File this one under “ahead of its time.” Only in 1980 could you combine staunchly pro-black political sentiment with a funky disco bassline (in this case, Cheryl Lynn’s “Got To Be Real”). The fiery “How We Gonna Make The Black Nation Rise” was put out as the B-side on a 12” release by the New York-based Clappers record label, which at the time specialized in primarily reggae releases. It’s widely considered to be the first political hip-hop track (certainly the first released on record), and for good reason: references to Elijah Muhammad and Marcus Garvey abound. For only a year removed from “Rapper’s Delight,” the track brings a genuine sense of urgency to its discourse on racial justice—and, for that matter, it makes the better-known “The Message” sound downright apologetic by comparison.

In 2006, Soul Jazz Records included the track on the first volume of its Big Apple Rappin compilation—a well-deserved inclusion of a song that established an entire vocabulary for social and political consciousness in hip-hop.




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