We all know that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr has had a tremendous impact on the African-American community, and humanity as a whole. His ideals and commitment to justice and peace for all was unrivaled during his time. Still to this day, his message has made a lasting impact on American society, as evident to the national Holiday we have to celebrate his life and legacy. As we take this moment to reflect on Dr. King, I couldn’t help but to connect the dots on his influence to this Hip-Hop culture that we love so much. How you might ask? Sit tight, and I’ll explain.
Now, on face value, King might not get named-drop often in Hip-Hop as compared to say a Malcolm X. I have a theory on why that might have been the case. Maybe Malcolm’s earlier militant style seemed more appealing to more aggressive youth who were pioneering Hip-Hop in the early stages. Still King’s message has buried itself into Hip-hop’s ethos. You hear it when “Kendrick Lamar” emphatically shouts “Martin had a Dream, Martin Had a Dream/ Kendrick had a dream!’, on his track Backseat Freestyle.
Think about, King was a visionary, who was not satisfied with the current social climate that he lived in. He used his word to uplift his community and the world to create positive change for himself and others. Hip-Hop is virtually that. Most of us who grew up and connect with this culture, all come from challenging circumstances. Those circumstances maybe growing up in poverty-stricken neighborhoods, families separated from drugs and crime, or lack of quality education that could prevent one from attaining good-paying jobs, and eating unhealthy which leads to a range of health issues. Rappers use their voice in their music, similar to Dr. King, to uplift themselves and their communities through these circumstances.
Perhaps, the most significant way Dr. King has influenced Hip-Hop is sadly through his death. Dr King was assassinated in 1968, towards the end of a tumultuous decade that seen many black leaders, or anyone who spoke out for minorities suffer the same fate. The absence of leadership left a huge void in the community, as result the communities were plague with all the illnesses we highlighted earlier. Thus Hip-Hop was birthed, like a rose that grew from concrete! Hip-Hop filled that void, it picked up where Dr.King and other leaders left off. It gave a voice to the voiceless. It empowered the powerless.
Dr King had a dream, he had a vision, and he also had HOPE. The same hope that inspired a young Barack Obama, that same hope that inspired a whole generation to come out in masses to elect Obama as the first African-American President. The Hip-Hop generation. Dr. King lives through all of us. Maybe J. Cole was right… if he were alive today he probably would have been on Dreamville.