Last summer, we saw the Black Lives Matter movement take center stage. The extra spotlight on Black creatives was helpful and Black creatives used that moment to share what Black life is like for them every day using their respective mediums.
We gathered a list of some of our favorite conscious rappers that we think are doing a great job of portraying Black life in America and beyond.
Check out our list of socially conscious rappers you should be listening to below.
Philadelphia-based artist Moor Mother has been releasing music since 2012, but her recent album “Black Encyclopedia of the Air” is turning more heads than any of her previous works. As an activist with a background in photography and spoken word, Ayewa morphs powerful imagery and storytelling into poetic lyrics that casually float over jazzy tunes, nature sounds, and tribal drum beats.
Taking time to focus on activism, self-education, and her book club, Noname’s consistency with releases has fallen off since her 2018 album “Room 25.” Nonetheless, the Chicago-native is a necessary mention as one of the most socio-culturally savvy lyricists of her time. She came up with a class of boundary-pushing Chicago rappers, namely Saba and Chance the Rapper. She tackles politics, misogynoir, and sexual liberation with a dense and fast-paced rhyme scheme that never gets old.
Rapper, producer, pro skateboarder, and model — Navy Blue, also known by his real name, Sage Elsesser — is a textbook Jack of all trades. His unapologetically ‘New York’ sound is refreshing in a rap game currently dominated by Atlanta-based artists. A plethora of side hustles and concentrations fail to compromise the quality of his prolific musical repertoire, which has been bolstered by a close personal and professional relationship with lo-fi royalty, Earl Sweatshirt. Elsesser’s metric flow is equally calming and thought-provoking, enriched with spiritual theory and wisdom that deem him deserving of his name, Sage.
Listen: “Higher Self” and “Breathe” (feat. Yasiin Bey)
Little Simz is a British-Nigerian experimental rapper and actor from London with narrative-style songs that emphasize the upliftment of Black women. Recently, the rapper’s music was featured in the 2021 blockbuster film “Venom: Let There Be Carnage.” Simz has also made appearances on Netflix’s “Top Boy,” and television series “Afrofuturism,” “Spirit Warriors,” and “Youngers.” Simz pulls on soul, jazz, and afro-beats that are indicative and celebratory of her cultural heritage. Her approach is fun and sassy but purposeful. It earned her a 2021 BET award for Best International Flow. Fans of Stormzy, who presented the award to Simz, are guaranteed to enjoy her sound.
Lo Village is unabashedly revolutionary, unabashedly Black. Composed of brother and sister Kane and Ama Tabiri, and Kane’s high school friend, Charles Tyler, the group started as a rap duo, later adding Ama as a vocalist. Inspired by the heated protests against racial violence in 2020, the group began to incorporate socio-political messages in their music. “We wanted to let people know we give a f**k and that we’re not just Black people acting like s**t’s not happening, Ama said in an interview with Audiomack. Each member brings a unique sound to the music, combining glittery neo-soul with articulate rap bars to tell stories of Blackness.
MAVI, whose real name is Omavi Minder, emerged in 2014 as part of KILLSWITCH, a music collective based in his hometown of Charlotte, North Carolina. His 2019 debut “Let The Sun Talk” garnered him leadership amongst his lo-fi hip-hop peers, and an appearance on Earl Sweatshirt’s 2019 EP “Feet of Clay“ furthered his long-deserved recognition. Mavi is a trailblazer in his own right, he attacks songs with with a fierce and seditious pro-Black vision that translates warmly over soulful samples and flat drum beats.
Dave, also known as Santan Dave, is among the most recognized British rappers, standing alone as a particularly socially-conscious lyricist in England. “Poverty is killing us, the government’s killing us/ If they ain’t killing us then we’re killing ourselves,” he declares on “We’re All Alone,” the first song of his 2021 album “We’re All Alone In This Together.” Dave brings a unique perspective as a British-Nigerian political rapper in a space dominated by Black American rappers. Dave isn’t afraid to call out systems and individuals, nor does he stray from vulnerable and deeply personal narratives about mental health struggles, childhood, and love.
With over two decades in the music industry, KA carries a jadedness on his 2021 album “A Martyr’s Reward.” He recalls memories from youth in Brownsville, Brooklyn, NY., reflecting on his past as context for his future hopes. Comparable to a lo-fi DMX, his deep raspy voice over slow instrumentals spouts out anti-cop lyrics as much as a restorative, and pro-love stance on community organizing and social activism.
Listen: “Sins of the Father” (feat. Roc Marci) and “Everybody Up”