Hip-hop has long held a revolutionary streak thanks to acts and pivotal figures who challenged the status quo and used their platforms to address social issues. The tradition began early in its history with Grandmaster Flash and The Furious Five’s “The Message,” the title of which T.I. borrowed for a new Apple Music playlist of revolutionary hip-hop songs. During a recent interview with Apple Music’s Ebro Darden, the host asked T.I. what Kendrick Lamar — who appears multiple times on the playlist — means to him “as a fan of rap.”
T.I. responds with his signature thoughtfulness and eloquence. “I think he’s probably the most successful revolutionary rapper alive,” he asserts, elaborating that, “It’s hard to sell. It’s hard to do good business in the revolutionary category… Artists like KRS-One, even Common, Mos Def, and the Roots usually have to trade commercial success for speaking truth in the revolution. Kendrick has been the one who has been able to simultaneously achieve both. That’s extremely special. That’s an art within itself.”
Although Lamar himself rejected the “conscious rapper” title early in his career, his song “Alright” became an unofficial theme for various protests throughout the past few years, from anti-Trump protests in 2016 to more recent protests against police brutality this year. His album To Pimp A Butterfly re-entered Billboard‘s charts led by the unofficial anthem, which played at marches and rallies across the country.
Watch T.I.’s interview above.