The Blog

Hip Hop Artists Should Help to Engage Their Audiences Into Politics

Youth MP for Hackney, Ife Grillo, agrees with Cookie that Hip Hop artists can and should do more. He said:


The same way Obama above fist bumps a worker in the White House is the same way British Politicians must find a way to engage from the bottom up and make a conscious effort to connect with their communities who feel completely disengaged from their local MPs.

The General elections are less than a year away and research suggests that young people are uninterested in politics. 18-24 year olds are the age group least likely to be registered to vote, yet young people are increasingly engaged in social action and discussing social issues, suggesting that they do care very much about society. Young people don't seem to be interested in politicians but are passionate about music and Hip Hop. Music Journalist Hattie Collins agreed saying:

"As you know, kids don't really listen to politicians , teachers or parents, so the power really is in the power of rappers and I hope that we will get more exposure though the media to the voices that are relevant to us in the UK like they do in America with rappers over there".

Certainly back in the day Hip Hop was really political, infused with social justice issues from Biggie and 2pac to Nas and Common, who rapped about that they saw going on around them in the world. Head of International at The British Youth Council, James Edleston, believes that political Hip Hop is a rare commodity these days. He said:

"I was at a workshop the other day and Public Enemy was on and I asked if anyone had heard of Public Enemy and no one had. Okay, it's a bit old now, but it feels that we have to work a bit harder to find political hip hop, hip hop with strong messages and strong history".

Today's new breed of Hip Hop artists may not be aware of any connections they have to politics and need to be educated. I spoke to Rapper Wretch 32 who agreed with spoken word artist George the Poet that Hip Hop artists need to be able to access more information on political issues. George told me how he feels the relationship between Hip Hop and Politics is unsatisfactory, he said:

"Hip hop approaches politics from an uninformed perspective and I don't like talking down on hip hop, I love hip hop but really and truly it's not good enough. Let Obama invite you to the White House, you are there, you are not going to grill him about Gaza, gas prices, cost of living, welfare, all the promises he made, you're not going to do that. So, there's not a culture of information that's relevant to your lives".

Legendary UK rapper Cookie agrees that artist should use their influence to get the attention of young people to the issues that surround them, she said:

"I think it's important for artists to use their stardom and their profile to engage with young people to get messages across because that's your audience and if you are passionate about it yourself then that's the best platform to express yourself and to put people on the right track. Not only are they going to buy your music but they are going to listen to and follow your lead, as long as it's a positive lead. It needs to be a positive lead".

Youth MP for Hackney, Ife Grillo, agrees with Cookie that Hip Hop artists can and should do more. He said:

"They have a duty and one way they can do it is through their music, through their messages, through their campaigns and really being the ambassadors that they should be to young people".

Hundreds of thousands of 18 to 21 year olds have lost the right to vote by failing to add their names to the electoral register, fuelling fears of growing disillusionment among young adults with party politics. Newham's youngest councillor Seyi Akiwowo is eager to break the barrier between young people and their lack of association with politics, she said:

"If you are so disengaged and so angry with this government and the way society is going, protest vote, don't just disengage yourself with it, do more".

Perhaps Hip Hop does have a position to do more help educate their audiences about democracy, but the political systems can do more too. Rapper TY is among many who want to see significant changes to how the country is run before the ballot paper is picked up. He said:

"I will vote when I see subsequent changes or when I see a subsequent step for someone to actually really try to engage and do things that are going to help not just my community but the UK".

As heard on West Side Radio, listen here:

Catch the #hiphoplifelessons TV special on the Community Channel all week and online at