In 1994, Common’s “I Used To Love H.E.R.” traced Hip-Hop’s timeline and pointed out one of the music’s major shift with the lyric “She said, ‘Afrocentricity, was of the past…'” The early ’90s saw artists who placed an emphasis on being Black in America and revitalized a spirit unseen since Civil Rights era. Once a very rooted art, rap’s rise to popularity changed the complexion of the game to green. Prior to that, everything was all Black. Here are five albums by groups who wore their pride on their sleeves and shared it through music.
Dig up the leather Africa medallions and bead necklaces as we reminisce.
1. X-Clan’s To The East Blackwards (1990) — Afrocentricity and ankhs describe much of X-Clan’s aesthetic. The music was a history lesson, calling up the names of historical figures and drawing on the Black experience throughout the diaspora. Drum-driven and heavy on funk samples throughout, tracks like “Grand Verbalizer, What Time Is It?” and “Raise The Flag” weren’t as much anti-anything as they were an attempt to raise Black awareness and “make a difference through a mic and a speaker.”
2. Poor Righteous Teachers’ The New World Order (1996) — The New Jersey collective gets overlooked for introducing Gods & Earths into Hip-Hop but their whole discography took the road less traveled in the name of spreading a message. While all of their albums were laced with themes of empowerment, TNWO challenged the musical status quo by eschewing the shiny suits of the time and saw the group remaining focused on their mission to “civilize the uncivilized.”
3. Paris’ Sleeping With The Enemy (1992) — Oakland should be proud of Paris for carrying on the Panther traditions with Sleeping With The Enemy. The album had two main targets: crooked police and then President George H.W. Bush. Unfortunately, the label didn’t push strong to get the album onto store shelves after many acts were caught in the wake of Ice-T’s “Cop Killer” controversy.
4. dead prez’ Let’s Get Free (2000) — dead prez would have been megastars had they entered rap ten years earlier. Still, time didn’t stop them speaking loud and proud of their beliefs through lyrics like “I’m an African, Never was an African-American, Blacker than Black, I take it back to my origin.”
5. Public Enemy’s Fear Of A Black Planet (1990) — One of music’s strongest thematic albums, Fear Of A Black Planet covered contemporary issues from the Black perspective and attacked oppression of all sorts. Two of the group’s biggest singles – “Fight the Power” and “Welcome to the Terrordome” – emerged from the album, proving that popularity could coexist alongside music with a message. With every track directed at injustice, Chuck & Co. pointed a critical finger challenging everyone to do better.