5 Educated Hip Hop Icons You Should Know

We should be proud to acknowledge today's hip-hop artists including Chance The Rapper, Metro Boomin and recently in the news, Nicki Minaj and Jay Z have all donated their own money towards helping others achieve educational excellence. Let's take a look at some of hip hop's finest brainiacs.

Here are a few of the most intelligent hip hop artists you have to know in order to get a better understanding of the vast and complex history of hip hop.

From Ice Cube all the way to Chubb Rock these artists have displayed not only their musical talents, but their intellectual capabilities as well.

 

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- As Ice Cube saw more of his friends get killed or sent to jail, Cube became determined to create a better life for himself. After high school, he enrolled at the Phoenix Institute of Technology, where he earned a two-year degree in drafting in 1988.

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- Rah Digga was born in New Jersey, and went to study electrical engineering at the New Jersey Institute of Technology after scoring 1300 [out of 1600] on the SATs.

 

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- Despite disapproval from his friends, Ice-T managed to graduate from high school with good grades. Turning normal teenage delinquency on its head, he later admitted to "acting like I was ditching class when I was really ditching my friends so I could slip back to school."

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- RZA’s second well-known hobby is chess, and he is a Director of Development and champion of the Hip-Hop Chess Federation. 

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- Chubb Rock started his own band in New York, but after dropping out of medical college elected to set out on a solo career. Healthcare is still an issue near & dear to his heart, as he has recently been outspoken about disparities in quality of care for minorities.

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Album Review of DAMN by Kendrick Lamar

(photo credit: Roy Medina) 

(photo credit: Roy Medina) 

Kendrick Lamar's album 'DAMN' is a book of revelations. While it's packaged as revelations about the artist known as Kendrick Lamar, it's actually overwhelmingly a collection of revelations about African Americans, these United States, and society-at-large. What follows is a track by track breakdown:

 

  1. BLOOD. - Intro/interlude of poetry spoken word tells story of a blind woman whom [presumably] Kendrick approaches to ask if she needs help & she turns her gun on him and shoots to kill. The track ends with a very telling Fox News audio clip.
  2. DNA. - Here he invokes the name of Yashua and the belief that African Americans are the original, true Israelites. He educates you on all of the things inherently present in his DNA. "I got soldier's DNA". He also refers to himself as an antisocial extrovert while growling "My DNA not for imitation. Your DNA's an abomination." While cultural appropriation has been a hot button issue for YEARS now on social media, the collective of well known rappers has typically turned a blind eye in favor of their brand and music sales. TI's defense of Australian born rapper Iggy Azalea comes to mind, which is really interesting when you take into account that Kendrick came to her defense as well. DNA's infectious instrumentals almost overshadows the brilliant lyrics at play. Kendrick warns of "tenets on the way" if you look up in the sky and growls "I don't compromise. I just penetrate."
  3. YAH. - the supreme creator, God, Yah, the universe...however you prefer to acknowledge your maker, Kendrick wants you to know that following your intuition is a must. Once again he mentions being an Israelite and even requests "...don't call me Black no mo'." He quotes Deuteronomy but also cautions that it ain't about religion.
  4. ELEMENT. - here, we are introduced to "Kung Fu Kenny" and I'm immediately reminded that Kendrick is from Compton!! As I turn the volume to the max and hear "I don't give a f*ck". Our conscious warrior is back and wants you to know "I will die for this shit" ala Tupac. He even jokes about faking his death and going to Cuba. But don't worry because he's gonna "make it look sexy". The screw music style at the end of the track makes one wonder if he's directing his lyrics at Drake.
  5. FEEL. - my first impression is that this music is psychedelic/trippy in nature. That's not a knock because I'm curious where the journey will lead! Here, we are introduced to Kdot's feelings of frustration with himself, his friends & the world at large. "Feel like removing myself ain't no feelings involved...since nobody praying for me." We've all been there haven't we? Not feeling like our best selves, having a moment of self pity and wondering where our friends are in our time of neediness and if anyone really cares at all! This track is an emotional journey of highs and lows, bravado, machismo, disconnection and ultimately, STRENGTH.
  6. LOYALTY. (feat. Rihanna) - definitely a chill vibe; a bit of flirtation. Loyalty is described as a "secret society", no switching sides. Rihanna & Kdot take turns asking the question "Tell me who you're loyal to" be it money, food, weed, drank, your family or your friends. Will most definitely be on the radio and in heavy rotation this summer.
  7. PRIDE. - more reflective sonics as he questions the choice between "happiness or flashiness". He cautions us not to take our respective pride too far. In this age of flexing our curated lives on the gram we are reminded the damage it does to the greater good. But don't worry Twitter, the line "I can't fake humble just cuz your ass is insecure" is just for you!
  8. HUMBLE. - the track that jumpstarted the anticipation for the rest of the album. This song is truly an oxymoron about Kdot's ability to humble OTHERS. And folks wasted no time in posting the oft repeated refrain "Be humble. (Bitch) sit down." Blog posts exploded to debate the meaning of ditching photoshop for an "ass with some stretchmarks" and the contradictions of the male species' voicing a preference for au naturale but constantly clamoring for the prize also known as a 'bad bitch' who's accessories may/may not include cosmetic surgery, hair extensions & a face full of makeup. That aside, 'HUMBLE' is Kendrick's reminder that it's levels to this shit, and his competitors ain't there yet.
  9. LUST. - we are initially confronted with a metaphor of the physical manifestation of a man's erection (blood rush, heart racing) as Kdot croons "Let me put the head in". But this song isn't about sex, not exactly. All of the things we and the male/female characters in the song lust for - sexual prowess, money, looks, danger keep us from doing good and making a difference. Keep listening and you'll recognize the recap of the energy post the 2016 presidential election & how the disappointment of so many swiftly dissipated as the collective became easily distracted by their lust for all things superficial.
  10. LOVE. (feat. Zacari) - you WILL be singing this in the shower! Hearing that sweet confirmation: "I wanna be with you" is Kendrick's spin on the spirit of Motown's classic love songs. Get ready to hear this at weddings for the next 24 months and beyond. So many "If I...would you still love me?" moments to choose from.
  11. XXX. - speaking directly to America. Not the people of America, but the entity. Kdot plainly lays out on the table disparities in quality of life, education and opportunities. And for those still tone deaf enough to continue equating death at the hands of police brutality with civilian on civilian crime that happen to be Black, he lets you know "Ain't no Black power when your baby killed by a coward." We end on a note that accurately describes how violence doesn't discriminate against social class, race or pedigree. From Compton to Wall Street to yes, our very own Oval Office.
  12. FEAR. - the longest track on the album at 7 minutes and 40 seconds, it's also the most complex and thought provoking. Especially if you happened to grow up in a household that infused fear in an effort to make you act right and behave. You're reminded of all the threats of an ass whooping for everything from jumping on the couch, losing a fight at school, not finishing dinner, your homework, etc. This is the first seed where fear continues to grow within your heart. And Kendrick allows his vulnerability here to let us into all of the dark corners of his personal fears: losing wealth, losing love, walking home in the wrong gang territory, the police and ultimately, fear of judgment.
  13. GOD. - it's not what you think. Actually it's more reminiscent of Kanye West's infamous 'I Am A God'. Kendrick is expressing his celebration of arrogance and ponders that "this what God feel like." Kinda like how all men feel fresh out of the barber's chair.
  14. DUCKWORTH. - as stated at the beginning of this album review, 'DAMN' has proved to be a a book of revelations of sorts. Kendrick Lamar saved the best (and most personal) revelation for last. Without giving too much away, I'll tell you that 'Duckworth' tells the hard to believe (but confirmed as true) story of Top Dawg founder Anthony Tiffith crossing paths with Kendrick's own father "Ducky" on the streets of Compton, and how if things had ended differently, we wouldn't have the pleasure of Kendrick Lamar Duckworth's dynamic artistry to behold.

This album will be in rotation for years to come - A CLASSIC.  

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PART 3 - Rap, Race & Riots (How the Rodney King Verdict Changed Hip Hop)

For years before the Rodney King beating, hip hop had been talking about the way young black males were being mistreated by the police departments in their neighborhoods. With the exception of the fans of the art, and those living in those communities, their cries were widely ignored. The most well known track about the relationship, N.W.A.’s “Fuck The Police”, got the attention of the federal government who would send a cease and desist letter to the groups' record label. The news of this only made the group more popular, and to make matters worse, their music was becoming more and more popular in the suburbs.

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PART 2 - Rap, Race & Riots (How the Rodney King Verdict Changed Hip Hop)

At the same time another group of citizens headed to the LAPD head quarters downtown. What ensued is something out of movies, officers rallied inside, but were clearly outnumbred. As rocks, and garbage cans begin to fly in the direction of the plated glass windows that extended throughout the exterior of the buildings structure. Residents wanted answers, and if they would not be given, it could gladly be taken in blood. 

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The GREATEST Rapper Of All Time Has Not Reached His Prime.

 

Throughout my years as a hip hop junkie the NEVER ending debate of who was/is the BEST MC has been the topic of discussion. Wheather it was me and Lil Rob (RIP) arguing who’s better between Mobb Deep or 2Pac, the Grandmaster Caz vs. Melle Mel debates of the early 80s, the Rakim or Kane of the late 80s, or who can forget LL and Kool Moe Dee. Some of these fan rivalries resulted in verbal sparring, but more times than not the battle has been soley faught by the followers of a rapper and not the actual artist themselves. 

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Illmatic Turns 21

 

It's the norm now, but at the time of Illmatic, most rap albums production was handled in house, Illmatic changed that. This was the first album that brought the BEST producers on the east coast and put them on one album. DJ Premier, Pete Rock, Large Professor, and Q-Tip formed a dream team and there's still room for an unknown producer, L.E.S. to shine bright. He would go on to become a frequest collaborator with NaS throughout the 90s and early 2000s.

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Dr. Maya Angelou asks Tupac "Do You Know How Important You Are?"

While everyone seems to be focused on the fact that Dr. Angelou made Tupac cry (how shocking - he was a human being!) it is her consistency of courage that should momentarily leave us in awe and serve as lifelong inspiration.

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