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Conscious hip hop or socially conscious hip-hop is a sub-genre of hip hop that focuses on social issues. It is not necessarily overtly political, but it discusses social issues and conflicts. Themes of conscious hip hop include religion, aversion to violence (usually), African American culture and advancement, the economy, or simple depictions of life in the projects/ghetto that reveal the struggle of ordinary people. Grandmaster Flash's "The Message" was an early and hugely influential political and conscious hip hop track, decrying the poverty, violence, and dead-end lives of the black youth of the time.
The audience for conscious rap is largely underground. Most conscious hip hop artists have not attained the same level of commercial success as mainstream hip-hop , though there are some notable exceptions to this.
Like many cases within music, the umbrella term was originally coined by music audiences and critics rather than the actual artists themselves and has produced considerable backlash in regards to the labeling. Some of the most prominent artists affiliated with the term have been openly critical of the labeling.
- Tupac Shakur
- Mos Def
- Talib Kweli
- Jean Grae
- Lupe Fiasco
- Some of Kanye West's songs (mostly his earlier work)
- Arrested Development
- Black Sheep
- Goodie Mob
- The Roots
- Digable Planets
- The music of Natasja Saad was this mixed with dancehall.
- The Black Eyed Peas started like this (well, either this or Alternative Hip Hop). Then Fergie joined, and things were never the same.