Hasan Minhaj Shows How Hip-Hop Is a Political Tool Outside U.S.
On Sunday’s Patriot Act, Hasan Minhaj explored the influence of streaming on hip-hop — from the rise of Soundcloud rap to emcees sparking political movements.
Rap, Minjah explained, is the most-consumed genre in the U.S., accounting for eight of Nielsen Music’s top 10 albums of 2018. “It even reached the Upper East Side,” he joked, referring to the massively popular Hamilton musical. “Isn’t that mind-blowing? Hip-hop had to go all the way around the world and get repackaged as a history lesson by a theater nerd just so it could be accepted. That’s what it took for old, white people to embrace rap: They needed a concert where people would sit in complete silence.”
And streaming has been crucial in hip-hop’s market saturation, with artists like Lil Pump and Post Malone building Soundcloud accounts into stardom. Minhaj, an old-school hip-hop fan, admitted he’s a bit baffled by the subgenre’s lyrical repetition and visual style.
“When it comes to the sound, these days, I don’t know what the fuck I’m listening to,” he said. “Have you guys heard [Lil Pump’s] ‘Gucci Gang’? If you haven’t, I just gave away 90 percent of the song … OK, that guy who looks like Lenny Kravitz fucked a Christmas tree is Lil’ Pump. He is the current face of Soundcloud rap.”
“He embodies the Soundcloud rap starter kit: face tats, colorful dreads and rainbow grills,” he continued. “Look at Post Malone: He looks like the guy who’s dating your drug dealer’s mom. Lil Xan looks like the guy who’s dating your drug dealer’s daughter. This is hip-hop today. I’m only 33, but I feel so old. Look, this is the XXL Freshman cover — I don’t know if these are rap names or WiFi networks. Like, I’m walking into a Coffee Bean, and I’m like, ‘Hey, what’s the password for Smokepurpp?'”
While streaming has helped spawn the mumble rap movement in the U.S., it’s also helped breed political consciousness unternationally. Minhaj focused much of his segment on Thailand’s Rap Against Dictatorship, who have earned over 58 million views with their song “My Country Has.”
The host praised the track as “ballsy” and “Pusha-T level” for speaking about against political corruption in a country where citizens have been recently arrested for acts like using the three-finger Hunger Games salute and hosting pro-Democracy picnics. The song’s video, inspired partly by Childish Gambino’s “This Is America” clip, even references a 1976 photo from the Thammasat military massacre in which the government killed at least 46 student protestors. “This video got so big so fast, the government just gave up trying to censor it,” Minhaj said.
“Because of streaming, hip-hop is helping to galvanize movements around the world,” the host concluded. “The same music that gave me the confidence to get contact lenses and gave birth to Lil Pump is now helping people call brutal dictators ‘kinda annoying.’ And if you’re a brutal dictator, that must be kinda annoying.”