Political Mashup: Audio Report

I chose to hi-light the chronological layout of my report by placing all three artists in conjunction on the mashup and then splitting the verses by age of the artist, Tupac first, then Technique, then Macklemore. This track also touches on the prophetic nature of the genre and music as a whole, with the sample Macklemore includes at the end of his verse directly discussing the future of hip hop in respect to cough syrup. Enjoy.

Dinner Conversation


The Otherside of Getting Caught in a Hustle Changes by MackleTechniqueShakur 

The Political Hip Hop Sub-genre

Artists like Tupac Shakur, Immortal Technique and Macklemore use the lyricism and technique of hip hop culture to contribute a focused array of issues to a timeless community of musical artists that employ their talent to communicate, reflect and predict political issues of human society. Music causes introspection and reaction on a societal level. This can be seen across time and culture. In the religion and culture of the Eastern world, specifically Confucianism in China, sound plays a key role in shaping the mood and cultural mold of the country. In more recent times, in the Western World, this same idea of enacting political change through music is exemplified in the recent American music scene. Artists of the 60’s and 70’s brought about social change on a massive scale, entire subcultures were created and political movements erupted onto the scene. In the 80’s and 90’s another wave of issues were brought up by a musical sub-genre of 3rd wave feminists. Politics is a lot of the time assessed from a more scientific approach, hence “political science”. An examination of the musical influence cross-culturally and across time provides for a different perspective on our understanding of the individual issues examined in addition to our concept of ourselves as a composing society.

12 Dances with the Devil

Throughout my exploration of the sub-genre of political hip hop, I found that the methodology of the songs was similar between artists. A song that is focusing on a specific issue is sometimes formed as a narrative. These songs are best compared to a short story or fable that one would find in a collection. The listener is meant to learn from the subject of the narrative. It is in these songs that we as an audience are connected to an issue on a level that is past simply understanding that an issue is out there. An individual who has experienced the events that are being spoken about has crafted a track that employs specific tones and lyrical schemes that hook our interest as an audience. The song “Dances with the Devil” by Immortal Technique is a perfect example.


Research Proposal

In Noise: The Political Economy of Music Jacques Attali discusses music in its relation to politics. This idea that music is both influencing and exposing of modern political themes, as well as providing of a prophetic lens to the future, is intriguing and astute. To gain a deeper understanding of the music of politics, and how it affects a wide variety of subcultures and individual demographics, I chose to focus on the pertinent political messages imparted on society through the lens of a subject that I was familiar with: hip hop and rap music and culture.

Hip hop culture and rap music specifically have always interested me, and as I contemplated where to focus my research I found a reccurring theme in my musical taste. No matter what style, flow, geographical location, beat, or lyrical ability, the rappers and tracks that I enjoyed the most musically were those that directly addressed certain political topics, issues, or positions. While Attali may not have been addressing musicians who explicitly state political based content throughout their music, his theories and ideas can be applied to such content just the same. These rap artists have varying levels of impact on the present socio-political landscape. They also have a prophetic and progressive tendency that Attali theorizes about. In order to focus my research further, I chose three individual artists to research and profile as a chronological profile of politics in hip hop. These artists have discographies that cover ranges of political talking points. Each artist in juxtaposition with one another will reveal broad overarching themes concerning political hip hop as a sound community in relation to Jacques Attali’s theories.

The paper will progress chronologically, beginning with a general introduction to political hip hop. As the lens narrows, the paper will move chronologically, addressing first Tupac Shakur, then Immortal Technique, and lastly Macklemore. These three artists represent different forms of political hip hop, as well as different eras, not only in political hip hop but also hip hop as a culture. Throughout this chronological profile, I will include numerous lyrics, song titles, and album names. From tracks like “Dear Mama” by Tupac Shakur, a ballad dedicated to the love a son has for his mother that simultaneously addresses the issues a young black child has to deal with growing up in the poverty stricken areas of the United States, to Immortal Technique’s “Peruvian Cocaine” a creatively produced track that opens with dialogue from “Scarface” and proceeds with a beat that incorporates one of the tracks off the soundtrack of the same movie. Immortal Technique then begins to rap in the first person from the perspective of all of the individuals involved in the drug business. From the field worker to the paid off government employee, this song leaves the listener with a distinct message. Lastly, I chose to include Macklemore in my triad of political hip hop artists. While I may not be a fan of his music as much, I do recognize that he has a very intent message with each of his tracks. Also, as he is less developed as an artist as either Tupac Shakur or Immortal Technique, his work will provide an interesting contrast. A song like “Wings” for example, which is an intense commentary on consumerism in America, would mesh perfectly with the themes from the song “Rich Man’s World” by Immortal Technique, another twisted perspective on the United States corporations and consumerisms implications. However, a song like “Obnoxious” by Technique or “2 of Amerikaz Most Wanted” by Tupac would contradict the message Macklemore is trying to convey in “Othersiders”, a violin laced minor key song which discusses addiction and its impact on individuals.

After a close examination of the profiles of these three artists, off and on the microphone, my paper will culminate in a summarization of the common themes within this community of political hip hop. Those themes generally being concerned with the struggles of African Americans and minorities in poverty, the corruption of the government at home and abroad, the nature of corporations, especially record labels and the music industry as a whole, etc. I hope to mirror some of the methodology in Veal’s “DUB” in my research paper. The author profiles prominent figures in dub music, and in this research paper surrounding a musical sonic community similar in nature to that of dub music in Jamaica as dub is a subset of reggae just as political hip hop is a subset of hip hop as a whole, I want to emulate Veal in my profile of prominent artists in political hip hop.



Immortal Technique: ‘I’m seen as a threat to the status quo of hip-hop’. (2012, October               25). Europe Intelligence Wire. Retrieved from http://go.galegroup.com/ps/i.do?id=GALE%7CA306503560&v=2.1&u=vol_b92b&it=r&p=ITOF&sw=w


While this is not a scholarly reviewed article, this article is still pertinent to the topic of politics in hip hop. The subject, a multi-racial rapper Immortal Technique is an activist and a revolutionist. He is not signed to a major record company, and his songs are full of politically charged content. This rapper is a perfect example of the political component of the hip hop culture. Through an analysis of this biographical text will help build a broader profile of the political undertones in hip hop.



Macklemore & Ryan Lewis Team With You Can Play Against Homophobia. (2013, February 27). PR             Newswire. Retrieved from                                 http://go.galegroup.com/ps/i.do?id=GALE%7CA320561081&v=2.1&u=vol_b92b&it=r&p=ITOF&s        w=w

This article looks at the contemporary musician Macklemore and his efforts to enact change in the political sphere of America. Similar to Immortal Technique, Macklemore is also unsigned. Although his specific political message is in many ways different from that of Immortal Techniques, at least his views on the record industry and the role it plays in musical composition are in line with that of Immortal Techniques. These two artists operate in a strange middle ground, with their music popular enough to be well known across large geographical areas without the encroachment of record labels into their art form. This affords them immense flexibility and influence over at lease hip hop subculture and arguably the broader culture of America.


*Malone, C., & Martinez, G. (2010). The Organic Globalizer: The Political Development of Hip-Hop and the Prospects for Global Transformation. New Political Science, 32(4), 531-545. doi:10.1080/07393148.2010.520439

This article is a detailed analysis of hip hop as a whole to provide my project with a contextual background and reference source. It is a peer reviewed scholarly source that will be able to provide me with any information I need during my research of politics in hip hop.


*Sanford, K. L. (2011). Keepin’ It Real in Hip Hop Politics: A Political Perspective of Tupac Shakur. Journal                                of Black Studies, 42(1), 3-22.

doi: 10.1177/0021934709355122


This peer reviewed source is the third source to feature an individual as the subject. These three individuals will serve as reference points to certain forms of political hip hop as well as different time periods of the culture as a whole. There is a distinct chronological evolution of Hip Hop that it is necessary to understand before analyzing the political aspect of that evolution. An analysis of Tupac, Immortal Technique, and Macklemore as individuals will help to give a theme to the overall analysis of the sound community that is political hip hop artists.

*Stapleton, K. R. (1998). From the margins to mainstream: the political power of hip-hop. Media Culture & Society, 20(2), 219-234.

doi: 10.1177/016344398020002004


In this article, the author outlines the political power of the culture of hip hop as a whole, an important consideration in the examination of the culture of hip hop concerned with politics. These two topics are closely intertwined and spoken about and pointed to by many artists including some of the above mentioned.


*peer reviewed



A Day In The Life

I chose to open my audiography with silence. Silence represents the calm before the storm. When we are sleeping we do not process the sense data of the real world in a direct way. In reality the only silence is found in sleep.


The silence is followed by an alarm. This noise wakes me every day. More than that, it marks a sharp snap into the new day. The alarm is both cyclic and punctual, it divides the realms of slumber and awareness of dreams and reality. In addition to these sentiments the also evokes a sense of resentment. Resentment for the regular and scheduled life we construct, wash rinse and repeat. As the alarm interrupts my natural Circadian rhythm, I am reminded of how little freedom I have existing within a system of artificial segmentation of time and an unnecessary sense of urgency.


Following this alarm is the song “Hoodmorning” by the Game. The opening half minuet of the song reminds me of how fortunate I am to be waking up in the place I am. It is also an upbeat song that adds some flavor to an otherwise monotonous morning routine. When selecting what song to start my day with, I had some difficulty. After narrowing it down to two selections, Up Up and Away by KiD CuDi and the previously mentioned track,  I decided to go with the Game, mostly because of the general message of the song and the semantic mood it creates. KiD CuDi is too airy and happy to begin the grind of a day of classes to. In reality, the specific song is unimportant to the auditory significance of this sound byte. Rather, it is the buildup of the introduction and abrupt beginning that force me out of bed and into the shower.


The noises of my morning hygienic activities are white noise. The sound of water running in the shower as regular to us as the wind, can induce a meditative mood, especially fresh out of the dream state. It is this sound coupled with a feeling of refreshment that pulls me fully into my day. As I hastily brush my teeth, listening causally as Michelle Chion would say, I stop to realize how odd it is to hear a noise from inside one’s own head. The sounds of cleanliness are encouraging and healthy.



As my day continues I head to class, compressed air hisses as a bus pulls up to the front of University Heights North. It represents the beginning of work, of study. As my ear perceives the hissing air, a mental sigh accompanies it, and I am resolved as I board the bus, mentally preparing to tune out the noise on board. The clamor of humanity itches my inner ear as I ride to class, irritating and obnoxious, even as I try to block it out. Snippets of the irrelevant banter we employ to fill the silence of our world. Conversations with no substance, used to pass the time, to fill the space with not a single individual investing any real stock or passion into anything they say. Talking for the sake of talking. I am relieved as I disembark.


This transitions to the relative silence of the classroom broken every so often by the question of a student or the opening of a door. Pencil scratches paper as the professors voice slowly fades from my immediate auditory sphere of attention and becomes time. The scratch of pencil on paper is significant. It is paradoxical. The audio should indicate a hunger for knowledge, a drive to pay attention and take down the notes heard from the professor manifested in frantic scratching. In this case it is the sound of a pencil doodling away, the sound of a brain producing in the wrong discipline, an artistic output that indicates a need for stimulation. The boredom encapsulated in this sound byte is something I live with daily, another reminder of the monotone of daily life. It seems that the monotone of life. It seems that as our lives become more monotonous in nature, audio of our daily lives blends together, resonating with this sentiment. We are quick to disregard those things that do not interest us, especially in audition.


Class ends and I return to my dorm. The slam of the door punctuates the day, semantically symbolizing an end to work contrasting a physically constrained dorm with the mental felling of freedom that creeps into my consciousness.


This freedom is manifested in music. As I turn on the stereo and Macklemore’s “Jimmy Iovine” blasts on and the bass rattles the shades, I start to refocus my auditory sense on the music finally something with passion coupled with intelligence. Message and content are integral in my enjoyment of music, the semantic meaning of lyrics stimulates my brain in ways that the noises of everyday life never can. Reduced listening takes this to a whole different level, opening a world of infinite possibility.


Lastly, I included the light switching off to punctuate my day. A simple click the marks a spiral into the world of dreams and nightmares, a calming and relieving noise even with the knowledge that tomorrow won’t be that much different.



Sources Considered:

Chion “The Three Listening Modes”


Erlmann, “The String and the Mirror ”


Macklemore & Ryan Lewis ft. Ab-Soul “Jimmy Iovine”


The Game “Hoodmorning”


In order to create a soundtrack that addresses the sounds cape of Fredrick Douglass’ self narrated life story, it seems prudent to attempt to transpose familiar sounds and patterns that might evoke emotions and imagery in synch with the emotions evoked by Douglass. Hearing is a sense that we unconsciously regulate, literal sounds and songs described by Douglass in his narrative, while imaginable, are un familiar to us. They do not invoke the same emotions and thoughts when we hear them as they do when they fall upon the ears of the individuals in Douglass’ time. I would propose an unconventional approach to a soundtrack for a recreation of the Narrative of the Life of Fredrick Douglass by Fredrick Douglass. Imagine an interactive media format in which the limitless capabilities of the internet are at your disposal. The main plot points and episodes of the narrative are displayed, and the viewer/ listener can chose songs for each section of the story. Music and song can express and stimulate emotional sensory and understanding. This is exemplified in the songs sung by slaves in 19th century America. But the songs of these slaves provide a soundtrack that is specific to their own plight and experiences. We may be able to absorb the communicated themes and emotions in the song, but they are not our own. By offering the option of choice to the viewer/listener,  a greater connection is created. Each scene in the narrative has its own standard sounds, cracking whips, yelling voices, and the grunts and noise of labor perhaps. However, layered over these sounds is the song chosen by the viewer/listener that is meaningful and specific to that individual in particular. This would allow for a deeper connection and understanding of the soundscape of history by connecting it to modern day noise, music specifically. To provide an example of the logistics of such a medium for narration, I will attempt to divide Douglass’ story into sections, applying songs from specific artists that I feel would tie my own soudnscape to Douglass’. For the first episode, we can take the period in which Douglass resides on the “Great House Farm”. Perhaps a track like “Money” by Pink Floyd could encapsulate the image of economic extortion that is exemplified in the plantation structure of the Great Farm. As Douglass moves into the city of Baltimore, education is the theme of his dialogue. Maybe another Pink Floyd hit “The Wall” would be appropriate to describe the mentality of the slave owner who breeds ignorance through censorship. When Douglass is sent to Covey, and the two men do battle, a song such as “Suicide and Redemption”, a heavy metal, cathartic instrumental by Metallica’s Kirk Hamett would be provide an emotional tie to Douglass’ baptism by combat. In Baltimore, as he works to learn a new trade, Douglass could be seen accompanied by the Beatles’ “Hard Day’s Night”. And lastly when he makes his escape to the North, the movie could end on a rendition of “The Star Spangled Banner”. Mental connection to sound and music is based in familiarity. Reading Douglass’ accounts of antebellum America, including his sound imagery and description cannot provide us with a full idea of the interpreted soundscape. Incorporating songs that we are more familiar with and transposing them into the world of Douglass recreates his Narrative in a unique and powerful way.