Georgia Tech University is currently offering a course on the connection between Trap Rap and activism. Considering the many MCs who’ve evolved into social justice warriors over the years, the professor who created this class is clearly on to something.
Dr. Joycelyn Wilson’s course, “Exploring The Lyrics of Outcast and Trap Music to Explore the Politics of Social Justice,” kicked off January 13 at the Atlanta-based University and will hopefully continue for many semesters to come.
In 2015, Dr. Wilson shared the original theory that inspired her new class in a TEDtalk, which she opened with a quote from OutKast‘s classic 1994 “True Dat (Interlude),” performed by gruff-voiced Dungeon Family spokesman Big Rube.
“Operatin’ under the crooked American system too long
OutKast, pronounced outcast;
Adjective, meaning homeless, or unaccepted in society.
But let’s look deeper than that;
Are you an OutKast?
If you understand and feel the basic principles and
fundamental truths contained within this musik, you probably are.
If you think it’s all about pimpin’ hoes and slammin’ Cadillac doors;
You’re probably a cracker, or a nigga that thinks he a cracker.
Or, maybe just don’t understand.
An OutKast is someone who is not considered to be part of the normal world.
He’s looked at differently.
He’s not accepted because of his clothes, his hair;
His occupation, his beliefs or his skin color.
Now look at yourself, are you an OutKast? I know I am.
As a matter of fact, fuck being anything else.
It’s only so much time left in this crazy world.
Wake up niggas and realize what’s goin’ on around you;
Poisoning of the food and water;
Tampering of cigarettes;
Disease engineering control over your life.
Take back your existence or die like a punk!”
– Big Rube, “True Dat (Interlude)
We couldn’t agree more with Big Rube’s manifesto or Dr. Wilson’s logical conclusion about trap’s potential to wake the masses.
Since it’s too late to enroll in this semester’s course, Global Grind is submitting our list of guest lecturers who could help Dr. Wilson break down the science behind trap rap and social activism’s magnetic bond.
Antwan “Big Boi” Patton
OutKast’s Big Boi introduced much of the world to the term “trap” on the duo’s 1998 classic “SpottieOttieDopalicious.”
“United Parcel Service and the people at the Post Office didn’t call you back because you had cloudy piss/So now you back in the trap, just that, trapped/Go on and marinate on that for a minute.”
– Big Boi, “SpottieOttieDopalicious”
In his buttery spoken word flow, Big defined “the trap” as the oppressive state of reality those in America’s stagnant urban and rural settings survive daily without legitimate resources or reasonable hope of a better future.
Though Big and rhyme partner Andre “3000” Benjamin rarely kept their rhymes confined to the bleak realities of the trap, social wokeness was always the theme underlying each of the group’s five otherworldly studio albums.
Kast’s trap-conscious lyrics undoubtedly planted the seeds that inspired future trap stars T.I., Young Jeezy and Gucci Mane, all of whom have continued rhyming about the bleak circumstances they overcame in hopes of freeing more of the countless souls trapped in the American nightmare.
In the years since OutKast’s retirement, Big Boi has been outspoken on social media and in person about various social justice issues including police brutality and mass incarceration. Dr. Wilson would be wise to reach out to Mr. Patton to ask that he school her students on how to turn society’s outcasts into soldiers for social justice.
Bernard “Bun B” Freeman
Bun B is another pioneer of southern hip-hop and early purveyor of trap music who has transformed into a respected academic and activist before our eyes.
Bun and his UGK partner Chad “Pimp C” Butler were two of the first MCs to represent America’s southern states on the national hip-hop scene in the late 1980s and early 1990s. And while classic albums like Riding Dirty showcased the highs and lows of the trap life for fans from all walks of life, it wasn’t until years after his partner’s tragic passing in 2005 that the long-renowned lyricist fully embraced the role of intellectual and began schooling college students on the spiritual and political potential of hip-hop.
Bun has been lecturing students at Houston’s Rice University since 2011, so Dr. Wilson should have no problem convincing him to give her class a hot 16-minute take on the many ties that bond trappers and activists.
Clifford “T.I.” Harris
T.I.’s 2003 album Trap Muzik established trap as a legitimate sub genre of hip-hop and helped make the word a household name. As the fiery MC spit traditional street tales over the futuristic 808’s of seminal trap producer DJ Toomp, it became clear that he was leading a new movement in southern hip-hop.
As his rap career has progressed, Tip has shown an increasing interest in social justice both online and in person. The Rubber Band man was one of the loudest celebrity voices supporting the #BlackLivesMatter movement following the murders of Trayvon Martin and Mike Brown, and he even went so far as to pen an open letter schooling friend and collaborator Lil Wayne on the importance of supporting the young activists behind the controversial hashtag.
Tip’s political passion was on full display earlier this month when he penned a heartfelt letter thanking Barack Obama for the powerful example the former president set for himself, his children and the entire world.
Michael “Killer Mike” Render
The longtime OutKast affiliate and outspoken Bernie Sanders bro is more recognized today for his political activism than his thrilling action on the mic. Mike’s recent releases, including the current #1 album on the Billboard Hip-Hop/Rap charts, have earned critical acclaim and high praise from underground rap fans, but it’s his sharp political wit that’s earned him global recognition on shows like HBO’s Real Time With Bill Maher.
Mike’s effectiveness as a social justice warrior is so great that 2016 Democratic presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders hired him to lead his campaign’s outreach to urban and minority voters.
There’s no doubt that Mike’s future in rap remains bright thanks to the success his duo Run The Jewels has had lately, but his ceiling as a politician appears to be even higher, given his strong showing through the recent campaign season.
Lavell William “David Banner” Crump
David Banner made his mark in 2000s rap’s mainstream with R-rated bangers like “Like A Pimp” and “Sweat.” But in the years since, the Mississippi rapper and producer has found a way to balance his raw rhymes with even rawer political commentary and action.
Some critics may discount Banner’s radical views as too “Hotep-ish” for mainstream politics, but there is no denying his passion for reaching and empowering Black youth through his “The God Box” lecture series.
Banner is currently spreading his message of self-empowerment and creativity nationwide in an attempt to reach America’s forgotten youth, proving himself to be a rare example of action and dedication among even the most socially woke musicians and entertainers.
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