civic media: week eight

beneath the lyrics


Did you ever think about the power of artistic expression to communicate underlying problems or issues within society?


When thinking about this topic, some of the most common forms of artistic expression that come to mind first include graffiti or hip-hop music. Through our recent mural project, it is evident that many citizens turn to outward artistic expression in order to convey their feelings or beliefs about a certain subject, such as through street murals. However, other forms of this social activism can also include break dancing, DJing, or rapping.


Through these various expressions, which began to occur throughout the 1970s in the South Bronx, individuals started to voice their opinions about political frustration and disenfranchisement. Furthermore, these individuals often belonged to neglected communities and cultures and represented the community’s feelings of disconnectedness through their lyrics or artistic forms.


Among these various expressions, we began to focus on hip-hop music and its power throughout the years amid American culture and society. Hip-hop music is often polarizing – some see the negative aspects of hip-hop while others see the positive side to this form of expression. Specifically, American politicians often speak out against hip-hop music, stating that this music was and still is corrosive to the values of human society. However, hip-hop artists counter this argument with the statement that these politicians are either unaware or unwilling to address the socioeconomic problems that their songs touch on.


Although it may be discrete, there is usually a hidden message beneath the lyrics of hip-hop music, pointing to an issue within society. This issue often engages with its listener, urging him or her with a call to action.


“Rap’s poetic voice is deeply political in content and spirit, but its hidden struggle – that of access to public space and community resources and the interpretation of Black expression – constitutes rap’s hidden politics.” – Tricia Rose


Through these various artistic expressions and engagement within the community, these artists are striving to bring about change. Although it may take some searching beneath the surface, these various forms – murals, street art, graffiti, rapping, hip-hop, etc. – all point to a deeper call to action.


Have you ever discovered a deeper call to action in a particular song or artwork? Let me know in the comments below…


thanks for reading

– madauer


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