On the surface it sounds like there should be no difference, right? Let's look at the artists and compare some notes.
In 1982 Sugar Hill Records released the ground breaking classic "The Message" by Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five. This was a song written by an obscure session musician named Ed Fletcher. At first Sugar Hill boss Sylvia Robinson wanted the song to be recorded by the Sugar Hill Gang. Thank God for Sylvia's ears cause that wouldn't have sounded right.
In fact, none of the Sugar Hill artists wanted to record it. Neither the Crash Crew or the Treacherous Three wanted to do it. I seriously doubt that she offered it to Sequence. I've been told by both Rahiem and Mele Mel that Sylvia Robinson insisted that the band record that song or else.
After much hemming and hawing and leg and teeth pulling, the Furious Five as a unit recorded "The Message". But Sylvia didn't like it. She insisted that Mel and Ed Fletcher record the song together. The song became a classic. It is the first rap recording to be added tothe Library of Congress.
It was the impact of the record that I'm talking about right here though.
After "The Message" came out group after group made "message" type records that talked about unemployment, drugs, the insanity of ghetto life etc. It can be argued that the ripple effects of "The Message" were felt all the way up until 1989 when NWA released "Fuck tha Police".
However, there is a difference between "Message" rap and "gangsta rap".
Who are some of the artists that recorded "Message raps?"
Jeckyll and Hyde
There were others I just don't feel like writing out all of them. This ain't a library ya know.
Okay, 1987 the conscious era begins. For me it starts with Public Enemy. BDP didn't get "conscious" until the release of their second album "By Any Means Necessary". After that came X Clan, Paris, Def Jeff and so many other groups if they weren't wearing red, black and green then they were singing about red, black and green.
But they were doing "Message Rap". Somewhere, somehow, someone came along and made a difference between the two. When there wasn't. The only difference between the two was the use of Black Nationalist imagery.
All those groups did "The Message" over harder beats.
Why today aren't Kurtis Blow and Mele Mel called "conscious rappers?"