Africans have been portrayed, for hundreds of years, as lesser beings compared to their caucasian counterparts. African-Americans have been repressed throughout history. For a period of time, Africans were broungt to the New World and used as slaves mainly in the South. The white man used Africans as slaves for farm work and were able to establish a dominant position over the African-Americans. Even though Africans were used as slaves and seperated from their homeland and culture, some were enslaved with their original family and held onto their traditions such as singing, praising multiple gods, and being family-oriented to express themselves. Later on, their traditions became more westernized and transformed. Even after slavery was abolished, African-Americans were still seen as second-class citizens and were not equal to the white man in America. One of the ways African-Americans have used to get their voices heard is through the use of music which helps them express themselves and their culture. Joseph Conrad hinted at the significance of music to Africans and African-Americans in his well-known book "Heart of Darkness". He said, "Perhaps on some quiet night the tremor of far-off drums, sinking, swelling, a tremor vast, faint; a sound weird, appealing, suggestive, and wild--and perhaps with as profound a meaning as the sound of bells i a Christian country"(p.13). Music has been an effective tool for hundreds of years that has helped Africans and African-Americans get their voices heard.
Music has always played a huge role in African culture. Music was brought over to the New World by the African slaves who crossed over on slave ships over the middle passage. Their music incorporated heavy usage drums, which later influenced modern day hip-hop music. However, slave owners did not allow slaves to use drums because they thought that the slaves were attempting to communicate and organize rebellions using the drums. However, African-Americans were still able to sing. Tamara Moffett, an eHow author, claimed, "African American slaves used music to help them make it through the horrors of slavery. 'Work songs' and 'field horrors' were sung by slaves while doing hard labor in the fields. These songs incorporated the 'call-and-response' style used widely in Africa, where the lead singer calls out a phrase and the other singers call back in response".Slaves remembered the importance of music and their way of life. Most of their activities were accompinied by music, which were continually practiced in the New World. African-Americans brought to the New World were able to try to save their traditions and customs, unlike some native Africans and African villages colonized by Europe. In Chinua Achebe's book "Things Fall Apart", he demonstrates how African traditions can be washed away easily because of the influence of the white man. He states, "And at last the locusts did descend. They settled on every tree and on every blade of grass; they settled on the roofs and covered the bare ground. Mighty tree branches broke away under them, and the whole country became the brown-earth color of the vast, hungry swarm"(p.81). He compares, in highly allegorical terms, the arrival of colonizers to locusts that arrive which alter the native people's traditions and way of life. The tree branches breaking symbolize the culture and roots of native African culture breaking away. Through music, African-Americans brought to the New World were able to hold on to part of their original culture and help it make them through the difficulties of slavery.
Even after the Civil Rights movement and the passage of the 13th, 14th, and 15th amendments, the majority of African-Americans remained under the poverty line and were seen as second class citizens. After years of suffering because of the white man, African-Americans developed the blues to help them ease the pain. The blues are known for their honest depiction of every day life and show the struggles of African Americans lives. Some of the most popular topics sung about include railroads, poverty, and labor. Blues generally places more emphasis on the vocals rather than the instruments. Most blues singers are known for their loud and powerful voices that demonstrate and tell about the pains and struggles of life.The lyrics often talk about troubling events in African American society. For example, Blind Lemon Jefferson's "Rising High Water Blues" tells about the Great Mississippi Flood in 1927:
"Backwater rising, Southern peoples can't make no time
I said, backwater rising, Southern peoples can't make no time
And I can't get no hearing from that Memphis girl of mine."
Newer forms of African-American music have evolved over the years. Currently, hip-hop music is becoming increasingly popular for young African Americans. It developed as a new way for youthful African Americans to express themselves and the world around them. It is a form of storytelling used to tell of harsh realities of everyday life. Hip-Hop has given young African Americans a voice to let their issues be heard. Rapper One Be Lo tells the harsh reality for some inner city African-Americans living in ghettos:
"Landlords don't do nothin but collect rent
Police don't patrol, serve or protect it
Brothers don't allow others to hustle on they block
Always carry heat cause the beef don't stop
And it don't quit, everyday the same shit
Hustlin to get you what your job can't get
And I ain't even talkin 'bout a Benz or Mercedes (what you talkin about?)
I'm talkin about toothpaste, diapers for your babies
The basic necessities of life
The homeless sleepin in a cardboard box every night
The only playgrounds is vacant lots and burned buildings
You gotta feel sorry for the children
How they gon' do they homework when they homes don't work?
They can't read books cause the lights don't work (nope)
They can't take a bath cause the water don't work (nope)
The stove in the kitchen, plus the heat don't work (nope)
It's cold at night, they mommas can't afford jackets
She too busy tryin to support the crack habit
The State took her kids, now they all doin bids (man that sound crazy)
I know it sound crazy but that's how it is, in the ghetto"

Influential rapper Fab 5 Freddy said, "hip-hop is successful because the music is 'infectious' and because it allows people to express themselves in a positive, dynamic and consciousness-raising way". Hip-Hop began in the Bronx in the 70's and although it is known for its crude lyrics and profanity, many well known early hip-hop artists rapped about important issues dealing with African-American culture. For example, 2pac's prominent song "Changes" talks about all of the different issues that were related to 2Pac's era of influence, notably racism, poverty, police brutality, drugs, and gang violence.

2Pac used hip-hop to promote many worthwhile causes. In his song "Keep Ya Head Up", 2Pac builds women up and recognizes that they are often torn down. He tells of the significance of women in society and encourages listeners to treat women correctly. The chorus of the song sums up his message:
"You know it makes me unhappy (what's that)
When brothas make babies, and leave a young mother to be unhappy
And since we all came from a woman
Got our name from a woman and our game from a woman
I wonder why we take from our women
Why we rape our women, do we hate our women?
I think it's time to kill for our women
Time to heal our women, be real to our women
And if we don't we'll have a race of babies
That will hate the ladies, that make the babies
And since a man can't make one
He has no right to tell a woman when and where to create one
So will the real men get up
I know you're fed up ladies, but keep your head up"

In modern times and throughout history, Africans have used music as a tool to help them get their repressed voices heard. African-Americans have used many genres of music including gospel, blues, jazz, and hip-hop to help them tell their stories about the troubles they have to go through. Even though African-Americans are technically equal to whites in America, it is still evident that they are viewed as second-class citizens even in the 21st century. Hip-Hop music is the most modern art form African-Americans have tell of their troubles. Through music, African-Americans will continue to advance in the 21st century as more and more people hear of their troubles and the issues they face today.

Works Cited:

Achebe, Chinua. Things Fall Apart. Columbus, OH: Glencoe/McGraw-Hill, 1959. Print.

"Beyonce and Crocodiles." Web. 12 Dec 2010. <

Conrad, Joseph. Heart of Darkness. New York: Classic Books America, 2009. Print.

"Get Money." Web. 12 Dec 2010. <>.

Moffett, Tamara. "The History of African-American Music." (2010): n. pag. Web. 8 Dec 2010. <>.

"Trace the geneology of the Wu-Tang Clan." Web. 12 Dec 2010. <>.

Walker, Carolee. "Hip-Hop Music an Outlet for Self-Expression." (2009): n. pag. Web. 9 Dec 2010. <

"2Pac-Changes." Web. 12 Dec 2010. <>.

"50 Cent." Web. 12 Dec 2010. <>