Published online by Cambridge University Press: 20 January 2022
We listen to music not only to be entertained, but to better understand ourselves both individually and collectively. It is precisely because music is so entertaining that it has such great potency as a vehicle for political expression. Music’s potential to influence society’s political evolution has long been recognized. For example, Plato warned that “the modes of music are never disturbed without unsettling of the most fundamental political and social conventions.”1 Soul music and, now, hip-hop music emerged to express various manifestations of Black consciousness. And the debates about hip-hop, as about jazz in the mid-twentieth century, reflect the essential tension in Black music – to entertain on the one hand and to inspire and uplift on the other. In light of that role, this Introduction makes the case that hip-hop music has a distinguished history and important present in the fight for social justice.