Hip-Hop Highlights Economic Woes of African-Americans

Music has always been a reflection of the current state of society and today is no different. 

The unemployment rate in America hovers around 9.2%. However, the rate for African Americans is a staggering 16%. Fed up and frustrated, hip hop artists have begun rhyming about the unemployment crisis facing the black community. As a result of discontentment with the state of the economy, Young Jeezy has recorded an album entitled The Recession while countless other artists like Killer Mike have produced politically-charged videos.

Two artists who best exemplify the newest trend are J. Cole and Big K.R.I.T. Both use their lyrics to call for more than government handouts and advise listeners to continue hustling through the economic crisis.

Jermaine Cole, like many recent graduates, graduated magna cum laude from St. John's University but could not find a job after college. He eventually got hired as a telemarketer, calling people who had fallen behind on their payments for their student loans. In his song, “Dollar and A Dream,” Cole talks about dodging the phone calls of the student loan lender Sallie Mae. He raps that: “Ay Sallie, I know I ain't been answering your calls, but sh*t, let me explain?. Its because times been hard, been running around trying to find a job? I hear my phone ringing in the morning, 9 o'clock?. And it's you, can't even front I press ignore? I still got your letters laying in my dresser drawer.”

Cole continues the song by promising to eventually pay back Sallie Mae once he has found a job, made some money, and fulfilled his dreams.

Justin Scott, Mississippi's rapper known as Big K.R.I.T., tells an opposite story in his song, “Children of the World.” Scott questions the value of college education because of its high cost and the limited jobs after graduation. He raps, “What good is a degree when there's no jobs to apply for? And fast food won't do 'cause you overqualified? I'm feeling like hustling. Tired of the food stamps and budgeting.”

Big K.R.I.T.'s hometown of Meridian has an unemployment rate of nearly 10%. After he finishes his rhyme, he mentions a casket and the rap mantra, “get rich or die trying.”

Just four years ago, hip hop musicians were one of the driving forces in persuading young people in the black community to vote in the 2008 elections to make a difference. But now, their music reflects the challenges that African Americans have faced in this struggling economy since President Barack Obama took office.

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

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Johnell Smalls

Johnell Smalls is a recent graduate from Clark Atlanta University. She received her B.A. in Mass Media Arts with a concentration in Journalism. She was a Washington Semester Fellow at American University honing in on her craft for writing and interning with The Michael Eric Dyson Show. It was in the nation's capital, where Johnell discovered her interest for politics. With an up and coming move to New York City, Johnell looks to begin writing about issues facing recent grads, such as unemployment.

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