As we enter into the month of March, I found myself reflecting on hip hop’s voice and influence during this year’s Black History Month. Ranging from fairly subtle, to bold and in your face, artists have made moves in the past 28 days. The culture continued to shed light on important issues while making history and breaking records. A lot happened during the shortest month of the year. In case you missed any of it, here’s a recap.
On February 2, The GRAMMY Museum in Los Angeles unveiled All Eyez on Me: The Writings of Tupac Shakur, an exhibit dedicated to the great’s contribution to hip hop. The display is the first of its kind to honor Tupac, and includes handwritten lyrics, notes, and outfits of his. The opening event included a panel discussion made up of Paul Rodriguez, Money B, Chuck D, YG, John Singleton, and other friends of Shakur’s. Fans will be able to visit the visual timeline of his career through April 22.
A week later came what has traditionally been one of the most anticipated nights in music, The Grammys. Pharrell performed his award winning hit, “Happy,” Common and John Legend their Oscar winning track “Glory,” and Beyoncé Martin Luther King’s favorite song, “Take My Hand Precious Lord.” In each one of the performances, the backup singers, dancers, and/or the artist themselves raised their hands representing the “Hands up, don’t shoot,” phrase that emerged during the Ferguson, MO protests. Prince also participated while presenting the Album of the Year award, raising his hands, and later stating, “Albums still matter. Like books and Black lives, they still matter.”
February 9, one day after the Grammys, (which he and fellow TDE artist/Grammy nominee ScHoolboy Q did not attend) Kendrick Lamar released the hard hitting track, “The Blacker the Berry.” He speaks quickly and angrily, yet each line is undeniably strong as he talks about Trayvon Martin, society’s view of the Black man, and gang culture. In the song, Lamar also declared himself to be “the biggest hypocrite of 2015.” The track is the complete opposite of his last single, “i,” (which won Grammys for Best Rap Song and Best Rap Performance) but still proved to be an audience favorite.
The trailer for this summer’s N.W.A. biopic, Straight Outta Compton, was also released to the public that day. The film, executive produced by Ice Cube and Dr. Dre, details the journey of the fearless Cali group that started a revolution. O’Shea Jackson Jr., son of Ice Cube, portrays a younger him, while Corey Hawkins and Jason Mitchell play the roles of Dr. Dre and Eazy E. The high-energy preview featured appearances from The Game and Kendrick Lamar, and definitely got people talking about the group’s autobiography, which just so happens to have a subject matter somewhat parallel to today’s current events.
February kicked off what many refer to as, “Yeezy Season.” Kanye West has had almost every media outlet talking about him for an entire month. He teamed up with Adidas and debuted his Kanye West x Adidas Originals collection at New York Fashion Week. A few days prior, he gave everyone a laugh and flashback to the 2009 VMAs as he walked onto the Grammys stage, interrupting Beck’s album of the year speech. Although he didn’t speak on the mic, he openly expressed his opposition to The Academy’s decision in a post award show interview. West also gave an unconventional performance of his new single, “Wolf,” featuring Vic Mensa and Sia on Saturday Night Live’s 40th year celebration, and spoke at Oxford University today.
A couple of weeks ago, Drake gifted fans with a new mixtape entitled, “If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late.” The project came completely unannounced, and now all seventeen of the tracks are on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart. In addition to having his entire body of work on the list, he is featured on four other chart topping singles, bringing the overall total to twenty one. This breaks the Canadian rapper’s previous personal record of twelve simultaneous songs and ties him with the Beatles’ record of fourteen songs in 1961. He has also become the first rapper to top the Artist 100 chart: a measure of song and album sales, streams, radio play, and social media interaction mixed together.
It seems as if artists have chosen 2015 as the year to remove their censors and prove the naysayers wrong. Hip hop is definitely on the up.
Let us know your thoughts on the current state of hip hop using the hashtag #TheAUX on Twitter (@DonDivaMagazine).