Martin Luther King Jr. is one of the best-known civil rights leaders of all time! The Atlanta born minister is known for his role in the advancement of civil rights using the tactics of nonviolence and peace throughout the 50s and 60s. Some of his most notable accomplishments included the Montgomery bus boycott in 1955. The social and political boycott of the Montgomery bus system, including the actions of Rosa Parks, lead to Supreme Court calling all Montgomery and Alabama laws that required segregated buses unconstitutional. The boycott also leads to the development of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference which founded King as their first president. In addition to the SCLC, MLK led the March on Washington, an event where 250,000 Americans marched to the capital in an attempt to advocate the civil and economic rights for African Americans. This is where Martin delivered his famous ‘I Have A Dream Speech”. Martin Luther King’s stance for equality, his bravery and perseverance continue to have an impact on the country today. For his accomplishments, it’s no surprise that hip-hop embraces King for opening the doors that allow us to live our dreams. Today, we remember King for his accomplishments and the impact they continue to have on our lives! Check out 9 times rappers have paid homage to Martin Luther Kind Jr. below!
Kendrick Lamar – “Backstreet Freestyle”
On good kid, mAAd city track “Backstreet Freestyle,” K Dot explores the attitude and beliefs of young people in a corrupt society. “Martin had a dream / Martin had a dream / Kendrick have a dream,” he spits before delivering two hard-hitting verses imagining a luxurious life with money and power. “All my life I want money and power / Respect my mind or die from lead shower,” he continues. Kendrick has since made his dream of reaching this status a reality and continues to achieve more greatness.
J. Cole – “No Role Modelz”
On 2014 Forest Hills Drive single “No Role Modelz,” J. Cole explores the impact that the lack of role models had on his life. On the opening verse, Cole sets the tone for the track. “First things first: Rest In Peace Uncle Phil, for real / You the only father that I ever knew / I get my bitch pregnant, I’mma be a better you,” he spits. “Listen even back when we was broke my team ill / Martin Luther King would have been on Dreamville,” he continues. Although Cole didn’t have any role models in his life, the rapper was able to make his dream a reality as well!
Jay Z – “My President Is Black (Remix)”
Fresh off of Jeezy’s 2008 single comes Jay Z with the Nas-assisted “My President Is Black”remix. On the track, HOV pays homage to the likes of activists that made it possible for Obama to take office. “Rosa Parks sat so Martin Luther could walk / Martin Luther walked so Barack Obama could run / Barack Obama ran so all the children could fly / So I’mma spread my wings, you can meet me in the sky,” he spits.
The Game – “Dreams”
On The Game’s critically acclaimed The Documentary, the LA rapper raps about making his dream a reality amongst the hardships of living in the hood. “Blushing in this 40 ounce, letting the ink from my pen bleed / Cause Martin Luther King had a (dream) / Aaliyah had a (dream), Left Eye had a (dream) / So I reached out to Kanye and (I brought you all my dreams),” he raps on the triumphant Kanye-produced track.
Lil Wayne – “U.O.E.N.O”
On Lil Wayne’s Dedication 5 track “U.O.E.N.O,” Weezy’s compares himself to Martin Luther King since they both did it for their people. “D-ck harder than a armadilla / MLK would be proud of me, ’cause I do this shit for all my niggas.”
Tupac – “Words of Wisdom”
Tupac is no stranger to the system. The rapper, son of Black Panther activist Afeni Shakur, showed signs of leadership in the black community early in his career. On “Words of Wisdom” off the 1991 debut 2Pacalypse Now, Pac raps about a corrupt society. “No Malcolm X in my history text, why’s that? / Cause he tried to educate and liberate all blacks / Why is Martin Luther King in my book each week? / He told blacks, if they get smacked, turn the other cheek,” he raps tackling the systematic education system in our country.
Gucci Mane – “3 Extra”
Gucci Mane name drops King on 2014 mixtape East Atlanta Santa. On “3 Extra” Gucci compares himself to MLK for being a leader in the streets. “RIP to MLK he was a born leader / Malcolm X man dat there, them my damn people / Its a revolution second graders smokin’ reefer /And killin’ people, god deliver me from evil,” he raps over the Zaytoven production.
Kendrick Lamar – “HiiPower”
Kendrick Lamar makes the list once again! This time the rapper name drops MLK on Section.80 track “Hii PoWeR”. On the track, K Dot explores racial subjects and conspiracy theories while reflecting on self enlightenment setting the pace for the entire project. “Visions of Martin Luther staring at me / Malcolm X put a hex on my future, someone catch me,” he spits before spazzing out.
Common – “A Dream”
On the Will.I.Am. assisted track “A Dream,” Common reflects on what’s changed and what’s unfortunately stayed the same since Martin Luther King delivered his “I Have A Dream” speech back in 1963. “It’s a cold war, I’m a colder soldier / Hold the same fight that made Martin Luther the King / I ain’t using it for the right thing / In between lean and the fiends, hustling and schemes / I put together pieces of a dream, I still have one,” he raps in between cuts from the actually speech. While many things have changed since the days of segregation, we still face issues involving racism today. In that, we must continue to fight for equality just as MLK bravely did fifty years ago.