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May 21, 2019 24 min

Drug wars, recessions and record violence in the 1980s had US cities in crisis. Hip hop artists responded by shifting from party music to a new style called "conscious rap." Artists like Public Enemy and Digable Planets championed a sound that was political, community-minded and deeply pro-black. But about six years after it started, that first wave of socially-conscious hip hop seemed to be over. Who killed it? And what’s the story of its rise and fall tell us about the relationship between culture, politics, and commerce?

We speak to:

- Rapper Kool Moe Dee

- Writer and filmmaker Nelson George

Dan Charnas, author of The Big Payback

Ann Carli, former hip hop record executive

Listen to the songs from this episode here.

Hosted by Kai Wright. Reported by Christopher Johnson.

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