in every song.
I like to call this era The Woke Era. We are in the information age and there is no denying that. Everything is at the palm of a generation’s hands. Their news, their music, their directions, their entertainment, even their researching capabilities. There is a generation that doesn’t know what life is like without this access. With a purpose a generation like this could become a danger to the structure and order that some oldtimers want to continue pushing forward. The moment this generation became woke can be singled out to a single event. This event was the murder of a central Florida boy 17 year old Trayvon Martin. Without getting in too deep about the actual happenings in the Trayvon Martin case many urban youth’s saw the racial undertones in that event and possibly for the first time in their lives realized that everything wasn’t all good. It became a trickling effect with one situation after another. A Mike Brown here and a Freddie Gray there and the reactions from designated communities became more and more predictable. It was as if we were living in two Americas. But what was feeling different this time was the youth was taking a lead on standing up for injustices using their social media outlets, using their music, using their voice in anyway they possibly could. We were no longer just looking to the older crowd to care about issues of substance that affect us all. The younger generation was stepping up and Hip-Hop was feeling it.
Kendrick Lamar used his voice on his critically acclaimed effort “To Pimp A Butterfly” and released a hit single in “Alright” that became the anthem of protest and marches nationwide. A few years ago a song like “Alright” may have never been a hit but as timely as “To Pimp A Butterfly” was for Hip-Hop as a whole this album and that single spoke to a generation. It was a mixture of reality and hope, letting you know that it ain’t all good but as long as we keep up the good fight things are going to work out. Kendrick also dropped “The Blacker The Berry” which brought up Trayvon Martin by name and spoke to the outrage behind the whole situation. YG & Nipsey Hussle hit things at a different approach with their anthem “F**k Donald Trump”. Joey Bada$$ is taking lead on “All-Amerikkkan Badass” even with the title the sediment feels like Ice Cube’s 1990 debut album “AmeriKKKa’s Most Wanted”. These figures mean to The Woke Generation what Chuck D, Ice Cube, 2Pac, etc meant to generations before them.
There is a lot of Hip-Hop music out there now that just focuses on having a good time but I think we are seeing much more music of substance from younger artist than we have in a very long time. This is clearly driven by the political climate in America in 2017. With President Trump just now taking office and having four years ahead of him it will be interesting to see how the Hip-Hop generation will continue to respond throughout his term. Will our music continue to challenge the power structure in America on a mainstream level? Will this era be written off as a fad like African medallions? Will a new wave of thinking come through and wipeout the current conscious mindset in Hip-Hop music? We’ll just have to wait and see.