1. “Fight the Power,” Public Enemy
Without a doubt, Public Enemy had always been known for never biting their tongues when it came time to speak out on issues of equality. Produced as the theme to director Spike Lee’s most controversial “joint,” 1989’s Do the Right Thing, this intense song is just as raw and relevant 25 years later.
2. “Sound of da Police,” Boogie Down Productions
Speaking the truth since the days of “the Bridge Wars,” rapper KRS-One hailed from the Bronx, where it was common for “the beast” to roam the streets giving young folks of color many problems. “The officer has the right to arrest/And if you fight back, they put a hole in your chest,” he declared in 1993. Ain’t a damn thing changed.
3. “Fu*k the Police,” N.W.A
When this blistering song first dropped in 1988, many folks were simultaneously shocked and blissed out by N.W.A’s brutal single. Going straight for the jugular of the boys in blue, N.W.A was always bolder than the average MC.
4. “The Hate That Hate Produced,” Sister Souljah
Years before becoming a best-selling novelist of The Coldest Winter Ever, Sister Souljah was a Public Enemy protégé who released this scorching single from her only album, 360 Degrees of Power.
5. “Guerilla Funk,” Paris
Riding a hot G-funk groove, the revolutionary Paris was one of the more political rappers to emerge from the Bay Area (home of the original Black Panthers) during the 1990s. This single from his third album says it all.
6. “Heed the Word of the Brother,” X-Clan
The son of Brooklyn-based Civil Rights activist Sonny Carson, rapper Professor X (born Lumumba Carson) and his Blackwatch posse were never afraid of revolution. Coming from Carson, one gets a lesson in Blackness and pride.
7. “Police State,” dead prez
“I’ll take a slug for the cause like Huey P/While all you fake ni**as try to copy Master P,” dead prez declared on this single from their debut, let’s get free. Some called them a combination of Public Enemy and N.W.A, others were simply dazzled by their poetic prowess.
8. “Welcome to the Terrordome,” Pharoahe Monch
On this amazing remake of Public Enemy’s 1990 classic, Monch ain’t no joke.
9. “Front Line,” Keem
Local St. Louis rapper 30-year-old Keem borrowed a beat from Michael Jackson to create this vital communiqué from the urban battleground that he calls home.
10. “One Four Love Pt. 1—Reversing the Hate,” Talib Kweli, Kool G Rap, Rah Digga, Sporty Thievz, Mos Def, Shabam Shadiq, Common, Talib Kweli, Pharoahe Monche, Pos
In 2000, after the murder of Amadou Diallo, this posse cut was organized by Talib Kweli and Mos Def (once upon a time known as Black Star). Judging from his appearance last week on CNN, Talib Kweli has no problem practicing what he preaches.