Music presents a unique way to relay messages and offers an avenue of expression for people that otherwise wouldn’t have the platform to do so. Especially in hip hop, where the majority of its artists are from marginalized groups.
RELATED: Impact Track 2019 Nominees
Hip hop has inspired political change — just look at California after NWA’s “F*** The Police”. And one could argue the economic and financial enlightenment in the Black community was in part sparked by Jay Z’s 4:44
That’s why BET has an “Impact Track” category at the Hip Hop Awards, with past winners being Jay Z’s “Story of O.J.” in 2017 or Lil Baby’s “Bigger Picture” in 2020.
With the 2021 BET Hip Hop Awards underway, here’s a look at the “Impact Track” nominees and the song that could take home the honor.
Black Thought , “Thought Vs Everybody”
When Black Thought (Tariq Trotter) decides to rap, everyone listens. We saw that happen in 2017 when he popped up and blessed Funk Master Flex with ten plus minutes of straight ether.
The Legendary Roots Crew co-founder and Grammy-award winner did the same this year with “Thought Vs Everybody,” where he not only demonstrates his ability to seamlessly mesh flow with rhyme schemes but also highlights his perspective and insight on American society.
“The truth is inconvenient as non-believers
Fearing DACA dreamers instead of FEMA,” he raps.
Lil Nas X, “Montero (Call Me By Your Name)”
From giving the devil a lapdance to the sale of “Satan Shoes,” which allegedly have a drop of human blood in them, everything about Lil Nas X’s music video “Montero (Call Me By Your Name)” impacted whether you liked it or not.
And, for better or worse, that’s much of why he’s nominated.
Lil Baby & Kirk Franklin, “We Win”
Lil Baby and Kirk Franklin’s “We Win” is the collab we never knew we needed and anyone hating is completely beside themselves.
Courtesy of LeBron James’ Space Jam: A New Legacy soundtrack, all fans of Black culture won, as the pairing combined gospel and hip-hop both at their highest level — it’s a reason they were the openers of the BET Awards 2021.
Produced by Just Blaze, the records a perfect combination of choir, Franklin's signature ad-libs, and Baby's poignant lyrics.
Meek Mill Feat. Lil Durk, “Pain Away”
Released as a part of his Quarantine Pack EP, “Pain Away” featuring Lil Durk is Meek Mill at his best — war stories on the climb to the top.
On the track, both he and Durk trade lessons on how money has affected both of their worlds, being suspicious of the people around them and the price of fame.
“We was in the trenches, tryna get it out the mud. Lookin’ up to killers, tryna figure who I was. Sold the Richard Porter, I just want to feel the love. I feel like a Crip ‘cause I can’t even trust my blood,” he raps.
Nipsey Hussle feat. Jay-Z, “What It Feels Like”
Thanks to the Judas and the Black Messiah (2021) soundtrack, hip hop was blessed with a Nipsey Hussle and Jay-Z collab, “What It Feels Like,” in what was a dream matchup of masterminds.
Not much has felt the same after Nipsey’s death in 2019, but Jay Z helped restore the feeling. Jay Z calls out Trump supporters’ recent assault on the U.S. Capitol: “You let them crackers storm your Capitol, put they feet up on your desk/And yet you talkin’ tough to me, I lost all my little respect.”
No one would argue over this record taking home the honor.
Rapsody, “12 Problems”
Rapsody has had one of the nicest pens in the game for a while and took home a BET Hip Hop Award in 2020 for “Best Lyricist” so it’s no surprise that she’s nominated for “Impact Track” at the BET Hip Hop Awards this year.
Flipping a classic Jay Z hook, “12 Problems” tackles police brutality, the prison industrial complex, the war on drugs and more. The chorus goes: “I got 99 problems and 12 still the biggest/I got 99 problems/Baton, bullets, triggers.”
Geared up to appear on the upcoming Roc Nation social justice charity compilation, Reprise, out October 9th, Rapsody made sure she was felt on this one.