The best conscious rappers during the golden era voiced the social, cultural, and political issues that affected people every day. These conscious MCs built their loyal following as a result of their ability to discuss the everyday struggles and truths that come along. Unlike other more politicized forms of music, conscious rappers present information through their rhymes to inform people on the subjects they rap about in their music or urge for better decision-making in their life. Hip-hop was very diverse during the golden era, and there were many dope groups that offered great music. We dedicate our entire show to conscious rappers on the latest episode of White Label Radio (you can listen to the episode at the end of this article). Here is our list of the “Top 5 Conscious MC’s From The Golden Era”:
5. The Coup – “Fat Cats and Bigga Fish”
Bay Area communist crew preaches Marxist revolution for the hood over P-Funk-inspired tracks.
The Coup was one of the most political rap groups in hip-hop history. Formed in the early ’90s, The Coup was influenced by the black power “conscious” rappers like Public Enemy and KRS-One. Boots, the group’s lead rapper/producer, was involved in political activism before he was ever a musician. His involvement with the Occupy Oakland movement and his dedication to social change was a prominent influence on every Coup album.
4. Poor Righteous Teachers – “Rock Dis Funky Joint”
Consciousness-raising 1990s Jersey hip-hop trio, trailblazers of the Five Percent Nation, and almost-criminally slept on commercially.
Poor Righteous Teachers formed in New Jersey when teenage friends Culture Freedom and Wise Intelligent decided to form a positive rap group as an alternative to the gangsta style that was popular at the time. With DJ/Producer Father Shaheed, the group released two albums, Holy Intellect (1990) and Pure Poverty, stressing their philosophy and religious beliefs. Rock Dis Funky Joint is Poor Righteous Teacher’s first and last hit single, and an extremely influential song in paving the way for future conscious rappers. Both song and the album is known for pro-Five Percenter lyrics.
3. Dead Prez – “”They” Schools”
Dead Prez carries the torch for socially conscious hip-hop, political awareness, and active resistance in their lyrics.
The political rap duo based out of Florida consisted of Stic.man and M-1, two rappers inspired by revolutionaries from Malcolm X to Public Enemy. They immersed themselves in political and social studies as they created their own style of hip-hop. In 1998, they worked with Big Punisher on his album Capital Punishment and released singles like “Police State with Chairman Omali” (1998) and “It’s Bigger Than Hip-Hop.” (1999). Dead Prez speaks on the racist US school system in “They Schools.” M-1 and Stic.man clearly did not have the best time in high school.
2. X-Clan – “Funkin’ Lesson”
A number of Afrocentric, politically-oriented rap groups put out records during hip hop’s golden era. Few of those groups were on the level of the hard-hitting X Clan.
“Funkin’ Lesson” is the first track off To The East, Blackwards. The song sets up the album by illustrating what X-Clan aimed for in their music: a strong message of black pride delivered by funky music. The Brooklyn-based collective released a pair of astronomical albums—1990’s To the East, Blackwards and 1992’s Xodus—before breaking up.
Grand Architect Paradise was quoted saying, “We just really wanted to be funky and put the lesson in the funk. That’s what the song was about. We were trying to redefine something, and have more culture in the music.”
1. Public Enemy – “Fight The Power”
Both an influential and controversial New York rap act that attained massive cultural significance, led by the duo of Chuck D and Flavor Flav.
This anthem was originally from the soundtrack to Spike Lee’s classic movie Do the Right Thing and later on PE’s album, Fear of a Black Planet. “Fight the Power,” is perhaps the group’s best-known song and undoubtedly the most symbolic song of the entire culture. PE created their own rules of hip-hop, becoming the most influential conscious rap group of the late ’80s. They pioneered a genre of hardcore rap that was both musically and politically revolutionary. Chuck D rhymed about the social problems that plagued the black communities, often condoning social activism and revolutionary tactics. The music offered by PE lead hip-hop toward a self-aware, pro-black consciousness that became the culture’s MO throughout the next decade.
Public Enemy’s early Def Jam albums, produced with the Bomb Squad, earned them a place in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
Listen to the White Label Radio episode about conscious rap during hip hop’s golden era below: