The volatile social and political climate in America has found its place at the forefront of rap and hip hop once again, led by the pioneering voices of Kendrick Lamar, Run The Jewels‘ Killer Mike, Chance The Rapper, and Vic Mensa, to name a few. The resurgence feels like a callback to the genre’s socially conscious roots, reminiscent of the voices of NWA, Public Enemy, Mos Def, Ice Cube, and most notably, Tupac Shakur.
Singer and actress Kat Graham, whose latest role has her playing the part of Jada Pinkett in the Tupac biopic All Eyez on Me, feels the need for social commentary in rap should be more prominent and is sorely needed today.
“I wish more rappers today talked about more issues, and maybe that’s why I like old school hip hop; it had a message to it. There was such poetry, and the Rakims and the Commons of the world were really taking everything they put down and making sure that it made sense and had meaning and you could listen 20 years from now and know exactly what was happening at the time,” says Graham, acknowledging the works of Tupac’s contemporary counterparts. “You have great artists today — like Kendrick Lamar, Chance The Rapper — who actually take that responsibility … to try and elevate the consciousness of the industry and the world.”
Graham’s role as Pinkett — Shakur’s childhood and lifetime friend from their days as classmates at the Baltimore School for the Arts — re-enthused her love and appreciation for Tupac’s active role in a fractured society.
“I think that’s why Tupac meant so much to so many people; he was talking about not just what was going on in the hood but he was talking about what was happening in politics,” says Graham. “In his interviews he would challenge different standards: of the church, social issues, drugs, gangs. He would talk about things that were taboo to talk about.”
All Eyez on Me will be in theaters on June 16th.
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Watch the full interview with Kat Graham below.