‘The Sagacity of Words’

Gandhi and 21st Century Hip Hop


  • Elloit Cardozo Independent Scholar




Gandhi, knowledge, non-violence, protest, Hip Hop


Best known for his ideas of ahimsa and satyagraha, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi was a prominent figure in the Indian freedom movement. Even today, he is highly revered for his philosophy of non-violence which was also an integral part of India’s freedom struggle. Gandhi was responsible for making non-violent protests an important part of the movement. Now famous as a global expressive culture including forms of dance and music, Hip Hop, too, was conceived as a reaction to the violence that pervaded the gang culture of the late-1960s to early-1970s in The Bronx, New York City. Drawing from this thread of similarity, this article fleshes out parallels between the ideas of Gandhi and Hip Hop culture. Divided into three sections, it begins by establishing the cultural linkages between Gandhi, the Gandhian foundations of Hip Hop, and marking out the rationale of the study. The following section goes on to discuss the intertwining strings between Gandhi’s perceptions of knowledge and the significance of knowledge in Hip Hop culture. Finally, the third section discusses references to and representations of Gandhi in selected works of 21st century Hip Hop. In doing so, the article posits that Gandhism and Hip Hop culture belong to a similar lineage of ideas, if not the same one.


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Statue of Mahatma Gandhi, with a tree behind it