Major Project 1

Updated: Apr 12, 2021

Project's theme ideas:

  • HipHop Music Artists (modern/old school)

  • Basketball (NBA)

Question Ideas:

  • How has Hip-Hop influenced graphic design today?

  • Hip-Hop marketing history

  • Hip-Hop Artists with a message- How they portray that message

  • What factors influence the design on NBA jerseys

  • Music artists album covers

  • NBA website

  • How can visual communication influence people's thoughts on an album cover?

  • How can visual communication on an album cover inform people of the contents etc?

Hip-Hop Artists with a message- How they portray that message

Political Rap through history

Context on what's happening at the time

Album Covers


Clothing designs

Social Media posts

Magazine Covers/ Spreads

Wikipedia Political Hip-Hop: "In hip hop music, political hip hop, or political rap, is a form developed in the 1980s, inspired by 1970s political preachers such as The Last Poets and Gil Scott-Heron. Public Enemy were the first political hip hop group to gain commercial success.[1]Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five released the first socio-political rap song in 1982, named The Message, which inspired many rappers to address social and political topics."-


Tupac Shakur

Kanye West

Public Enemy

A Tribe Called Quest


Kendrick Lamar

Lil Wayne

Joey Bada$$



Gil Scott Heron

Childish Gambino

Run the Jewels

Black Panthers

Louis Theroux programme

Music Videos

East Coast Vs West Coast

Rodney King Riots

Albums that reflect the politics of race:

Primary research:

Surveys (Surveymonkey)


Design studio/Gallery

Reddit/Social Media

Secondary research:

Books and Magazines

Online articles

TV Programmes or BBC Sounds


"Pulse of the People: Political Rap Music and Black Politics"- Lakeyta M. Bonnette-Bailey

The Birth of Hip-Hop

The roots of rapping

Thousands of years ago in Africa “griots”, where village story tellers who played basic handmade instruments while they told stories of their family and local current events. This style of talking while music is playing is rap music as we know it at its root form. The griot is still a major form of communication in Africa still to this day.

This griot tradition carried over when Africans were captured against their will, transported to America & forced into slavery. One way they would cope with the tremendous amount of pain & heartbreak of slavery would be to sing. While they were working in the fields they would often sing using “call to answer”. One leader would call out a certain part of a song and the rest of the slaves would answer with the next line. In modern times performing artists call this emceeing or crowd participation.

DJ Kool Herc

On August 11, 1973 in the Bronx, New York history was about to be made. DJ Kool Herc (now known as the first DJ & founding father of hip hop) & his sister Cindy began hosting back to school parties in the recreation room of their building. It was these gatherings that would spark the beginning of a new culture we know today as Hip-Hop. One night during DJ Kool Herc’s set he tried something new he called “merry go round”. He used two turntables playing the same break beat section of the James Brown record “clap your hands”. When one turntable would finish playing the section he would switch to the other turntable and play the same section. This allowed him to extend that section of the song as long as he wanted. This technique is now referenced to as looping and is used by record producers in almost every beat.

As DJ Kool Herc continued to do more parties he realized that speaking on the mic was just as important to keeping a party live as DJing was. In order to keep up with the demands of the crowd he reached out to his good friend Coke La Rock to be the first dedicated MC of these parties. During one of these parties Coke La Rock spit his very first bar, ” There’s not a man that can’t be thrown, not a horse that can’t be rode, a bull that can’t be stopped, there’s not a disco that I Coke La Rock can’t rock”. This one bar made Coke La Rock the very first rapper in Hip-Hop and birthed a new genre of music we know today as Rap music.

What record companies thought was just a fad rapidly grew into the most popular music genre of this decade. Rap music’s beginnings were humble and focused on bringing families together and uplifting each other’s spirits in times of heartache and pain.

Kool Herc discovered a way to emphasise the "break" (the part of a record where the kick drum is most prominent) to get inner-city kids on the dance floor at his parties, and used this point to mix one song with another, with the help of two turntables. Throw in his "rapping" – rhythmic announcements that later became the sole job of the master of ceremony, or MC – and you have the revolutionary birth of hip-hop music.

Over the years, DJs such as Grand Wizard Theodore and Grandmaster Flash developed further techniques, their particular contribution being to popularise "scratching". Alongside the music, a new form of street dance emerged. Encouraged by the DJs' breakbeats, young "breakdancing". In 1984, a film called Beat Street hit cinemas across the US, earnt a screening at Cannes, and made groups such as the New York City Breakers and Rock Steady Crew household names.

Graffiti writers also found themselves crossing over into the subculture. It was the rebellious nature of the music that resonated with these artists, as many took to graffiti as an act of social protest. Jean-Michel Basquiat was at the forefront of the movement, famously spraying his tag SAMO© across New York City.

These four key elements, DJing, MCing, breakdancing and graffiti, had merged to become the four pillars of hip-hop.

  • Deejaying: making music using record players, turntables, and DJ mixers

  • Rapping: rhythmic vocal rhyming style

  • Graffiti painting: also known as “graf” or “writing”

  • Break dancing: a form of dance that also encompasses an overall attitude and style

Where Public Enemy highlighted criminality in their neighbourhood, the likes of Ice-T, NWA and later Snoop Dogg and Tupac were to glorify it.

Conscious Rap

In the late 1980s and early 1990s, chart-topping rap songs were more likely to have political messages, a Capital News Service analysis of 30 years of Billboard chart data and lyrics found. By the early 2000s, themes of black power and police brutality had vanished in favor of apolitical references to partying, cars and girls, at least at the very top of the charts.

But, the analysis found, politically conscious rap is once again finding a place on the top of the charts, driven by the growth of the Black Lives Matter movement, the #metoo movement and opposition to Donald Trump.

Themes of police brutality were significantly higher in the late 1980s and early 1990s, driven by the popularity of songs like N.W.A.’s “F--- the Police”, released in 1988, and the 1991 Los Angeles riots that followed the brutal beating of Rodney King by three police officers.

In the late 90's and 2000's major labels signed more artists, but record companies didn’t think political songs would resonate with a large audience. So they pushed the feel-good, party songs that rose to the top of the “Hot Rap Songs” charts during that era.

Artists who rap about their money are still making a political statement. For most mainstream audiences they think of that as like ‘ah they’re flaunting cash and being really superficial’ but for certain communities where that wealth is inaccessible it’s like ‘ah man somebody made it out of here that means we could do it too. In Jay-Z’s ode to New York City, “Empire State of Mind,” he raps “eight million stories, out there in it naked, city is a pity, half of yall won’t make it.” The rap mogul recognizes many people live and die poor.

The amount of political content at the top of the charts in the last two years — 25 percent of songs in 2017 and 2018 — appears to be a direct response to the rise of social movements like Black Lives Matter and the political climate surrounding the Trump administration and policies frequently viewed as overtly racist by some artists.


Fight The Power- The Politics Of Hip-Hop:

"Hip-hop as a genre can be traced back to militant spoken-word groups such as The Last Poets and The Watts Prophets; just as they reflected the realities of their surroundings, modern day hip-hop would deliver its own missives from the frontline, becoming, as Public Enemy frontman Chuck D put it, “black America’s CNN”."

The Last Poets

"The Last Poets are several groups of poets and musicians who arose from the late 1960s African-American civil rights movement's black nationalism."

"Having reached USTop 10chart success with its debut album, the Last Poets went on to release the follow-up, This Is Madness, without then-incarcerated Abiodun Oyewole. The album featured more politically charged poetry that resulted in the group being listed under the counter-intelligence program COINTELPRO during the Richard Nixon administration."

"Starting a poem with the word ‘’America is a terrorist’’ and then riffing on everyone from Jack Johnson, Trayvon Martin, the Black Panthers, and the government approved groups that killed those individuals and groups. With their influence on seminal groups and artists such as A Tribe Called Quest and Common, the Last Poets’ name will ring out until the end of time."

"If Gil-Scott Heron is the most popular artist in the spoken word genre, the Last Poets are the originators. They brought listeners and readers to church every time a new poem came out. It makes Harlem — a mecca of black art, righteous black indignation, and a pillar of black worship"

Umar- "So we’re older now, we’re much wiser now. But we’re still throwing down messages about why, and why can’t other human beings be able to know each other, to relate to each other, to help each other because of race, religion, color, or whatever."

Abiodun- "America profits off of black people spiritually, physically and socially."

"Black folks are poetic and all we have to do is people who are artistically reflections of their poetry is to take the poetry that we’ve already produced and capture it in whatever form of art that we use and give it right back to the folks and give them their stand. If we had certain songs that always resonate our particular situation, our politics, our social status and so forth."

"Study, research, learn how beautiful we really are, how magnificent we are, how we have survived in situations that simply seemed impossible and express that in our work. It will make a difference in the way we act."

Abiodun on Gil Scott- "They would confuse my poem with his poem. I wrote, “When the revolution comes some of us will probably catch it on TV with chicken hanging from our mouths.” Gil heard that and he took it to another level and he said, “The revolution will not be televised.”

Gil did not bite off of my poem. We stand on the shoulders of each other. I wrote a poem that said when the revolution comes some of us will probably catch it on TV with a chicken hanging from our mouths. You’ll know it’s a revolution because there won’t be no commercials. Gil heard that and he was impressed by it but he graduated that poem. He took that poem out of high school and put it in college by simply saying, “It won’t be televised.”"

"Understanding what black is"- Lyrics

Understand what Black is

The source from which all things come

The security blanket for the stars

Understand what Black is

It is not a color

It is the bases of all colors

It is not a complexion

It is a reflection

Of all complexions called human

And out of this Blackness

Passion flows like a river

Feelings tell the truth

Song and dance

And making you laugh

Are family members

Understand what Black is

The breath you breathe

The sweat on your brow

The cheers and the tears

Balancing the world on your head

Faith is the glue

That holds us all together

This is your Blackness

Not some horror story

Of lost souls drifting

Into the land of perversion

Blackness is love

Is a light shinning on a path

Leading to the Sun

Or caressed in the bosom of the moon

Understand what Black is

Power you must yield to

A force so strong

We try to sleep it away

A jolt to your circuits

That say you must be electric

And plugged in to the sockets of the world

Black is humanity

That beautiful chord

On a twelve string guitar

That makes you smile

That offers comfort

In turbulent times

Provides food

When there's nothing to eat

A shelter when there's no where to live

Black is humanity

Making hope stand tall and not wilt

Because Black knows

Did it before

Tested by fire

Washed in the waters of life

Black is hot

Black is cool

Black is wise

And could never be a fool

Understand what Black is

Black is a hero not a villain

Black is the essence

Sealed with a kiss

Black is the stone

We build our dreams on

A shadow at evening's mist

Bigger than reality

Blending into the night

To let the Sun chill

And watch the stars dance

In rhythm to the music in our souls

Gil Scott-Heron

Gil Scott-Heron is frequently called the “godfather of rap,” which is an epithet he doesn’t really care for. In 1968, when he was nineteen, he wrote a satirical spoken-word piece called “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised.”

"The epithet “godfather of rap”—derived from the claim that Scott-Heron originated the form"

Bill Adler, the hip-hop critic, curator, and record executive on Gil and The Last Poets- “It was like a park jam that got onto a record. Nothing but beats and rhythms. They embodied a revolutionary idea of black manhood, and Gil likewise. He wasn’t as potent as they were—he was more musical—but at the very beginning you can think of Gil Scott-Heron as a one-man Last Poets. People often confused the two, or thought that he was a member of them.”

Gil on the meaning of "The Revolution Will Not Be Televised- "The first change that takes place is in your mind. You have to change your mind before you change the way you live and the way you move. So when we said that the revolution will not be televised, we’re saying that the thing that’s going to change people is something that no one will ever be able to capture on film. It’ll just be something you see and all of a sudden you realize, I’m on the wrong page, or I’m on the right page but I’m on the wrong note."

Chuck D (Public Enemy)- "Scott-Heron and the Last Poets are not only important; they’re necessary, because they are the roots of rap—taking a word and juxtaposing it into some sort of music."

"Scott-Heron's influence over hip hop is primarily exemplified by his definitive single "The Revolution Will Not Be Televised", sentiments from which have been explored by various rappers, including Aesop Rock, Talib Kweli and Common."

"Kanye West sampled Scott-Heron and Jackson's "Home is Where the Hatred Is" and "We Almost Lost Detroit" for the songs "My Way Home" and "The People", respectively, both of which are collaborative efforts with Common.[78] Scott-Heron, in turn, acknowledged West's contributions, sampling the latter's 2007 single "Flashing Lights" on his final album, 2010's I'm New Here."

Grandmaster Flash and The Furious Five

Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five was an American hip hop group formed in the South Bronx of New York City in 1978. The group's use of turntablism, breakbeat DJing, and conscious lyricism were significant in the early development of hip hop music.

In the late 1970s, Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five built their reputation and achieved local success by performing at parties and live shows. By 1980, the group had signed with Sugar Hill Records. It was not until the release of the song "The Message" in 1982 and the album of the same name that they achieved mainstream success. The song provided a political and social commentary and went on to become a driving force behind conscious hip-hop.

“The Message” – a track that with its chilling social commentary changed Hip Hop forever, retooling its image as good-time “party music” and helping usher in the age of the hardcore MC. It was a grim portrait of ghetto life with the refrain “It’s like a jungle sometimes/It makes me wonder/How I keep from going under”

They have influenced many musical acts such as New Order,[22]The Cold Crush Brothers, Run-D.M.C.