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Song Stories

“The Revolution Will Not Be Televised”

Gil Scott-Heron | 1971

The R&B poet's socially aware signature song pitted the cultural awakening of the Civil Rights era against American consumerism. "The revolution will not make you look five pounds thinner," Scott Heron rapped, laying groundwork for the hip-hop emcees who would, in the words of Chuck D, "do what we do and how we do" because of him. First released in 1970 as a spare spoken word piece, the late Scott Heron’s best-known song was reworked as a rhythmic jazz tune featuring musical partner Brian Jackson’s butterfly-like flute. The song was not overtly militant, Scott Heron sometimes argued: "My songs were always about the tone of voice rather than the words," he once said.

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Song Stories

“Vans”

The Pack | 2006

Berkeley, California rappers the Pack made their footwear choice clear in 2006 with the song "Vans." The track caught the attention of Too $hort, who signed them to his imprint. MTV refused to play the video for the song, though, claiming it was essentially a commercial for the product. Rapper Lil' B disagreed. "I didn’t know nobody [at] Vans," he said. "I was just a rapper who wore Vans." Even without MTV's support, Lil' B recognized the impact of the track. "God blessed me with such a revolutionary song… People around my age know who really started a lot of the dressing people are into now."

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