Alonze Westbrook, in his book Hip-Hoptionary, defines hip-hop as the artistic response to oppression; a way of expression in dance, music, word/song; a culture that thrives on creativity and nostalgia; as a musical art form it is stories of inner-city life, often with a message, spoken over beats of music. He concludes by saying that the culture includes rap and any other venture spawned from the hip-hop style and culture (Westbrook, 64). This definition seems to exclude the Black Nationalist and militant aspects of hip-hop that many artists have begun to identify with. This revolutionary style has been forcefully expressed in their lyrics as well as their over all message. Many hip hop artists have historically used Black Nationalism as their main approach to raising cultural awareness in the black community by promoting political, social, and economic equality in their message.
The use of Black Nationalist theories and goals has been used in hip hop since the early â€˜70s. One online dictionary defines Black Nationalism as a member of a group of militant Black people who urge separatism from white people and the establishment of self-governing Black communities (dictionary.com). Black Nationalist theory generally promotes unity amongst blacks, blacks gaining power, and eventually liberating themselves. Many artists, such as Public Enemy, relayed this message in their in the majority of their songs from Rebel without a Pause to â€œFight the Powerâ€.
Although they brought a lot of press to militant rap, this phenomenon did not start with Public Enemy. As hip-hop emerged on the hard streets of New York, mainly the Bronx, the experience of urban life for African Americans was expressed by many artists. The first synthesis of self-conscious music can be traced, most directly, to the Black Nationalist Last Poets. The Last Poets were rappers of the civil rights era and used confrontational lyrics to blame mainstream so