By Anaya Rodgers ‘20
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Everyone has something special about them, some unique quality or tool; it just takes some longer to find it than others. From a young age, we are taught to discover that “thing.” The way I was brought up, reading and writing were my “thing,” something no one could take away from me. Since I could talk, I’ve known I wanted to be a leader, someone with the power and authority to eliminate the evil and discrimination of the world. Often times, people think in order to inspire or enact change they must be politicians, lawyers, or civil rights activists who march to city hall and won’t take no for an answer. But I reject that notion and instead argue that one can call out injustice through any platform. If we were to say that every person should find their “thing,” yet only be subjected to the previous three things, we would be a society of hypocrites. So, who then has the right and responsibility to use their political power? Anyone, but especially this group who has a 75% audience in arguably America’s most influential age bracket (12-24); and that is Musicians.
As Spotify, Apple Music, and the radio make music more accessible, it is evident why the population of music-listeners has dramatically increased over the past few years. Seeing the power that music has over our society, its capability to create political awareness possibly surmounts any other form of media, especially because many millennials pay more attention to music than the political world. Kendrick Lamar, perhaps the generation’s greatest hip-hop artist, dedicated an entire album to the evident problems associated with certain identities and critiqued the conceptions of society today. In his song, “DNA.”, he describes the blessings and burdens of being black. In the song’s bridge, he used a quote from a report by Fox News’ Geraldo Rivera that says, “This is why I say that hip hop has done more damage to young African Americans than racism in recent years”. Whether you agree with Rivera or not, Lamar does what any platform holder should do: bring awareness and attention to a controversial issue. He uses his talent to both express his opinion and highlight those of others. Vince Staples, another young rapper, is more explicit with his opinions and has the same effect. In his song “BagBak,” he illustrates the mistreatment of black people, specifically critiquing institutionalized racism and underrepresentation in the political world. He writes:
Prison system broken, racial war commotion
Until the president get ashy, Vincent won’t be votin’;
We need Tamikas and Shaniquas in that Oval Office
Obama ain’t enough for me, we only getting started
The next Bill Gates can be on Section 8 up in the projects
So ‘til they love my dark skin
B*tch I’m goin’ all in
One of the most debated topics of today is the existence of institutionalized racism and police brutality. In this song, Staples manages to touch on each of them. Similarly to Lamar, he uses his platform to force people to interact with uncomfortable conversations surrounding the issues in this country.
These features are what encompass a political leader or anyone with a platform. Someone who, in attempt of being a positive influencer and creating change, raises awareness and conversation towards the ignored aspects of everyday life. These artists found their “thing” and used it for the benefit of others. So to those who say that you cannot have an effective political voice without yelling on Pennsylvania Avenue or having a seat in your city’s congress, take a listen to Lamar or Staples and then reassess. As the lyrical genius, Tupac Shakur (RIP Pac) once said, “I’m not saying I’m gonna change the world, but I guarantee that I will spark the brain that will change the world”.