The stories told about HIV and activism surrounding the virus are often incomplete, and focus solely on white gay men. But, as Jake Hall writes for High Snobiety, “the first person to die of AIDS in the US was a Black teenage boy named Robert Rayford.” This forgotten fact encapsulates how dominant narratives have excluded the toll of the virus on Black communities worldwide and the subsequent role hip-hop played in fighting against it. From Salt-N-Pepa’s 1992 “Let’s Talk About AIDS” (a rework of their massive 1991 single “Let’s Talk About Sex”) to Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy’s “Positive” and Wu-Tang Clan’s “America,” many hip-hop icons helped to remove stigma through informative lyrics and positive messaging. In the ’80s and ’90s, these artists fought against a prominent conspiracy theory that the virus was a government-made biological weapon against Black people (an idea that gained traction given the country’s history of medicalized racism). They also sought to stop misinformation surrounding the virus and worked to educate their listeners. Learn more the Black artists who paved the way for progress at High Snobiety.
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