Interestingly, almost no one can really explain exactly how Nelson Mandela influenced Hip-Hop culture. According to history, Hip-Hop was just a bubbling unit in the form of subconscious premeditated thought in 1962 the year the African icon was sent off to his 27-year imprisonment. With Mandela’s prime and Hip-Hop’s birth spanning an over ten-year gap, one may question how his revolutionist ways have marked the culture. This is an act that only nature can support.

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Today (July 18) marks the 100th birthday of Nelson Mandela. Ever since the break of dawn, Hip-Hop notables have extended gratitude towards to the late once revolutionary, solidifying the stance of his broad legacy. What exactly does Mandela’s legacy mean to a culture whose roots are in sync with the tried and true ways of Black and Latino New York City youth? Why do Hip-Hop community members find Mandela conducive to the Hip-Hop mission?

Mandela’s primary influence upon Hip-Hop culture is that of self-empowerment. A raging anti-apartheid activist, it was the knowledge of his hometown region of South Africa’s customs and destiny that formed his journey to acquire social justice for his own. In order to gain the desire to do well for your alike, you must know exactly who you are. This grab of potent knowledge was not left in mystery for Mandela. He was born into it and witnessed the construct of the land transform into something other than its own self.


Apartheid, founded on the premise of white supremacy chastened the presence of South Africans through racial segregation and intense discrimination. This brought a minority rule into play, in which members of the white race were visually the most dominant, yet severely lacking in grand populace. Their presence was grand through the segregation of public facilities and social events and the quality of life for South Africans declined to an all-time low due to discrimination moves to slither into the nation’s politics, housing, and employment opportunities. The term White South African was officially coined post such acts.

Mandela’s ownership of self-knowledge triggered him to become a face and name that is synonymous with freedom, justice, and equality. The Black and Latino youth of New York City desired the same outcome. Once the apartheid notable was stationed at Robben Island, he immediately became the face of a hope towards a type of justice. His name and face flooded the urban communities of America, joining a powerful roster of Black figures in the likes of Malcolm X, James Brown, and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. whose efforts have pushed Black men and women towards the pursuit of justice. This is not a call for justice upon just anybody, but that of the original people of the world. The Birth of Hip-Hop was a cry out for freedom for the youth to do their licit deeds with a justified approach to support their equalized position in their own community.

“For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.”

Nelson Mandela