Hiphop and Politics Timeline

1970
The Last Poets release the track "When the Revolution Comes" setting the foundation for future politically engaged hip hop content.
1971
Gil Scott Heron releases "The Revolution Will Not Be Televised", furthering the influence of hip hop as a medium for political discourse. The song features several references to major political topics including: President Nixon, the Vietnam War, the NAACP, 1965's Watt riots in Los Angeles, and consumer goods. The song was a pioneer, having been referenced by artists Common, KRS-One, and Snoop Dogg.
1972
The Black Messengers, a group that staged performances for The Black Panthers and rallies relating to the black power movement, perform on the Gong Show under the alias, "Mechanical Devices"
1982
Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five release "The Message", one of the first raps to discuss social and political issues present in urban housing projects.
1987
Public Enemy releases their first album Yo, Bum Rush the Show which was notable for its resistance to cross-over appeal. The album focused on emphasizing a candid portrayal of life and injustice within the black community.
1988
L.A. group N.W.A. releases its first album Straight Outta Compton. Telling stories about life on the mean streets of South Central, it popularized West Coast gangsta rap. The controversial tracks like "F*ck tha Police" earned the group national notoriety and the public’s eye which also came with government attention as the group received multiple notices from the F.B.I
1990
Professor Henry Louis Gates defends 2 Live Crew as they face trial for obscenity. Gates wrote in the New York Times, "exuberant use of hyperbole (phantasmagoric sexual organs, for example) undermines — for anyone fluent in black cultural codes — a too literal-minded hearing of the lyrics. This is the street tradition called 'signifying' or 'playing the dozens,' which has generally been risque." The group was acquitted after Gates' testimony.
1992
Presidential candidate Bill Clinton attacks Sister Souljah during a speech given to Jesse Jackson's Rainbow Coalition.
Rock the Vote produces public service announcements (PSAs) with various artists including R.E.M., En Vogue, Aerosmith, Queen Latifah, Eddie Vedder and others. The PSAs aired on networks such as MTV, VH-1, BET and Fox. Rock the Vote also partners with the National Association of Secretaries of State to produce additional PSAs for local television broadcast. PSAs aired on networks such as MTV, VH-1, BET and Fox. Rock the Vote also partners with the National Association of Secretaries of State to produce additional PSAs for local television broadcast. Particularly notable was the one-hour, Peabody Award-winning Rock the Vote television special hosted by Queen Latifah featuring Michael Douglas, Madonna, Robin Williams, Tom Cruise, Whoopi Goldberg, Chris Rock and others. Rock the Vote and its partner organizations register 350,000 young people and help lead over two million new young voters to the polls. On Election Day, these young people reverse a 20-year cycle of declining participation with a 20 percent increase in youth turnout compared to the previous Presidential election. The group Body Count releases the track "Cop Killer", which is written as a harsh reaction to the horrors of police brutality.
1996
Rock the Vote debuts the first program to register voters by phone, 1-800-REGISTER. Closer to the election, Rock the Vote converted the number into 1-800-ROCK VOTE to give callers the number of their local elections office to request absentee ballots or locate their polling place. Working with MCI, Rock the Vote developed the first web site to offer on-line voter registration, dubbed NetVote '96.
2000
Rock the Vote re-launches its online voter registration application on its newly redesigned web site at www.rockthevote.com allowing, for the first time, visitors to the site can apply for absentee ballots, with over 20,000 young people using the service. Simultaneously, Rock the Vote hit the road on a 25-city, four-month bus tour, educating and registering new young voters nationwide and Partnered with Russell Simmons' 360HipHop to create Rap the Vote 2000, asking members of the hip hop community to "Register. Vote. Represent." A series of new print PSAs telling young people to "Piss off a Politician" and vote are produced and run in national magazines including Rolling Stone, Vibe, Young and Modern, and The Source. Through it’s efforts, Rock the Vote registered over 500,000 new voters
2001
The Hip-Hop Summit Action Network (HSAN) is founded in an effort to harness the cultural relevance of Hip-Hop music to serve as a catalyst for education advocacy and other societal concerns fundamental to the empowerment of youth.
2002
The First National Hip Hop Political Convention held in Newark, New Jersey with the central theme of “Voices, Unity, and Power”, a social justice platform to prepare a new generation of political hip-hop activists. Rock the Vote's Community Street Teams expand to 35 cities with 1,274 young people volunteering nationwide. They contribute 8,264 hours of volunteer time at hundreds of community festivals, concerts and parades. Rock the Vote registers over 200,000 new voters with its Community Street Teams, online voter registration, Secretary of State Birthday Card program and other partners. Rock the Vote supplies over 150 organizations and schools nationwide with free voter registration kits that include registration forms and instruction manuals, stickers and Rock the Vote Every Day resource guides. Rock the Vote partners with 85 radio stations nationwide, including 65 Radio One stations, airing Rock and Rap the Vote PSAs and "Get Out the Vote" messages by artists. Rock the Vote reaches millions of young people online, distributing voter registration and mobilization flash pieces, and posting online banners to seven sites with over one million impressions. Rock the Vote launches a 34-city national voter registration bus tour sponsored by 7UP. At each site, young people venture into Rock the Vote's Soap Box, giving them the opportunity to sound off on political issues.
2003
Democratic Presidential candidate Howard Dean givies a speech infront of a graffiti mural painted by an artist named Keo. He became the first presidential candidate to do so.
2004
Sean "P.Diddy" Combs holds a "Citizen Change" political conference which aims to target young voters from the 18-30 year old demographic and get their voices heard by politicians. His slogan Vote or Die becomes a popular phrase for young voters. He commercializes voting as a "sexy" activity and employs marketing and networking saavy to get other celebrities involved with his cause.
2005
In the wake of the devastating effects of Hurricane Katrina, Kanye West expresses his opinions on George W. Bush's response to the relief efforts on live television.
2007
Then senator Barack Obama piques interest in several rappers after announcing his candidacy for the 2008 election. Common releases "The People", where he raps "My raps ignite the people like Obama.
2008
will.i.am collaborates with various artists and celebrities on a music video sampling Barack Obama's "Yes We Can" speech delivered after he lost the New Hampshire Primary to Senator Hillary Clinton. The video soon became a viral sensation. The Hip Hop Caucus, founded by Reverend Lennox Yearwood Jr., launces the "Respect My Vote" campign with rapper T.I. The Hip Hop Caucus aims to educate, register and mobilize youth through hiphop music and culture in the 18-34 age group. The Caucus uses a 20-city bus tour in 2008 to mobilize youth in the upcoming election.
2010
In his post-presidential memoir "Decision Points", former President George W. Bush defines Kanye West's 2005 statement as "the lowest moment of his presidency". Matt Lauer interviews the former president and Kanye about the 2005 incident.
2011
Pundits criticize Michelle Obama's decision to invite rapper Common to the White House for an "Evening of Poetry" event. Among the critiques of her choice of the Chicago rapper were Common's "Song for Assata", critcisms of George W. Bush, and misogyny in his lyrics. In interviews with Sarah Palin, former deputy chief of staff to George W. Bush Karl Rove, and President of the New Jersey State Troopers Fraternal Association David Jones, Common was called a mutt, nit-wit, fraud, thug, anti-establishment and anti-police. The White House press secretary Jay Carney responded to the critique by stating that President Obama didn't personally agree with the lyrics raised in some of Common's songs and performances, but highlighted instead his focus on educating children on poetry.
2012
Rapper Lupe Fiasco presents an alternative view towards President Obama contrary to messages many hip hop artists have shown towards the president, and more generally voting, presented in this timeline. During an interview with CBS's show "What's Happening", Lupe called President Obama a terrorist and discussed his reasons for not participating as a voter in the upcoming election.
Beyonce Knowles and Jay-Z host $40,000/ticket fundraiser for incumbent presidential candidate Barack Obama to assist in his reelection efforts.
San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro gained the distinguished honor of being the first hispanic keynote speaker at any national political convention just this September at the Democratic National Convention. Introduced by his twin brother, Joaquin Castro, Mayor Castro delivered the keynote address for President Barack Obama touting the need for investment in future generations, not just "the wealthy few."
2016
Michael Render aka "Killer Mike" advocates for self-determination, as he demonstrated his long-time commitment to political organizing and civic engagement. Render campaigned and raised awareness about how US voters could "feel the Bern" and he also shared advice about future steps for organizing and transforming neglected communities.