H2FLOW – Hip-hop with a powerful message isn’t a new idea. Hell, you can keep your Lil what-nots and mumbled hooks; if the bars don’t have meaning, it ain’t hip-hop in my eyes and ain’t pushing the movement forward. This culture has always contained a “conscious” element intent on bringing the power of poetry to the struggles of life and the struggles of black living to the heart and soul of Poetic Power. But today, contradicting the cries of naysayers who would eagerly write hip-hop’s eulogy, that consciousness is evolving. Contemporary hip-hop has birthed unparalleled lyrical activism and inspired revolutionary acts of hip-hop philanthropy that represent a true progression in this culture’s potential as a positive force in the world. And that’s a very, very good thing.
Underground hip-hop today is more explicitly activist in its lyrical messages than ever before.
Start with the lyrics: from Chuck D to Talib Kweli to Kendrick Lamar, there have always been elite MCs on every level rapping about the black struggle. Two things are different in today’s scene.
First, rappers, especially in the underground, are more forthcoming with their activism than ever and more explicit and focused in their activist messages. Spitters like Killer Mike aren’t touching on issues that affect the black community tangentially as many artists have in the past; Mike and others have crafted their entire persona around speaking truth to power in a defined and specific way, putting activism front and center in their art. For MCs to effectively carry a message forward to the masses, that message has to be clear and defined, and rappers in the modern period are becoming more and more comfortable explicitly tackling social issues with the power of the pen.
Second, hip-hop as an activist tool is getting applied to a broader range of issues than ever before, with “conscious raps” tackling issues far beyond hip-hop’s traditional realm of the black experience. Environmental exploitation is just as fair game as police brutality in today’s conscious lyricism; your favorite spitter could mess around and drop a whole verse about GMOs on a stacked cypher in a seamless fashion that wouldn’t be imaginable fifteen years ago.
Artists raising their voice and delivering a refined activist message is incredibly important. But even more impactful is when that consciousness extends beyond the mic. To all those who doubt the future of hip-hop as a revolutionary force: look at how many MCs are “walking the walk” in every corner of the game. In the twenty-first century, hip-hop philanthropy is stepping up to take a crack at changing the world, and proving the positive potential of hip-hop culture along the way.
Through hip-hop philanthropy, artists are channeling the power of culture to combat global injustice like never before. Take the #H2FLOW campaign as a prime example.
Today, the world water crisis has left more than 750 million people around the globe without potable drinking water, and these numbers can rise drastically during dry seasons. When communities lack clean water, a host of social problems arise impacting education, public health, and economic opportunity. “#WaterIsLife:” without potable drinking water, it’s just about impossible for people to live happy and fulfilled lives and work towards a better future. And tragically, the lack of access to clean water and the host of related issues that this lack of access causes are only likely to get worse without drastic action.
Underground hip-hop artists have spoken on the water crisis. But #H2FLOW is proving the power of hip-hop philanthropy by turning that consciousness into action.
Way back at MUNY, the #H2FLOW campaign kicked off with the goal of raising funds to directly aid communities impacted by the world water crisis. Thanks to the efforts of the Rockwell Foundation and a devoted group of MCs, #H2FLOW hit the road with the legendary Vans Warped Tour over Summer 2016, spreading awareness about the world water crisis across the country and raising funds along the way to help communities all over the globe establish sustainable sources of clean drinking water.
From a hip-hop perspective, the Wells on Warped tour was straight heat. Amplified, Andrew Bigs, Reason the Citizen, Lost the Artist, Pure Powers, Def-i, and Mazzi all rocked a stage dedicated to the #H2FLOW movement, spitting rhymes that made underground hip-hop fans of thousands of Warped Tour attendees across the country. Keeping the atmosphere collaborative and deeply hip-hop, other MCs and local artists joined the stage at each stop, all delivering on point performances. All working towards the same common goal: promoting #H2FLOW’s aims and raising funds to provide clean water around the globe.
As a prime example of hip-hop philanthropy, the #H2FLOW campaign did a lot more than pass out flyers and rock mics. By partnering with Well Aware, an established non-profit with a 100% project success rate developing sustainable clean water solutions in impacted communities, #H2FLOW was able to direct funds towards specific tried and true solutions and put donations in the right place. Specifically, funds from the #H2FLOW campaign are being invested in a project in Ndovoini, Kenya, a community of 2,400 with an existing well in dire need of repairs. #H2FLOW Wells On Warped campaign has raised $10,310 to date, and the campaign is currently accepting donations through their crowdfunding platform to meet a $21,000 fundraising goal to completely fund the project by the end of the month.
The revolutionary impact of the #H2FLOW’s organizers efforts can’t be overstated. In a direct and measurable sense, a group of artists and cultural warriors dedicated to high quality underground hip-hop have been able to raise thousands of dollars in support of one of the most innovative non-profits tackling one of the most pressing problems of our generation. That’s a testament to the passion of every MC that rocked the Wells on Warped mic and brought in donations, one dollar at a time, from thousands of young tour attendees.
And it’s a testament to hip-hop as a force for good in the 21st century: a love for true and meaningful art sustained each MC over the course of a grueling tour, and expressions of that art will change the lives of people in need across the globe. That’s the power of hip-hop philanthropy; the potential of hip-hop culture pushed beyond activist lyrics and conscious artists to inspire direct action and enact real change in the world.
Talking about change is one thing. Embracing hip-hop culture and bringing that change to life, like the #H2FLOW Campaign is doing, is something entirely different.
Ultimately, these innovations in hip-hop philanthropy are a very good thing for the culture and the art form. As long as there are underground rappers willing to speak their minds and turn that consciousness into action, no amount of mainstream ignorance will be able to defeat the positive potential of hip-hop. As long as there are passionate warriors hitting the road and demonstrating the potential of this culture and movement, hip-hop will continue to evolve in a positive direction and continue to have a positive impact across the globe.
It’s easy to focus on the negative elements of mainstream rap that dominate headlines and make students of true lyricism wince, but there’s plenty to be optimistic about when you turn to the efforts and energies of the underground. As long as initiatives like #H2FLOW continue to push the boundaries of what hip-hop philanthropy can do to improve the lives of the needy, the positive potential of this culture is limitless.
To #H2FLOW: a big thank you, for turning idealism into action and demonstrating the beautiful power of hip-hop philanthropy one rhyme at a time. To every underground hip-hop artist pushing an activist message in their craft: keep rapping for a better world, and keep proving that there is plenty to be optimistic about when it comes to the potential of hip-hop.