Saturday, October 31, 2015

Rap Music & Slavery References: A Partial List

Howard Rambsy II and Jeremiah Carter 

For months now, we have been collecting and discussing instances in rap where artists artists allude to enslavement, struggles for liberation, prominent ex-slaves, freedom, physical bondage -- all of which we label, in general, as "slavery references." What follows is a partial list of references that we have identified.
• "I'll take my whip and make him call himself Toby" —Kool Moe Dee (1987)

• “knowledge of self broke every shackle and chain
Now I declare myself as the Big Daddy Kane.” —Big Daddy Kane “Word to the Mother (Land)” (1988)

• “But remember - you're not a slave
Cause we was put here to be much more than that
But we couldn't see because our mind was trapped
But I'm here to break away the chains, take away the pains
Remake the brains, rebuild my name.” —Rakim “Follow the Leader” (1988)

• “As I walk the streets of Hollywood Boulevard
Thinking how hard it was to those that starred
In the movies portraying the roles
Of butlers and maids, slaves and hoes” —Big Daddy Kane “Burn Hollywood Burn” (1990)

• “There is a move to make, we gotta take a chance to break
All chains become awake
Cause this is the new way, to be proud and brave
And I ain't goin out like a slave.” —Big Daddy Kane “Ain’t No Stopping us Now” (1990)

• “Look here comes the judge, watch it here he come now
(Don't sentence me judge, I ain't did nothin' to nobody)
I can only guess what's happenin'
Years ago he woulda been the ship's captain
Gettin' me bruised on a cruise, what I got to lose
Lost all contact, got me layin' on my back
Ugh, rollin' in my own leftover
When I roll over, I roll over in somebody else
90 damn days on a slave ship.” —Chuck D “Can’t Truss It” (1991)

• "Cause he's going out like Kunte Kinte
But I got a whip for ya, Toby" —Ice Cube "No Vaseline" (1991)

• “I couldn't find a trace of equality
Work me like a slave while they laid back
Homie don't play that” —Tupac “Trapped” (1991)

• “Back in the days when we was slaves
I bet we was some cool ass niggas
But now we vultures, slam my nigga back out.” —Big Boi “Myintrotoletuknow” (1994)

• “…came as Harriet Tubman, I put the truth to Sojourner
Other times, I had to come as Nat Turner
They tried to burn me, lynch me and starve me.” —KRS-ONE “Ah-Yeah” (1995)
• “See life's a bitch then you figure out
Why you really got dropped in the Dirty South
See in the 3rd grade this is what you told
You was bought, you was sold” —Goodie Mob “Dirty South” (1995)

• “On a lyrical Nat Turner mission, reacting off of intuition
Continuously alert, no intermission.” —Black Thought “No Alibi” (1996)

• “I hate gettin locked up
Cause that upstate bus reminds me of the slave ships." —M.A.R.S. “Clones” (1996)

• “But property, and the triangle trade begins - they seize us
Queen Elizabeth sends the first slaves on a ship named Jesus”
—Ras Kass “Nature of the Threat” (1996)

• “Same song, just remixed, different arrangement
Put you on a yacht but they won't call it a slaveship.” —Mos Def “Thieves in the Night” (1998)

• "My emancipation don't fit your equation." —Lauryn Hill "Lost Ones" (1998)

• “Who choosing your fate (yo)
We went from picking cotton
To chain gang line chopping
To Be-Bopping to Hip-Hopping” —Mos Def (Yasiin Bey) “Hip Hop” (1999)

• “Kunta Kinte a slave again, no sir
Picture black Sam, oh yes a massa" —Missy Elliott "Work It" (2002)

• “We ain't getting paid commission, minimum wage, modern day slave conditions”
—Dead Prez “Hell Yeah (Pimp the System)” (2004)

• “The struggle is beautiful, I'm too strong for your slavery” —Talib Kweli “The Beautiful Struggle” (2004)

• “See the black and the brown, we can share the same land
When I was a slave, where the hell did I ran?
California man, it was full of mexi-cans
Look mu-fasa, this is they casa” —Warren G f. Ice Cube “Get U Down” (2005)

• “They gave us lemons, we made lemonade
But this nigger's paid, ancestral slaves
Descendant of kings, it's necessary I - bling
Put rims on everything, wear Timbs on every scene.” —Nas “N.I.G.G.E.R.” (2007)

• “The Nat Burner yet, the black microphone murder vet” --Black Thought “75 Bars” (2008)

• “This the vivid memoirs of a obnoxious slave
I pave ways like Nat and Harriet.” —Jay Electronica “Exhibit A” (2009)

• "Okay new day new yay
Then I whip it like Kunta Kinte" —Lil Wayne "Whip It" (2010)

• “double back to slavery times
Picking cotton from a field that a white man own
The blacker you are, farther you are from the white man's home
Negro spiritual songs, gave us some type of sanity
Before your vanity, they parted our families
They put us in hundred degree shade and outside we bathed
The more we were afraid, the more they made rules
And trapped our minds in a cage, our freedom was so vague.”
—Kendrick Lamar “Vanity Slaves Pt. 1” (2011)

• "they stripped me of my pride and put these shackles on my feet
I was stacked on top of my folk and it was really hard to breathe
It was a little hard to believe that I had been caught up in this mess
And some of my own people would sell me to my death" —Big K.R.I.T. "Praying Man" (2012)

• “I know that we the new slaves
I know that we the new slaves” —Kanye West “New Slaves” (2013)

• “Elephant tusk on the bow of a sailing lady, docked on the Ivory Coast//
Because this water drown my family, this water mixed my blood
This water tells my story, this water knows it all” —Jay Z “Oceans” (2013)

• "we all slaves now, the chains concealed." J. Cole "Runaway" (2013)

• “The devil, the haters, the bloggers
The papers, the labels, they labeled me
But they can't relate to our struggle, my nigga
We came up from slavery.” —Jay Electronica “We Made it (Remix)” (2014)

• “Hop off the slave ship
Popped off my chain and took it to Jacob, I got it gold plated
Walked in that bitch like "Nigga we made it!"
I own my own masters” —Jay Z “We Made it (Remix)” (2014)

• "Green minded like a slave field, niggas picking green like it's cotton." —Future "Look Ahead" (2014)

• “Them niggas pay you a tenth of what you supposed to get
You know niggas die for equal pay right?
You know when I work I ain't your slave right?” —Jay Z “Tidal Freestyle” (2015)

Related:
• A notebook on rap music, hip hop

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