At UnsungHipHop.Com we know that the current state of hip hop is bull S#$!
We know that we need better options than trap music, hoe music, and club bangers that rot the brain with poisoned, ignorant lyrics.
We know that there is a psychological covert War on Hip Hop that keeps real conscious music off the airwaves.
mainstream HipHop makes me dry heave.
The problem is that it can be hard to find conscious rappers that you want to support (you DEFINITELY wont find them on BET). A few of these rappers make mainstream (Jay Electronica, Common, Kendrick Lamar, J. Cole), but for the most part HipHop has become a cesspool for half a$$ talented lazy Emcees who don't even write their own material.
Here are the top 10 greatest black conscious HipHop artists of all time. I keep these Emcees on heavy rotation as an alternative to the poor quality of mainstream music being forced down our throats everyday.
At the end of this list, I will tell you where you can go to support these artists, find out about thousands of other conscious HipHop artists, and buy their music. That's who you keep REal HipHop alive...period. Checkout the list, and let us know if we have forgotten your favorite rapper, leave a comment at the end.
“I’m suggesting that in 100 years, this book will be a new religion on the earth… I think I have the authority to approach God directly, I don’t have to go through any religion [or] train of thought. I can approach God directly myself and so I wrote a book called The Gospel of Hip Hop to free from all this nonsense garbage right now. I respect the Christianity, the Islam, the Judaism but their time is up. …In a hundred years, everything that I’m saying to you will be common knowledge and people will be like, ‘Why did he have to explain this? Wasn’t it obvious?” – On his self-published book, The Gospel of Hip Hop
This man is a powerhouse of Black conscious HipHop. Since 1977, KRS has been dropping bombs on the HipHop industry, producing 27 collaborative and solo albums, winning the 2004 VH1 Hip Hop Honors Award, the 2007 BET Lifetime Achievement Award, and the 2009 Urban Music Living Legend Award. KRS-One has kept his message pure over the years, becoming known for his furiously political and socially conscious rap, giving him the nickname “The Teacher.”
Some things you might not know about KRS – One:
- KRS-One has written and published 4 books, including the hard-to-find 1996 classic, The Science of Rap.
- He has appeared in 25 films and documentaries
- His name is an acronym for Knowledge Reigns Supreme Over Nearly Everyone
- In 2012, KRS-One endorsed Congressman Ron Paul for President over Barack Obama
- KRS-One has been a vegetarian since he was a child
Yasiin Bey (Mos Def)
“Old white men is runnin’ this rap sh*t,
Corporate forces runnin’ this rap sh*t,
Some tall Israeli is runnin’ this rap sh*t,We poke out our asses for a chance to cash in.Cocaine, is runnin’ this rap sh*t,‘Dro, ‘yac and e-pills is runnin this rap sh*t,MTV is runnin’ this rap sh*t,Viacom is runnin’ this rap sh*t,AOL and Time Warner runnin’ this rap sh*t.“
- A New Danger
Yassin Bey has been rapping since the age of 9 and professionally acting since age 14. He has been nominated as the Best Supporting Actor, is a 7-time Grammy Award nominee, and won Best Indie Actor for his role in The Woodsman.
His dedication to his musical craft has paid off for him and for the conscious community. These days, Mos Def is more of an actor/activist than a rapper , but he still blesses the industry from time to time with albums like The New Danger in 2004. His classic breakthrough albums — Black Star (1998), was a collaboration with Talib Kweli and Hi-Tek; and Black on Both Sides (1999), his solo debut — is legendary in the underground HipHop community.
Yasiin Bey has used his fame to protest in the wake of Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and the Jena Six incident in 2007, amongst other catostrophic situations throughout the world.
Chances are you haven't heard of Sa-Roc, and if thats the case – I'm sorry for you. Her lyrics are divine and all encompassing: SA-ROC's music is the sound track for what she calls the “GOD HOP MOVEMENT.”
Her musical soundtrack is a clash of sounds, from Gogo, to Rock, to Boombap HipHop. This foundation began an aural quest for different sounds and concepts in music. Her sound is part Hood Poetry, parts Otherworldly, and totally dope. I feel as thought she picked up the mic where Queen Latifah left it. Her subject matter ranges from melanin to pyramids, Sa-Roc spits metaphysical ideas over melodic HipHop beats, seeking to fuse "Knowledge Of Self" with a great underscore. She seeks to create not just a couple of albums, but a full-fledged musical movement.
This is not my first time talking about Sa-Roc ( check out Conscious Culture Friday: NYOIL, Kalik Scientific, and Sa-Roc). She is one of the most talented, creative, and under-appreciated female lyricists of our time. Beauty, talent, intelligence, spirit – there is nothing this Empress is lacking. Support her at www.godhopmovement.org
If you are younger than 24, you don't even know what the X-Clan meant to music in the 80s and 90s. For you millennials, X-Clan is a HipHop group from Brooklyn, New York made up with the grand lyricist Brother J, Professor X The Overseer, Paradise the Architect, and Sugar Shaft the Rhythm Provider. The current incarnation of the group features leader Brother J, Master China, Kumu, “Ultraman” Ra Hanna, ACL, Lord Cza, DJ Fat Jack and Zulu. Professor X (far right) transcended in 2006, and the group continues to inspire and produce Emcees along the same lineage.They don't make music like this anymore. This is the language of the Black Conscious soul.
"Ayo my life is like Roots it’s a true storyIt’s too gory for them televised fables on cableI’ma a runaway slave watching the north starShackles on my forearm , runnin with the gun on my palmI’m an African , never was an African-AmericanBlacker than black I take it back to my originSame skin hated by the klansmenBig nose and lips, big hips and butts, dancin, what..."-I’m A African
Any your HipHop list that don't have Dead Prez on it is an incomplete list. Dead Prez (M1 and Stic Man) was a product of Florida A&M University (FAMU). Their first album, Let’s get Free , became an instant classic, and threw them onto the national scene. Most people became familiar with Dead Prez when they heard the HipHop instrumental on the Dave Chappelle Show.
Like all the artists listed here, the duo uses their lyrical superpowers for the good of our community: their 2002 compilation CD, Red Hot + Riot raised money for various charities that fight AIDS in Africa.
Recently, while most rappers are rocking blood diamonds, and pretending that they’re the first "N*ggas in Paris", Dead Prez used their fame to discuss issues that actually matter – like the injustices surrounding the Trayvon Martin case. They teamed up with Yasiin Bey(formerly known as Mos Def) and Mikeflo to discuss the murder and recorded a tribute song. M-1 and Stic.man represent the few Emcees who choose morals over money and fame.
"We were children of the most high, so we fellFrom paradise to holy hellProbably descendants of the Holy GrailAnother part of history they won’t revealTimes’ll only tellYou waiting for Judgment? It cameIn the form of a thug in the gameTo create a strong position, there’s blood in my veinThe chemical is identical, we one and the sameWith seven letters in all three of my government namesWalk on water? Nah, neither did JesusIt’s a parable to make followers and readers believersFrom Egypt to Budapest, Rakim is the truest leftUnderstand the Scriptures like the minister Louis FI told you who God is, you ignored me like most the prophetsJesus, Solomon, Abraham, Moses and MuhammadI showed the scholars, we’ll fulfill the broken promiseI spit this truth to predict the future like NostradamusLike Revelations, I’m hoping my quotes revealThe seven spirits of God when I open the sealInterpret the holy Qu’ran, these flows will guide youTranslate the Torah, and decode the Bible"-Rakim, Holy Are You
Rap pioneer Rakim infused the teachings and symbols of the Five Percenters throughout his music and videos. This reputation brought fans of Rakim in particular to refer to him as the God MC. Early on in his career, he paired up with other Gods, including the Brand Nubians, the Poor Righteous Teachers, the Wu-Tang Clan, Killarmy, Sunz of Man, Gravediggaz, Public Enemy,Godbliss and Gang Starr. The music became a message that sparked a boom of new NGE students.
So much has been written about the God Rakim that it would be useless to try to include it all here. All I can say is hearing is believing.
IF CHILLS DIDNT RUN THROUGH YOUR BODY WHEN YOU HEARD THIS, CHECK YOUR PULSE!
Lord Jamar of Brand Nubian
"Yes, last Sunday of the month, so to Harlem we went
No clubbin’, for parliments and Harriett TubmanPeace to the Gods, peace to the EarthsPeace to the Seeds, peace to the BirthOf the Nation of the Five Percent, rap sentIntelligent brothers, to representAllah Justice made the knowledge bornYou find the Gods from the jails to the colledge dormsYou got to ‘know the ledge’ to ‘wise the dom’"-Lord Jamar – Original Man
Lord Jamar is 1/3 of the group, Brand Nubian, which also consists of Sadat X and Grand Puba.
You might remember him as playing role of Supreme Allah on the HBO series Oz. Since then Lord Jamar has turned to acting with roles on the Sopranos, Law And Order SVU and the series, Rescue Me. He is really making an impact on the screen, but I doubt it will be bigger than the impact he has made on conscious HipHop.
As a committed member of the Nation of Gods and Earths better known as The 5 Percenters, Lord Jamar co-authored the book that lead me to the Nation: "Knowledge of Self". He is a spiritual mentor of mine, and a supreme lyricist.
South Africa-born Tsidi Ibrahim, known to us as Jean Grae, moved to New York shortly after birth. As a young protege, she learned to read at the age of 3 after that she pretty much followed her parents’ footsteps, developing a love for music and the performing arts. Jean was also an excellent dancer, and by age 13 she had become the youngest person accepted to Alvin Ailey’s renowned second dance company. She studied Vocal Performance at the LaGuardia School of Music & Art before majoring in Music Business at New York University. She later dropped out after 3 weeks of class realizing she wasn't learning anything she didn't already know.
In 2002, she collaborated with the The Roots, Talib Kweli, Herbaliser, Atmosphere, 9th Wonder, Pharoahe Monch, Styles P, Masta Ace, and Immortal Technique, which pretty much placed her in the Underground HipHop spotlight.
"Nostradamus was a white man’s prophet who predicated European supremacist logic
Because the pilgrims and conquistadors columns killed more innocent people than Hitler and Stalin (Yes)I guess the fortune teller skipped an Antichrist or twoBrother give this to the OG’s doing life with you andPray for the problems with the popes psychology so the Vatican will offer an apology, (for what?!)for destroying the peoples liberation theologySnatching the spirit of Jesus from people in povertyBusiness decisions like keeping people in prisons but had the opposite effect incarcerating religionThat type of crooked politics imposed on a populous is obvious if you read the Northwood documentsForget the compliments for what I recordedAnd live the revolution instead of always dying for itRemember a bullet can never stop meMy legions are led by the spirit Haile Selassie watch me"-Immortal Technique, Sign Of The Times
Immortal Technique was born a revolutionary – literally – being born in a Peruvian military hospital. His family emigrated in 1980 to Harlem, where he would face multiple incarcerations. Honing his rapping skills in jail, and unable to find decent wage-paying employment after his release, Immortal Technique began selling his music on the streets of New York while battling other Emcees whenever the opportunity arose. After winning numerous freestyle rap competitions of the New York underground HipHop scene, he developed a reputation for his ferocious and politically conscious lyricism.
Fast forward to today, and Immortal Technique has gained international acclaim because he truly speaks truth to power.
"Now that you’ve realized the prides arrived
We got to pump the stuff to make us toughfrom the heartIt’s a start, a work of artTo revolutionize make a change nothin’s strangePeople, people we are the sameNo we’re not the sameCause we don’t know the gameWhat we need is awareness, we can’t get carelessYou say what is this?My beloved lets get down to businessMental self defensive fitness(Yo) bum rush the showYou gotta go for what you knowMake everybody see, in order to fight the powers that beLemme hear you say…" - Chuck DFight the Power
The question: “Who is the face of HipHop today? Whoever says ‘Jay-Z is probably blinded by the mainstream HipHop's smoke and mirrors. Prof Griff of the legendary HipHop group Public Enemy bluntly responded during a forum in Muskegon Heights. Griff was addressing more than 150 people who attended the event.
Chuck D is directly responsible for making Public Enemy the titan they are today by taking HipHop to new places. By combining enormous beats, hooks with politically-charged and intelligent lyrics to create music that moved people.
When Public Enemy spoke, people listened, and they used that platform as tool to unite us not for personal game, definitely a dying breed of HipHop music.