New York (NYDailyNews)– There was the general squalor of the ghetto, which got aired out in early songs like Run-DMC’s first hit, “It’s Like That,” or “The Message” by Melle Mel. But over time, rappers started really going in on specific issues. Crooked cops were attacked by groups like NWA. Drug dealers were targeted by KRS-One. Drug addicts were mocked by Brand Nubian. Ice Cube called out Uncle Toms. Groups like Poor Righteous Teachers denounced shady churches with bootleg preachers. Queen Latifah was pushing back against misogyny. Salt-N-Pepa were rallying around safe sex. Public Enemy recorded manifestoes on their albums addressing a dozen different issues. You could name practically any problem in the hood and there’d be a rap song for you.
The hip-hop generation never gets credit for it, but those songs changed things in the hood. They were political commentary, but they weren’t based on theory or books. They were based on reality, on close observation of the world we grew up in. The songs weren’t moralistic, but they created a stigma around certain kinds of behavior, just by describing them truthfully and with clarity. One of the things we corrected was the absent-father karma our fathers’ generation’s created. We made it some real bitch s— to bounce on your kids. Whether it was Ed O.G. & Da Bulldogs with “Be a Father to Your Child,” or Big mixing rage with double entendre (pop duke left ma duke, the f— took the back way), we as a generation made it shameful to not be there for your kids.