Bristol, UK - Events Local News Groups Contact
Politics and Hip Hop in Bristol
Politics and Hip Hop in Bristol
By D-red / thebristolcable.org
Mar 6, 2015

Does politics still have a place in hip-hop? D-Red, a local rapper and a selection of Bristol’s other artists mull the question over

What is ‘conscious’ hip-hop? The term typically refers to ‘socially aware’ or ‘political’ artists with a ‘message’ to their music.

As a hip-hop artist whose lyrics often have political and social themes, I sometimes wonder why we choose to make this type of music.

Is it a release of frustration about our socio-economic trials and tribulations, or a self-justifying preach to the already converted? Or is it an attempt to bring about change, whether one person at a time – as a young listener stumbles across an artist who challenges their way of thinking – or by moving the masses through having the right voice, on the right platform, at the right moment?

Is it possible to reach a platform of mass distribution when your ethos goes against the interests of the corporations holding the keys?

Is ‘selling out’ your artistic integrity the only way to reach such a position?

And if we have to pigeonhole things, does the ‘conscious’ label imply that the commercial norm is ‘unconscious’ hip-hop?

I’ve begun picking the brains of hip-hop artists in Bristol on the subject. I wanted to know about their influences, whether they set out to include ‘conscious’ or political elements in their music, and whether they see a place for such styles in today’s mainstream. What do they say?

LOWDOSE

Lowdose performing. Photo by: Wordlife

Lowdose performing. Photo by: Tom Porter, Wordlife

“Of course there’s a place for the more political/social commentary style – that’s what hip-hop came from. It was originally a medium young people would use to get across how they were thinking and feeling in the system they were living in.

“I remember learning about how school funding for musical instruments in schools in [1970s] America got cut – that’s what led to turntables being used and people inventing new ways of making music. The system wasn’t assisting them so they did it themselves. Hip-hop originates from a place of social commentary, but once the money got involved, it got commercialised.

“I grew up on artists like Wu- Tang, as I said, Tupac, Immortal Technique, KRS–1 as well. Certain artists that have always had that [conscious element]. Those sort of artists, to me are what defines hip-hop. The commercial stuff is more like pop music.”

BEN

“Some of [my music] does have political aspects, and I get two types of feedback. Some people say, ‘That’s too deep; you’re going in too much, and a lot of people aren’t ready for that,’ or ‘Nah, that’s not gonna make it in the industry.’ The other feedback is ‘that’s good, the youngers need to hear this more, there need to be more artists talking this stuff, stay on it.’

“Today is just rubbish: non-consciousness – unconsciousness – is what sells. It’s good to keep it conscious if you can or, if you’re an artist who does a lot of commercial stuff, at least have a couple of conscious tracks on your album, balance it out a bit.”

Ellis

“I think there’ll always be a place for politics in hip-hop – it’s about picking up a mic and expressing yourself. It’s one of the only forms of music whereyou can get away with saying certain things.

“Things I see going on in my world and the world around me inspire my music. You can’t go a day without seeing some type of politics so it will always be addressed in my lyrics somehow.

“I still think it’s possible to get signed, because there are always people that want to hear music about real issues… but it’s a lot harder. I can’t remember the last time I turned on the TV or radio and heard a song talking about real life issues.”

Social Conscience

“I’m in a crew called Tough Touch Productions, under Crudely Cut Records, which is a bigger umbrella of independent Bristol hip-hop groups and artists.

“I guess [political hip-hop has some presence in the mainstream] – you get people that don’t really follow a particular scene or genre, but a track might speak to them because of its message or content. [But] lots of rappers fall into the trap of making clichéd music, which has been done a million times before.

“It’s positive, successful artists having a message, but I don’t think ‘political’ hip-hop is a massively popular sub-genre. ..The last mainstream group to be successful on a strictly political tip was probably Public Enemy… a long time ago! Artists like Immortal Technique are successful, but I wouldn’t say they’re mainstream.”

D-Red

D-Red at the GBC.

D-Red at the GBC.

Years ago, I used to think music could change the world. Now I’m post-twenties, I think people do it. But music can be a massive influence on people, and therefore a catalyst for change. Anything that promotes discussion [around] contentious topics is progression. We have a voice, and should always use it.

While a few of my questions were answered, this experience has raised more. Recording these discussions has deepened my thirst for knowledge, and increased my belief that there’s a path for socially aware artists who wish to benefit their community – even if we have to carve it out ourselves.

0.0 ·
0
Trending Today
Today I Rise: This Beautiful Short Film Is Like a Love Poem For Your Heart and Soul
4 min · 12,083 views today · "The world is missing what I am ready to give: My Wisdom, My Sweetness, My Love and My hunger for Peace." "Where are you? Where are you, little girl with broken wings but full...
The Top 100 Documentaries We Can Use to Change the World
Films For Action · 7,911 views today · A more beautiful, just and sustainable world is possible. Take this library and use it to inspire global change!
John Lennon's "Imagine," Made Into a Comic Strip
John Lennon. Art by Pablo Stanley · 1,928 views today · This is easily the best comic strip ever made.  Pabl
Obama's Hidden Role in Worsening Climate Change
Stansfield Smith · 1,455 views today · It should be a scandal that leftists-liberals paint Trump as a special threat, a war mongerer – not Obama who is the first president to be at war everyday of his eight years...
"Desert Goddess" Remembers Arizona's Glen Canyon
7 min · 648 views today · In this excerpt from the award-winning documentary DamNation, filmmakers Ben Knight and Travis Rummel interview the "desert goddess," Katie Lee. When the Glen Canyon Dam was...
18 Empowering Illustrations to Remind Everyone Who's Really in Charge of Women's Bodies
Julianne Ross · 430 views today · When Brazilian graphic designer Carol Rossetti began posting colorful illustrations of women and their stories to Facebook, she had no idea how popular they would...
Dinosaur explains Trump policies better than Trump!
8 min · 385 views today · Donald Trump is actually the corporate triceratops, Mr. Richfield, from the 90's TV show sitcom, "Dinosaurs". 
Make The Serengeti Great Again | Resource Scarcity, Demagogues and How Creativity Can Trump Hate (2017)
5 min · 348 views today · A Familiar Tale of Resource Scarcity, Demagogues, and How Creativity Can Trump Hate A quick, original, illustrated allegory that pokes at the demagogues we’ve got with an...
The Political Elite: Idiots... or Criminals?
Michael Emero · 331 views today · I've been seeing a lot of people convinced that the DNC and all establishment Democrats are total idiots. How could they not be, when they sabotaged an easy win (Bernie) to...
How Mindfulness Empowers Us
2 min · 318 views today · Many traditions speak of the opposing forces within us, vying for our attention. Native American stories speak of two wolves, the angry wolf and the loving wolf, who both live...
The White Man in That Photo
Riccardo Gazzaniga · 255 views today · Sometimes photographs deceive. Take this one, for example. It represents John Carlos and Tommie Smith’s rebellious gesture the day they won medals for the 200 meters at the...
Baraka (1992)
97 min · 247 views today · Featuring no conventional narrative, this film presents footage of people, places and things from around the world. From chaotic cities to barren wilderness, the movie takes...
Deconstructing Hierarchies: On Contrived Leadership and Arbitrary Positions of Power
Colin Jenkins · 246 views today · Bosses don't grow on trees. They don't magically appear at your job. They aren't born into their roles. They are created. They are manufactured to fulfill arbitrary positions...
Defiance in the Face of Oppression - Iranian Artist Atena Farghadani Defends the Right to Draw
Gavin Aung Than · 241 views today · Atena Farghadani is a 28-year-old Iranian artist. She was recently sentenced to 12 years and 9 months in prison for drawing a cartoon.  
Why It's Crucial for Women to Heal the Mother Wound
Bethany Webster · 233 views today · The issue at the core of women’s empowerment is the mother wound
HUMAN (2015)
382 min · 218 views today · What is it that makes us human? Is it that we love, that we fight? That we laugh? Cry? Our curiosity? The quest for discovery?  Driven by these questions, filmmaker and artist...
This Zen Comic Is Full of Timeless Life Lessons
Gavin Aung Than · 213 views today · Desiderata poem by Max Ehrmann beautifully illustrated by Gavin Aung Than
The Invention of Capitalism: How a Self-Sufficient Peasantry was Whipped Into Industrial Wage Slaves
Yasha Levine · 199 views today · “…everyone but an idiot knows that the lower classes must be kept poor, or they will never be industrious.” —Arthur Young; 1771 Our popular economic wisdom says that...
Your Lifestyle Has Already Been Designed (The Real Reason For The Forty-Hour Workweek)
David Cain · 192 views today · Well I’m in the working world again. I’ve found myself a well-paying gig in the engineering industry, and life finally feels like it’s returning to normal after my nine months...
90 Inspiring and Visionary Films That Will Change How You See the World in Profound Ways
Tim Hjersted · 174 views today · The world today is in crisis. Everybody knows that. But what is driving this crisis? It's a story, a story that is destroying the world. It's a story about our relationship to...
Load More
What's Next
Like us on Facebook?
Politics and Hip Hop in Bristol