People all over the U.S. are getting ready to put their red, white and blue on for Independence Day (July 4). The day marks the celebration of America as an independent country, with many rejoicing in the freedom through barbecues, fireworks and good tunes.
However, "independence" isn't just about experiencing freedom in this country but also has many different meanings to it. Being independent is, by definition, thinking and acting for oneself, which when applied, is different for everyone. There is financial liberation and female empowerment. Then there is also the freedom to stand up for your beliefs and assemble together to tell everyone about them. And speaking one's mind is a powerful tool that many singers and rappers have put forth in their music as well as their videos.
So in honor of the Fourth of July, The Boombox has compiled 10 videos where R&B and hip-hop artists have conveyed their idea of freedom. Whether it's a straightforward visual that calls out a particular politician or an overall critique on a social issue affecting the world today, here are 10 Hip-Hop and R&B Videos Celebrating Independence.
"Independent Women Part I"Destiny's Child
"Independent Women Part I" by Destiny's Child is one of most popular female empowerment anthems of the millennium. Although it was part of the comedic movie, Charlie's Angels, which inspired the video, it focused on girl power and celebrated how the ladies don't have to rely on men to live successful lives. And considering there is still a gender gap going on today, it's songs like these that inspire us to think about the day when men and women are really equal.
"Independent"Webbie Featuring Lil Boosie and Lil Phat
Webbie gives props to the ladies in his 2008 track "Independent." Featuring rappers Lil Boosie and Lil Phat, the rappers spit lyrics giving props to the ladies who own their own house, car and can pay the bills on time. Not only does the video focus on a girl dreaming big, but by the end of the it, she's achieved the ultimate goal and is running the country.
Rihanna might be known for her party anthems, but "American Oxygen" is something a little different. Inspired by Bruce Springsteen's 1984 song, "Born in the U.S.A.," the track is a sobering look at the idea of the "American Dream." The video boasts several unforgettable moments in American history, including 9/11, the Ferguson protests and poverty in the U.S. While it's not the easiest video to watch, it is liberating to see that the U.S. isn't necessarily perfect and that there is still a lot to improve on.
If there's one man who's all about going the independent route, it's Kanye West. And we're not talking about labels, but instead it's all about the mindset. Yeezy shows how creatively independent he is with the video for "Power." The graphic visual has that painterly look and is supposed to be one big modern-day masterpiece that could be seen in a museum. The clip is only a minute and a half, however, the images as well as the lyrics are so hard-hitting that you'll want to break free and do something powerful yourself.
"Doo-Wop (That Thing)"Lauryn Hill
From the moment you hear the first few piano chords, Lauryn Hill's "Doo-Wop (That Thing)" is one of those songs you can't help but groove to. However, aside from being a great song, the 1998 tune has a message for the ladies that will free them from the mindset of feeling that they need to sexualize themselves for men to notice them. And the video proves that this message is relevant no matter what decade you're in. A good song with some thoughtful lyrics is a good thing in our books.
"Scream"Michael Jackson and Janet Jackson
Michael Jackson hasn't had a great history with the press, especially with the tabloids. And in 1995, he and his little sis Janet Jackson, take a shot at the media in their "Scream" video. Set in the future, the pair let out all of their aggressions about the nagging tabloids all over their spaceship. And letting all that emotion out is very liberating, right?
Aloe Blacc gives us an American history lesson in his video for "The Man." Set in the '60s and '70s, the R&B singer pays homage to a number of major African-American figures including Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X and Marvin Gaye. Tapping into pop culture and political references, the visual ends on a strong note with the Selma to Montgomery march and closes with a diverse group of people who are ready to stand for what they believe in.
Before Rihanna's "American Oxygen," Talib Kweli recounted the struggle of the working people in 2002's "Get By." Set in various spots in New York, the visual puts the spotlight on people of all ages from different backgrounds. The multicultural approach to the video shows what America is today but also shows the struggles of living out that American Dream.
"A Better Tomorrow"Wu-Tang Clan
We all know the United States Constitution allows people to speak out freely and assemble in protest. So the Wu-Tang Clan showcases various montages of protests against police brutality in their "A Better Tomorrow" video. Aside from footage of various demonstrations, the Wu also inserted clips of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X and President Barack Obama. Despite the unfortunate events that inspired the protests, the visual is a powerful one and shows how American can come together for a cause.
Killer Mike isn't one to shy away from political talk. However, his video for "Reagan" is a full-on critique on not only how music has influence the youth about gangs, drugs and yes, even twerking, but also on what went down in the Reagan era. Making parallels between what happened in the 80s to what's presently going on, the Atlanta rhymer might point out the idea of "force slavery" with the prison system. However, it's in this knowledge that he hopes to free the minds of people and actually make a song that will make us think about the world around us.