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8 Activist Rappers Representing Occupy Wall Street and Other Progressive Causes

A handful of awesome hip-hop artists are doing something about their values.

On Monday, the rapper Kanye West traveled down to the protests on Wall Street after shopping with Jay-Z and Beyonce in SoHo, a guest of Russell Simmons looking to check out the scene. As one of the biggest pop stars in the world, his presence was immediately derided—there was that little case of the $300,000 Maybach he and Jay dismantled in their “Otis” video, for instance—and he was generally accused of being part of the 1 percent. When cameras were thrust in his face, he said nothing, while Simmons spoke for him:


The divisiveness was loud—his defenders were as adamant as his detractors—but whether he was there for the right reasons wasn’t exactly the point. West’s arrival was proof that Occupy Wall Street’s noise is spreading, and that at the very least, curiosity was piquing—and isn’t the most powerful tool in this movement the ability to reach people and let them know what’s going on? (For what it’s worth, Simmons sees OWS as particularly impactful regarding race, and has tweeted that he would be “happy to pay more taxes.” To which we wonder... if Kanye were compelled to pay more taxes, would he even notice?)

That said, there have been a lot of rappers and hip-hop icons with a lot to say about Occupy Wall Street, and other causes. Between Bill O’Reilly derision and censorious senators, rappers have gotten a bad rap in the American mainstream, some with reason but most without. Without further ado, here are the top eight rappers who’ve been staunch activist role models as of late.

1. Sole

The longtime rapping ginger, who’s been posted up at his hometown’s Occupy Denver protests, gets the first spot on general principle: he wrote a protest song titled “I Think I’m Ben Bernanke,” ironically flipping Rick Ross’ oft-paraphrased “Blowin Money Fast” (“I think I’m Big Meech,” et al.) to a different beat. Says Sole:

The song itself is about the history of America's long decline, beginning with the exploitation of the natives, slavery and the post-World War 2 American dominance over the globe. Once the world was sucked dry, the entire system caved in on itself. We have been living on borrowed time since day one, with nothing left to plunder all we can do now is make radical changes or suffer the consequences.

2. Lupe Fiasco

Chicago rapper Lupe Fiasco has long been a thinker but has become more radicalized, recently making comments that he believes Obama “is the biggest terrorist.”

“I'm trying to fight the terrorism that's causing the other forms of terrorism,” he told CBS in June. “You know the root cause of terrorists is the stuff the U.S. government allows to happen. The foreign policies that we have in place in different countries that inspire people to become terrorists."

Fiasco was also the first rapper to show up at Occupy Wall Street, making an appearance on September 20 in New York as the protests were congealing. In an interview with We Are Change, he blasted what he called the controlling “New World Order” and condemned the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"We're a society based on consumerism…We blur our own lines between what we need and what we want,” he said. “There could be somebody who lives in Harlem who works [on Wall Street] and you could [tell him], 'Hey, just take a bike.' And [he would say], 'Yo my man, I can't take a bike every day. I need a car.' But when you get in that car, you have to put fuel in that car, so you're financing Exxon Mobil, you're financing Ford or whatever car company it is. You're paying the city because you have to pay for registration, you have to pay taxes [on that car]. So you're financing the system just so you can say, 'Hey, I don't want to bike to work every single day because I'm gonna be tired at the end of the day.'